The Arkansas Razorback softball team opened its fall exhibition slate Thursday night against the Northeastern State RiverHawks.
Northeastern State University is located about an hour west of Fayetteville in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Its softball team competes in the Division II Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
Arkansas, coming off its third straight NCAA tournament appearance, had no trouble in its first game action since May. Similar to last month’s baseball scrimmage against Oklahoma, the game featured extra innings despite the score not being tied. The light crowd at Bogle Park witnessed an 18-3 thrashing of the RiverHawks in 10 innings. The Razorbacks would have won 14-0 in a standard, seven-inning game.
The first inning began with a scoreless frame from senior righty Autumn Storms, her first of three that night, before the Razorback bats quickly came to life. A leadoff walk led to a two-run home run by junior first baseman Danielle Gibson, who went viral last season after becoming the second college softball player to hit for the home run cycle.
The second inning saw another leadoff walk followed by a two-run shot, this time by senior third baseman Keely Huffine. The Hogs added three more runs as they batted around the order.
In the third inning, the batting order returned to the top, and junior outfielder Hannah McEwen’s hit-by-pitch ignited a two-out rally. After she reached first base, five consecutive Razorback batters hit their way on base, with four different players accumulating a run batted in.
Northeastern State had been clean defensively through the first few innings, but outs did not come so easy for the RiverHawks in the fourth. Four NSU errors led to three more Arkansas runs to make the score 14-0.
“I really liked our approach the first five innings,” Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said, praising not only her team’s offensive barrage but also the shutdown pitching and defense.
Deifel said she thought there was a lull in the Hogs’ intensity in the middle innings, making reference to the relatively minuscule two hits between innings six and eight.
Senior Lauren Graves busted that lull in the ninth inning when she hit a leadoff bomb to left field. Graves, who pitched two scoreless innings and played right field, said it was her first career college home run.
Arkansas tacked on another run in the ninth and two more in the 10th, sandwiching the RiverHawks’ three-hit, three-run top of the 10th.
“I think this year is going to be our year. We’re so strong in every aspect,” Graves said after her squad’s dominant performance.
Razorback softball will return to Bogle Park Wednesday, Oct. 30th when it will play host to Crowder College for the second of seven exhibition games this fall.