The No. 11 Arkansas softball team earned a road series sweep against the overpowered Mississippi State Bulldogs over the weekend.
The Razorbacks headed to Starkville, Mississippi, seeming to have turned a corner after losing five of six games early in March. They beat a talented Florida team ranked in the top 10 last weekend, marking the first time they had won a series against the Gators at home in program history.
Sophomore right fielder Kasie Hoffman broke out of a slump to help power the Hogs past State on Friday. She launched two home runs, doubling her season total, and added a single, driving in three runs en route to a 4-2 victory.
"Today was a collective win," Hoffman said. “Everybody was pulling from the same side of the rope. I was really focusing on staying in the moment and not making the moment bigger than it is. I was also focused on just finding pitches that I know I can hit and driving the ball. It's really important to take game one because you have the momentum, and it sets the tone for the rest of the weekend."
Senior Chenise Delce went the distance for the Razorbacks and limited the State offense to just two runs on three hits, striking out five batters and walking one over seven innings. She collected her 14th victory and 10th complete game of the season.
Saturday, the Hogs took the field looking to clinch their third straight Southeastern Conference series victory after taking down top-10 opponents Alabama and Florida in consecutive weeks.
Freshman pitcher Hannah Camenzind got the nod from head coach Courtney Deifel to take the circle in her first start in league play, and she made the most of her chance.
Camenzind earned her first win and shutout with a commanding 11-0 victory over Mississippi State. She scattered four hits over five scoreless innings of work, struck out three batters and walked one for the series win.
The first five batters in the order came up big to help out Camenzind in her start, going 7-11 at the plate, drawing five walks and scoring seven runs. Junior transfer Cylie Halvorson led the offensive charge going 2-3 at the dish.
"It was really big to start the game with a 4-0 lead in the first inning," Camenzind said. “Our offense continues to put pressure on throughout the game. The hitters came out and punched early, and that allowed me to settle in on the mound. I trusted my stuff, and my break felt good. The defense had my back the entire game. Our middle infielders Atalyia Rijo and Kristina Foreman came up with a big double play in the fourth. I'm proud of this team for securing the series with today's shutout."
Camenzind nearly lost her shutout bid in the third inning, but State baserunner Macy Graf left first base before Camenzind released the pitch and was called out. As a result, the pitch did not count and the home run was negated. Bulldog assistant coach Tyler Bratton was ejected after an animated argument about the call on the field with the umpire crew and tossed first base into the right field area.
Arkansas went for the series sweep Sunday at Nusz Park and came out with a dramatic 5-4 victory.
Redshirt junior Callie Turner got the start but lasted three innings and gave up two earned runs on three hits. Camenzind entered the game in the fourth inning, tossed 2 ⅔ innings, and allowed two runs, but scored her second victory in as many days.
Trailing 4-3, freshman outfielder Reagan Johnson led off the seventh inning with her third triple of the year. Sophomore Raigan Kramer came up next and swung at the first pitch she saw. She belted it over the center field for the eventual game-winning two-run home run.
That was all Delce needed to shut the door on the Bulldogs for the save.
"I thought our team showed a lot of fight and grit this weekend," Deifel said. "We responded well when things didn't go our way. I'm proud of how we fought today."
Arkansas will host Georgia next weekend, marking the return of former Arkansas standout Danielle (Gibson) Whorton, a volunteer coach for the Bulldogs. Game one is set for 6 p.m. Thursday. Two of the three games can be streamed on SEC Network Plus, and Saturday's game will air on the SEC Network.
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