Berkeley, Calif. - The University of Arkansas softball team defeated No.1 California 3-2 in its second game at the Berkeley Regional. The victory over the Bears improves Arkansas overall 2012 record to 29-26 and 2-0 in post season play. This is the first time in program history that Arkansas will play in a Regional final.
The Razorbacks came out with their bats swinging in the first inning. Freshman Devon Wallace got the team going in the top of the first with a line drive to left center field. She then advanced to second on a passed ball. Sophomore Clarisa Navarro blasted a double over the centerfielder's head bringing home Wallace and giving Arkansas the early 1-0 lead. Sierra Bronkey singled between first and second to bring home Navarro for the 2-0 lead. Jennifer Rambo continued the hitting spree blasting a bomb over the right field wall for the 3-0 lead; her ninth home run of the season.
"The key to winning the game today was getting those three runs early," said head coach Mike Larabee. "I think it really took the crowd out of the game."
Arkansas defense began just as strong as its offense, forcing Cal to go three up, three down in the first inning. Freshman Kimmy Beasley struck out her first batter in the bottom of the first; her first in the NCAA Tournament.
Senior Tori Mort recorded her first hit of the game in the top of the second, dropping the ball into shallow center field.
Navarro grabbed her second hit of the game in the top of the third when she hit a line drive right at the pitcher with it deflecting, allowing her to make it safely to first.
Cal collected its first hit in the bottom of the third with a double from Frani Echavarri. Britt Vonk then bunted for a single followed by an intentional walk of Valerie Arioto. Jamia Reid put Cal on the board by catching the Razorbacks off guard, stealing home while Arioto was being walked. The Razorbacks escaped the inning only allowing one run to score and forcing Cal to strand runners on first and third.
The Razorbacks showed some solid defense again in the bottom of the fourth forcing the least amount of batters. Wallace and Mort both made athletic catches in the outfield to collect two outs while Beasley recorded her second strikeout of the game. Beasley went on to throw a total of 4.2 innings and collect her first NCAA Tournament win.
"It is good to see a senior in Tori Mort make some great catches and that saved two or three runs from scoring," said Larabee.
Wallace hit her second single of the game in the top of the fifth placing a line drive out to right field.
The Bears struck again in the bottom of the fifth bringing in one run off of an error by the Razorbacks making the score 3-2 in favor of Arkansas. Mort made another outstanding catch in right center field to end the inning with the bases loaded. Junior Chelsea Cohen was brought in to relieve Beasley with the bases loaded and one out to go in the fifth.
Cal hit its second double on the day in the bottom of the sixth from Danielle Henderson. Henderson was stranded with Navarro throwing to Megan Pearson at first to grab the final out of the inning.
The Bears grabbed a single in to bottom of the seventh followed by another intentional walk of Arioto. With a runner on first and second with two outs, Wallace caught the final fly ball of the game for the out and the victory over Cal.
Arkansas will play in the Regional Final tomorrow at 7 p.m. CST against the winner of California vs. Iona/Boston University. Being a two elimination tournament, the opponent for the final will not be decided until the two games are play tonight.
"We still have a long road ahead of us," said Larabee. "Tomorrow is a new day and whoever we play tomorrow we will be just as fired up to play. We had nothing to lose today, but everything to gain."
For more information regarding Razorback softball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.