The No. 15 Arkansas softball team (27-3, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) outlasted the Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-13, 0-8 SEC), 8-7, Saturday at Bogle Park. The Razorbacks remain the only team undefeated in conference play.
The Bulldogs struck early in the top of the first inning, when senior designated player Carter Spexarth drove in sophomore second baseman Paige Cook on a single into left field.
The top of the second featured Mississippi State putting runners on second and third. Cook reached on a throwing error from third that scored both runners and she advanced to second. Graduate senior first baseman Fa Leilua drove her in on an RBI single, but was thrown out after trying to stretch it into a double.
Arkansas loaded the bases in the bottom half of the second. Freshman Rylin Hedgecock pinch hit and drove in a run on a single to left. Sophomore center fielder Sam Torres followed up with an RBI fielder's choice to cut the deficit in half, 4-2.
Mississippi State senior catcher Mia Davidson hit a solo home run into deep center field to lead off the third inning. After senior third baseman Montana Davidson got on with a one-out single, sophomore shortstop Madisyn Kennedy drove her in on a double that split the outfielders in left-center field to put the Bulldogs back up by four, 6-2.
Arkansas struck back and tied the game with a lightning round in the bottom of the third. The Hogs loaded the bases to start the inning and senior designated player Lauren Graves began the rally with an RBI walk. After a popout, junior third baseman Nicole Duncan drew a walk to cut the lead, 6-4.
Torres brought in a run on a single through the right side and junior left fielder Hannah McEwen was hit by a pitch to tie the game, 6-6.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Razorbacks took the lead after junior first baseman Linnie Malkin led off the inning with a solo shot into right. Later in the inning, with runners on first and second and two out, Torres drove a run on a single into left.
The Bulldogs got a run back with two outs in the top of the sixth when Cook drove in sophomore center fielder Brylie St. Clair on a double, that also advanced junior left fielder Chloe Malau’ulu to third. Junior right-handed pitcher Mary Haff came in to relieve freshman right-hander Jenna Bloom. After an intentional walk, Haff struck out Spexarth to end the inning and keep the lead, 8-7.
“I wasn’t focused on the runners, what the score was,” Haff said. “And if I could get this girl, the rest I felt pretty comfortable with. Getting her out was huge. It really was just me focusing on one batter at a time and trying not to make the moment bigger than what it was.”
Haff went on to retire the side in order in the top of the seventh and picked up her third save of the season.
Right-handed senior Autumn Storms started for the Razorbacks. She went 2 ⅔ innings and gave up seven hits, six runs, two of them earned, and struck out two. Bloom entered in the top of third, allowing three hits and one earned run. She struck out one and was credited as the winning pitcher, obtaining her sixth victory of the season.
Haff went 1 ⅔ innings and allowed one baserunner on a walk, while striking out two.
For Mississippi State, sophomore righty Aspen Wesley took her fourth loss of the season. She went two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits and two earned runs while striking out one.
Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel was pleased with the Hogs coming back from a four-run deficit after a rough start.
“That’s the biggest thing that I’m proud of them for,” Deifel said. “I think teams in the past, I think teams that have less belief in themselves and each other would have folded in that situation. It was very uncharacteristic of us. There were two errors on the board. I feel like there (were) probably five.”
The Bulldogs had 10 hits in the high-scoring game and snapped a 37-straight scoreless innings streak in the top of the first, but lost their eighth straight game.
Arkansas went on to sweep Mississippi State prevailing 4-3 on Sunday. The Hogs improved to 9-0 in SEC play.
The No. 15 Razorbacks will travel to Auburn, Alabama, to face off against the Auburn Tigers for a three-game slate from Thursday-Saturday. The first game will be broadcast on SEC Network+ and games two and three will be on the SEC Network. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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