STARKVILLE, Miss. – Kayla Johnson had four hits, including a solo home run, and Miranda Dixon struck out six as the Razorbacks beat Mississippi State, 3-2, in the series finale Wednesday at the MSU Softball Stadium. Arkansas (16-9, 5-0) held off the Bulldogs who had a late-game rally with runners on first and second after a home run in the seventh. Dixon ended the threat with her sixth strikeout of the game to send the Razorbacks to their first series sweep in Starkville.
“Wow, anytime you can play a quality opponent like Mississippi State on the road and get a sweep, it’s huge,” head coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “It gives up a little bit of wiggle room if we have some problems on the road later on. To come out here and win one game on the road is huge, winning the series is great, and sweeping the series is almost unheard of.”
Johnson put Arkansas ahead early with a solo shot to left field to lead off the second inning. The home run was the second of the season for Johnson. The senior infielder put past offensive struggles behind her in the series against the Bulldogs. Johnson entered the series hitting .174 but after collecting eight hits over the three games, she pushed her batting average up to .276.
Dixon retired the first eight Mississippi State batters of the game and looked to be out of the third inning when Brittany Gates hit a ball back to her in the circle, but a throwing error extended the inning and found Gates standing on second. Chelsea Bramlett singled to shallow right center to bring Gates around and tie the score, 1-1.
The Razorbacks responded right back in their half of the fourth. Amie Hubbard led off the inning with a single up the middle and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Sandra Smith. After a wild pitch by MSU starter Lindsey Dunlap, Hubbard moved over to third and eventually scored, giving Arkansas the 2-1 lead, on a fielding error by Jessie Bailey at shortstop. In the top of fifth, Arkansas tacked on another run when Hubbard singled to bring Johnson around from second. With two outs already recorded, Johnson singled to left field and Dixon walked to give the Razorbacks runners on first and second. Hubbard’s single drove in the Hogs’ third run of the game.
After getting out of trouble in the MSU half of the fifth with the help of an unassisted double play by Brittany Griffiths at shortstop, Dixon retired the side in order in the sixth.
The Bulldogs’ seventh-inning rally started with a home run to left center by Bailey that cut the Arkansas lead to one. Pinch hitter Laurie Siebert continued the threat with a single through the left side. Dixon responded by striking out the next two batters before walking Bramlett to give MSU runners at first and second with two outs. The Razorback hurler buckled down to strike out Brittany Bell to record the final out of the game and earn her ninth win of the season.
“We have to take this conference start day by day,” Pinkerton said. “Yeah we’re 5-0, but we still have 22 more (SEC) games to go. The two things this team needs more than anything are good pitching and situational hitting and if this team can continue to be constant, than we can beat anybody.”
The Razorbacks return to Fayetteville for a weekend series with Kentucky at Bogle Park. Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 1 p.m. with game two to follow approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first. Arkansas swept the Wildcats last season in Lexington, Ky. Visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com for more information and continued coverage.
Download: Arkansas 3, Mississippi State 2.pdf