The No. 6 Arkansas softball team’s historic run came to an end in the Fayetteville Super Regional when the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats swept them 4-1 Saturday at Bogle Park. The Hogs finished the season with their highest winning percentage in school history, .796.
“I’m crushed for them,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said in the postgame press conference. “This is a really special group.”
The game was scoreless through the first four innings until graduate senior shortstop Braxton Burnside drove in a run on a double to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth. Arkansas loaded the bases, but stranded all three runners to end the inning.
Senior right-handed pitcher Autumn Storms had a perfect game bid through 4 ⅓ innings until she gave up a single to freshman designated player Sharlize Palacios in the bottom half of the fifth. Senior centerfielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza homered on the very next pitch to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
In the bottom of the sixth with two outs, senior catcher Dejah Mulipola and Palacios both reached on back-to-back errors committed by Burnside. After a walk to load the bases, freshman first baseman Carlie Scupin drove in two runs on a single into right field to extend the Arizona lead and ultimately punch the Wildcats’ ticket to the Women’s College World Series.
Storms pitched six innings in her final game as a Razorback. She allowed five hits, four runs, two earned runs and a walk while striking out two, both of which came in the first inning. She suffered her second loss of the season.
“(Storms) is a fighter, she’s feisty,” Deifel said. “She’s a gamer. She’s a competitor. She had good stuff today and she has that adrenaline with that just look in her eye that she’s gonna make you earn it. And so I’m just really proud of how she fought.”
Burnside went 2-3 in her final game as a Hog with an RBI double and a walk. Junior left fielder Hannah McEwen and junior first baseman Danielle Gibson also recorded two hits.
”It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to kind of remember all the greats when you lose like this and pour your heart on the field,” Gibson said. “The season will be remembered for a long time, and (it) changed Arkansas softball and what it means to be a Razorback and wear a softball uniform. I’m just so proud of our seniors, I’m so proud of every single player in this program.”
The Hogs finished the year at 43-11 with a Southeastern Conference record of 19-5. The Razorbacks were ranked as the sixth-best team in the country, the highest ranking in program history. Arkansas hosted a super regional for the first time and set a program-best 19-game winning streak from February 21-March 14.