FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas softball team dropped a hard-fought Southeastern Conference doubleheader to the fourth-ranked Florida Gators Friday at Lady’Back Yard. Florida held the Arkansas offense to one run on the day and came out on top of two close contests, 1-0 and 3-1.
The Lady Razorbacks fell to 21-8 overall and 1-5 in the SEC, while the Gators improved their record to 30-2 and 6-1 in league play. Arkansas gave up just one earned run but committed five errors in the two contests against one of the top offensive teams in the conference.
“It’s just frustrating that you get that kind of pitching performance and don’t play the defense to win games,” said head coach Jamie Pinkerton. “The determination and the heart are there. We’re improved, but a loss is a loss and we have to learn that moral victories aren’t going to get us into the SEC Tournament.”
Game one was scoreless through six innings. Florida led the hit count 7-2 and senior Katy Henry fanned six batters compared to Stacey Nelson’s seven. Arkansas had not gotten a runner past first base while Florida had three chances to plate a run.
In the top of the seventh on two outs, Florida’s Kim Waleszonia reached base on a dropped fly ball by Arkansas. Aja Paculba was up next and doubled to left field plating Waleszonia from second to put the first run of the game on the scoreboard. Henry got Francesca Enea to ground out for the final out of the inning.
On the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore Miranda Dixon launched a towering fly ball over the left field wall that was just inches into foul territory. Nelson got the best of Dixon, but sophomore Sandra Smith hit a line drive single to right center with one out. Junior Amie Hubbard pinch ran for Smith before junior Whitney Cloer followed with a single to center to move Hubbard to third. Arkansas had its first runner in scoring position, but a steadfast defense and Nelson’s ninth strikeout of the game would leave the Lady’Backs scoreless.
Nelson (18-2) gave up four hits and did not give up a walk to pick up her seventh complete-game shutout.
Henry fell to 10-3 and gave up one unearned run on eight hits and struck out seven.
In the top of the first inning in game two, lead-off batter Waleszonia reached base on an overthrow in the infield and advanced to second on the error. A single to left field by Paculba moved Waleszonia to third. Paculba took second as the throw came all the way to the plate. Waleszonia scored the Gators first run on a wild pitch, and a single through the left side plated Paculba from third to give Florida the 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, sophomore Jessica Bachkora led off with a single to center and was sacrificed to second by junior Kayla Johnson. Dixon walked to put runners on first and second before Cloer singled to right center on two outs, scoring Bachkora to bring Arkansas within one, 2-1.
In the fifth, Paculba led off with a walk and was sacrifice to second by Enea. Paculba moved to third on an infield ground out. With two outs, another overthrow to first by Arkansas allowed Paculba to cross the plate and put Florida up 3-1.
“We made a couple mistakes in the second game and that happens,” said Pinkerton. “The errors played a key in the two losses today and we just have to come back tomorrow and try to salvage one game.”
Dixon started in the circle and threw six and two-thirds innings for the loss. She was relieved by Henry in the top of the seventh. Dixon gave up three runs, just one earned, on five hits, walked four and struck out two. Henry faced one batter to get the final out of the inning.
Stephanie Brombacher improved to 11-0 with a complete-game win. She gave up one run on four hits, walked five and had five K’s.
Florida and Arkansas square off at Lady’Back Yard tomorrow at noon for the final game of the SEC series.
For more information and tickets please call the Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM.