FAYETTEVILLE —The University of Arkansas softball team heads to No. 8 Missouri this weekend for a three-game series. Game one is slated to begin on Friday at 6 p.m.
Arkansas (26-15, 4-8) will make the five hour trip to Columbia Mo. and take on its fifth ranked team in as many weeks. The No. 8 Missouri Tigers have garnered a 23-4 record this season and an 8-3 mark in the SEC. The team is led by its stud-senior, pitcher, Chelsea Thomas. She has 14 wins this season and opponents are hitting .162 against the right-hander, that mark is good for second in the SEC.
“Chelsea Thomas is an elite national team pitcher,” head coach Mike Larabee said. “We are going to have our work cut out for us and we have to play excellent softball to win some games in Columbia.”
Missouri also brings a stout lineup to the plate, led by Angela Randazzo. The sophomore tops the SEC in slugging with a .902 mark. She is 10th in the league with 37 RBI this season. The Tigers have three (Randazzo, Nicole Hudson and Kelsea Roth) of the top four slugging percentages in the SEC. Hudson brings a 16-game reached base streak into game one on Friday. The Tigers, as a team, rank second in the SEC with a .335 team average. Arkansas lost to Missouri last season, 4-0.
“They are definitely one of the elite teams in the country,” Larabee said. “This might be the toughest competition that we have faced this year. They play excellent defense and are very well coached.”
Arkansas went 1-2 last weekend against No. 13 LSU. The comeback win in game two featured a walk-off hit from freshman Stephanie Canfield. She leads the team with a .418 average this season. Scoring the game winning run was sophomore Devon Wallace. She continued her excellent weekend by walking three times in game three to give her an NCAA-leading 52. These walks brought her career total to 105, passing Sandra Smith’s total of 103, and moving Wallace into first place in the UA record books.
The team’s one-two punch at the top of the lineup has caused problems for opposing teams. Also causing havoc has been the one-two punch in the circle. Senior Chelsea Cohen and sophomore Kimmy Bealsey have combined for 17 wins this season and have 219 strikeouts in 178 innings pitched.
“I think that we can compete with anybody in the country,” Larabee said. “Compared to the rest of the SEC, we have as much depth on our pitching staff as anybody in our conference. We haven’t proven that we can consistently beat the better teams. That is what we are going to try and do this weekend.”
You can listen to all three games of the Missouri series on Razorvision or on 88.3 FM in Fayetteville. Game three can be viewed on ESPNU, this is the first game for the Hogs on the ESPN family of networks this season.
After the Missouri series, Arkansas returns home to face No. 18 Kentucky. Game one of the Kentucky series will be on Friday, April 19 at 6 p.m.