MIAMI-The University of Arkansas softball team had an upset of No. 10 Georgia within its grasp but the Lady Razorbacks came up short as they fell to the Bulldogs 7-6 in nine innings, Friday, Feb. 10, at the Diamond Fun and Sun Classic in Miami, Fla. In their second game, the Lady’Backs lost to North Carolina 5-0.
Senior catcher Shana Easley celebrated her birthday in style with a two-run home to give the Lady’Backs a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Junior outfielder Rachel LeMaster gave the Lady’Backs a quick start with a leadoff single before scoring on Easley’s home run.
Arkansas softball head coach Jamie Pinkerton said he like the maturity the Lady’Backs showed in the season opener especially with three freshmen in the starting lineup.
“I like the way we started,” he said. “We set the tone of the game. We played well and showed moxie. I thought when we went ahead; we showed the same character that I saw in the fall.”
In the bottom of the inning, Georgia answered with one run on one hit to cut into the Arkansas lead, 2-1.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the second when sophomore pitcher Katy Henry gave up two walks and she also hit two.
Despite the loss, Pinkerton said he was pleased with the fight the team possessed in the nail-bitter against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
“When we were down, we never felt like we were out of the game and I don’t know if we had that last year,” he said. “Obviously, we need a better start out of Katy (Henry). The newcomers did an outstanding job.”
After a scoreless inning, Georgia recorded three runs on five hits to take a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. Junior pitcher Kayce Odle relieved Henry with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Henry finished the game with four strikeouts in the no-decision.
Pinkerton said he was pleased with Odle’s performances as she recorded 11 strikeouts in eight and one-third innings of work.
“Kayce Odle was superb,” he said. “I’m really proud of her.”
The Arkansas offense was recharged in the top of the sixth inning when the Lady’Backs scored four runs on two hits to take a 6-5 lead.
After Easley and sophomore designated player Samantha Buckner drew walks, freshman infielder Kayla Johnson loaded the bases after reaching base on an error. Then freshman infielder Carrie Egnor came to the plate and hit a shot down the right field line that scored Easley and Buckner. Senior outfielder Mindy O’Malley followed with a double that scored Johnson and Egnor to give the Lady’Backs the lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Arkansas was one out away from an upset but Georgia tied the game on an infield single.
Under the tournament rules, the international tie-breaker rule went into effect after the seventh inning placing a base runner at second base to begin each at bat. In the bottom of the ninth, Georgia used a sacrifice bunt and ground ball to score junior infielder Alison Horne from second for the win.
Odle took the loss after throwing five innings allowing two runs with four strikeouts in her first appearance as a Lady’Back.
In game two, North Carolina took a 5-0 lead on three hits and a pair of Lady’Back errors in the fourth inning. Junior pitcher Sarah Topham gave up a three-run home run before Odle replaced her in the fourth inning. While Topham took the loss, Odle recorded seven strikeouts in relief.
Pinkerton said he was disappointed with the Lady’Backs showing against the Tar Heels after the spirited season opener.
“We’ve got to learn to be focused and intense for seven innings,” he said. “I don’t feel like we came out with the same intensity against North Carolina that we had against Georgia. We can’t come out and be flat after an emotional game. I wasn’t happy that we continued to compound mistakes after we made one.”
The Tar Heels held the Lady’Backs to three hits including doubles from Buckner and junior outfielder Meagan Harney.
Arkansas continues tournament play, Saturday, Feb. 11, with an 11:00 meeting with Iowa followed by a 3:00 game with tournament host, Florida International.
For more information on Arkansas softball, log on to LADYBACKS.COM.