LAS VEGAS, Nev.- The Arkansas softball team (4-3) handed the No. 1 Bruins of UCLA(6-1) a 4-3 loss in the first of two games on Friday and fell to host UNLV 3-2 in the second game of opened the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.
The defending national champions held the Hogs to seven hits, but that was not enough to hold the Razorbacks. Senior Becca Carden scored two runs for UA while Brittany Griffiths and Tori Mort brought in the other two for the Hogs. Arkansas had seven strikeouts between pitchers Layne McGuirt and Kim Jones.
"We talked a lot this week about getting off to a good start, and that’s exactly what we did," head coach Mike Larabee. "You’ve got to give Layne McGuirt a lot of credit, she kept them off balance with her change up all afternoon, and when Kim Jones came in to close it out in that pressure situation is just outstanding."
The Bruins got on the board first with one run in their half of the third inning. The Hogs answered quickly by picking up two runs of their own thanks to a two RBI single to centerfield from Courtney Breault.
"We had some great clutch hitting from Breault and Mort," Larabee said. "All of our runs were scored when we had two outs and that just show how much heart and fight we have as a team!"
The lead would not last long as the Bruins were able to plate one run in the top of the fourth inning on an error by Arkansas to even up the score at two. The Bruins would then add one more run to give them the lead 3-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Breault then added another RBI to her resume for the game, tying the contest at three runs each through five.
The Hogs were able to take the lead after Jones recorded three strikeouts in the top of the sixth inning and they were able to plate the game winning run off a single up the middle from Mort.
The win over No. 1 UCLA marks the first time in Arkansas softball history that the Razorbacks have beaten a top-ranked team. The Razorbacks first faced No. 1 Tennessee in 2007 and lost all of the three-game series.
Arkansas out hit their opponent for the second game in a row with nine hits to the Rebel’s four, but the Hogs took a loss to UNLV (3-3) with a final score of 3-2.
Griffiths scored the only two runs of the game, bringing her total to three on the day. Hope McLemore allowed just four hits to the Rebels in seven and one-third innings while also collecting eight strikeouts in her second loss of the season.
"Unfortunately two of their (UNLV) four hits ended up leaving the yard," Larabee said. "Other than that I was really proud with the way our defense played in the game, and our pitching was much better than last weekend."
Carden drove in the first run for the Hogs on a triple down the right field line allowing Griffiths to trot freely across the plate. UNLV answered in the bottom of the third with a run of its own off a solo home run. Griffiths lit up the scoreboard again after Stephanie Brewer hit a shot to center field to give the hogs the lead for a half inning, but the Rebels would answer again with another solo homer to make the score tied at two.
The scoreboard stayed at two and brought extra innings play where the international tiebreaker rule came into play. The Rebels were able to keep the Hogs off the board in the top half of the inning so they would have a chance to win in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Hogs intentionally walked two batters to load the bases after the free runner at second advanced to the hot corner on a sacrifice bunt. With the bases loaded with Rebels, the Hogs gave up a ground ball through the left side of the infield which would ensure UNLV the win.
"We need to be able to execute better in the international tie-breaking situation and get our bunts down," said Larabee. "All in all, I’m very happy for our team especially with a big win over UCLA."
The Razorbacks return to the field Saturday afternoon in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic against Oregon and LBSU.