UPDATE: Arkansas will play Saturday at 8 p.m. (CT) against the losing team from the Oklahoma-North Dakota State matchup which was suspended and resumed earlier in the day at 1:30 p.m.
NORMAN, Okla. – Sophomore designated player Katie Warrick tied the game with a home run in the top of the seventh but No. 23 Tulsa responded with a solo shot of its own in the bottom of the inning to post a 5-4 win over the Razorbacks in the opening game of the NCAA Norman Regional. Warrick and senior Nicole Schroeder each homered in the setback and junior Autumn Russell recorded her team-leading 16th multi-hit performance of the season.
“That’s a postseason game for you,” head coach Courtney Deifel said. “It was a battle and both teams kept throwing punches and, unfortunately, they got the last punch. I liked how our team fought during the game but I felt like we had a few innings where we gave up too much and they capitalized on our mistakes. They did what Tulsa does, and they put pressure on our defense and scored some big runs that way. Congratulations to Tulsa because they earned that win. Now, we’ll work our way through the loser’s bracket.”
After a scoreless first for both team, Schroeder opened the scoring with a solo home run off Tulsa starter Emily Watson to lead off the second frame. It was the 17th home run of her senior campaign, adding to the program’s single-season record. The solo shot also represented her 118th career RBI which is tied for the fourth most in program history.
Madison Yannetti continued the push with a walk in the next at-bat, and after a one-out walk to Ashley Diaz, the Razorbacks had runners on first and second. Russell delivered with a two-out, two-run triple to right center to push Arkansas’ lead to 3-0. Diaz and pinch runner Betina Beringhele scored on the play. The three-base hit also marked Russell’s third game of the season with at least two RBI.
Tulsa (40-15) answered with two runs—one earned—off freshman starter Autumn Storms in the bottom of the inning to pull to within one. Storms recorded her first 1-2-3 inning in the third and worked around a lead-off walk in the fourth to maintain the Razorbacks’ one-run advantage. However, the region’s No. 2 seed scored on a pair of fielder’s choice plays in the fifth including a squeeze play to take the 4-3 lead.
Following Russell’s triple, Watson retired the next 11 Arkansas hitters before A.J. Belans earned a one-out walk in the sixth. On in relief of Storms in the fifth, fellow freshman Caroline Hedgcock worked around a walk and left a runner stranded on third in the bottom of the sixth to keep the Razorbacks within a run.
Leading off the seventh inning, Warrick wasted no time in tying the game and launched the first pitch of the frame to deep center field for her sixth big fly of the season. The Razorbacks have hit at least two home runs in 14 games and increased their season total to 59 which continues to lead the SEC.
“I was just trying to make an adjustment from my previous at-bats,” Warrick said. “I was trying to get on top of the ball more and find something in my zone. I wasn’t really looking where the ball was going (off the bat) but just wanted to make good contact.”
The Razorbacks continued the scoring threat and had runners on first and second after a pair of singles from Shelby Hiers and Loren Krzysko who extended her on-base streak to 16-consecutive games. However, Watson got herself out of the jam with a pop up to third, and in similar fashion to Warrick’s home run, Tulsa earned the walk-off win with a solo shot by Haley Meinen on the first pitch thrown in the bottom of the seventh.
“Now (our resiliency) is really going to get tested,” Deifel said. “I think we’ve been tested quite a bit throughout our conference schedule. We consistently took our hits on a Friday night and came out ready to battle on a Saturday. They know what’s at stake, and they know they’re going to have to show up big time from first pitch against whoever we play to the last pitch of the day. They’ve played with heart all year and that’s what I’m excited to see tomorrow.”
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