The No. 19 Arkansas softball team (17-2) defeated the Central Arkansas Bears (12-8), 4-1, at the Farris Fields Complex in Conway in the first-ever matchup between the two programs Tuesday. The Razorbacks are on a program record 16-game winning streak and just swept the Wooo Pig Classic.
“It’s huge to be able to play in-state schools, huge for softball and huge for the state,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said in a Zoom postgame press conference. “The atmosphere was incredible.”
The Hogs struck early in the top of the first inning. Junior first baseman Danielle Gibson hit a two-run home run into left field after graduate senior shortstop Braxton Burnside was hit by a pitch to give Arkansas a 2-0 lead.
The Bears struck back in the bottom of the first when senior first baseman Kaylyn Shepherd hit a solo shot off of junior right-handed pitcher Mary Haff into right-center.
Arkansas responded quickly in the top of the second when freshman third baseman Hannah Gammill drove in sophomore second baseman Audrie LaValley on an RBI double.
Haff gave up back-to-back singles with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, but she powered through and struck out the side to escape the jam.
The Hogs added an insurance run in the top of the sixth when junior designated player Linnie Malkin hit a blast into left to length the Arkansas lead. It was the first base hit for the Razorbacks since the second inning.
The Razorbacks had nine batters reach base. Arkansas had two walks, reached on an error, three hit batters and a season-low three hits.
“We won the freebie war and made the most of our three hits,” Deifel said. “It wasn’t our best offensive performance but we did enough to get the win. Mary did a good job of staying the course and making really big pitches in big moments.”
UCA had eight hits, but seven of them were singles.
Haff threw her fifth complete game of the season in the win. She gave up a season-high eight hits, an earned run, a walk and struck out a career-high 11 batters while throwing 119 pitches. With her 10th victory of the year, Haff leads the nation in wins.
Bears sophomore right-handed pitcher Jordan Johnson started for UCA and pitched 5 ⅓ innings, allowing three hits, four earned runs, two walks and striking out six. Senior right-hander Rio Sanchez finished off the rest and allowed one baserunner, while striking out a batter.
Arkansas and UCA will clash again Tuesday, April 20 in Fayetteville at 6 p.m.
The Razorbacks will kick off Southeastern Conference play with a three-game slate against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina, from Friday-Sunday. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 5 p.m. The first two games will be broadcast on SEC Network+, and game three will be on the SEC Network.
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