With a thunderous home run from Razorback senior shortstop A.J Belans, the No. 23 Arkansas softball team (26-6, 3-4) shut out the No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs (28-7, 3-4), 6-0, in the second game at Bogle Park on March 31.
Even with the Bulldogs trying to score redemption, Razorback sophomore pitcher Autumn Storms played at a similar level as freshman pitcher Mary Haff from the first game. Storms only allowed three hits from the Bulldogs while striking out four batters. The Bulldogs switched between freshman pitcher Emily Williams and sophomore pitcher Candace Denis. Even though Williams was the starter in game two, Denis pitched for the majority of six innings. She allowed seven hits from the Hogs as well as four errors that resulted in big plays.
The starting lineup for the Razorbacks each contributed to a dominating victory. Junior infielder Katie Warrick, freshman catcher Kayla Green and Belans each had a hit, while freshman right fielder Hannah McEwen and senior left fielder Tori Cooper had two.
McEwen and Cooper scored the first runs after the homer from Belans. This would be Belans’ second homer for the season. A explosion from the crowd, team and Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel followed after her hit along the left field line.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit up until now,” Belans said. “I was just trying to help my team out the way I could, and it happened to go over.”
“It was huge,” Deifel said. “She was ready for that moment.”
At the next at-bat, the Razorbacks added the last three runs. McEwen scored after a double to right field from Green. The last ones came after a throwing error from Bulldog senior shortstop Reggie Harrison at an at-bat from Cooper.
Mississippi State struggled on the offensive attack. Junior first basemen Sarai Niu, Harrison and freshman catcher Mia Davidson had the only hits.
The Hogs were allowed to control Davidson yet again. She lead the Bulldogs with a .432 average, 36 runs, 48 hits, 12 homers and 33 RBIs. Throughout both games, Arkansas has allowed two hits from Davidson.
Even though the Hogs have now clinched the series win over the Bulldogs, there is still a possible sweep going into the series finale. Storms is excited for what’s ahead, she said.
“I’m so ready to continue to play in the SEC,” Storms said. “Our team is really coming together.”
Deifel agrees with Storms, she said.
“It gives our team so much confidence,” Deifel said. “The game starts in the circle. When you have two-two in a way like Mary and Autumn, it gives us so much confidence.”
The series finale between the Razorbacks and the Bulldogs is scheduled for April 1 at Bogle Park at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on the SEC Network Plus.