MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. – Junior Ashley Diaz hit her second home of the season and was one of three Razorbacks to tally two hits Sunday but the University of Arkansas softball team dropped a 6-5 decision to McNeese in the team’s finale at the Madeira Beach Invitational. Freshmen Hannah McEwen and Linnie Malkin each had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
With the setback, Arkansas stands at 9-1 through the first 10 games of the 2018 campaign. McNeese was the Razorbacks’ third opponent of the season that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The team’s 9-0 start to the season established the best start in program history.
After two weekends on the road to start the season, the Razorbacks will play their next six games at Bogle Park beginning with Wednesday’s game against Missouri State. First pitch of the midweek matchup is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT. Arkansas is also set to host the Razorback Invitational next weekend.
Final: McNeese 6, Arkansas 5 | Box Score
After a scoreless first inning, Diaz put the Razorbacks on the board with a two-run shot to left field in the top of the second. Malkin led off the inning with a walk and scored on the big fly. Diaz led the team with a .583 batting average (7-for-12) over the five-game, three-day event. Arkansas pushed it lead to 3-0 with an unearned run in the third inning.
Sophomore Autumn Storms got the start and retired nine of the first 10 hitters she faced, allowing just a single the first time through the order. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, McEwen registered an RBI infield single to plate Arkansas’ fourth run. The San Diego, Calif., native posted 11 hits including two home runs with 10 RBI in Madeira Beach. Behind the defense’s third double play of the weekend, Storms faced just one over the minimum through four innings.
Malkin drove in the Razorbacks’ fifth run of the game with an RBI single to left field. Freshman Kayla Green doubled down the line in left to start the inning. Pinch runner Keely Edwards moved up to third on a fly out and trotted home on the Malkin base knock. Malkin has at least one hit in seven of nine games played this season with three multi-hit showings.
McNeese (13-3) broke through with a pair of runs in the fifth. With runners at the corners, the runner at first stole second on a throw cut off by Haydi Bugarin who threw back to the plate to get the runner from third trying to score. The tag was applied but the would-be third out was ruled obstruction and the runner was called safe. McNeese added a second run with a double to left.
Mary Haff came in to relieve Storms and loaded the bases after two free passes but the freshman got out of the jam with a pop up in front of the plate gloved by Green. After a 1-2-3 sixth inning for Haff including two strikeouts, McNeese put together a rally in the seventh. The game was tied after two home runs off Haff which brought Storms back in the game. The Cowgirls went on to load the bases and complete the rally with a single to right field that plated the game-winning run.
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