This is the first of four preseason features ahead of the Razorbacks’ 2014 season opener Feb. 7 against UC Davis at the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. Next week, we take a look at the program’s milestone victories.
FAYETTEVILLE — The 2013 Razorback softball team finished its season as one of the most decorated teams in program history. Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Mike Larabee, Arkansas earned its second-consecutive NCAA bid including an appearance in the Norman Regional final. The program also reached a milestone when it earned its first-ever national ranking in late April. The 2013 squad broke numerous single-season records including batting average (.283), slugging percentage (.470), on-base percentage (.390), stolen base percentage (.859), runs scored (304), runs batted in (274) and walks (229). The Razorbacks finished 36-20 in 2013, good for a .643 winning percentage which is the highest in program history. Arkansas also had nine wins over ranked teams during the year. The team began its season with two road non-conference tournaments and became the first team in program history to start the season 5-0 after sweeping its weekend slate in St. George, Utah. Arkansas went on to win its first seven games of the season and entered Southeastern Conference play with a 19-7 record. Two wins against Savannah State were highlighted by a no-hitter by Kimmy Beasley, the first by a Razorback since the 2006 season. Arkansas picked up its first win of the conference season en route to a sweep of No. 22 Georgia at Bogle Park. Devon Wallace’s walk-off grand slam in game two helped propel the Razorbacks to its first sweep of a ranked team since the 2000 season and its first-ever sweep of Georgia. During the sweep, senior captain Chelsea Cohen started three games and had two wins, giving up just four earned runs in 16 innings of play against the SEC’s No. 1 hitting team at the time. After the sweep of the Bulldogs, the No. 13 LSU Tigers came to town. Arkansas won game two and had a 4-0 lead in game three, but could not hold on. During the game-two win, Beasley notched a then career-high 12 strikeouts. From there, the Razorbacks traveled to No. 8 Missouri and started a run to the postseason. Arkansas won two of three against the Tigers, both of which came in extra innings. Game two saw Beasley give up one run in 11 innings and post another 12-strikeout performance. Arkansas captured the series with an 11-10 thriller in eight innings in game three. With the score tied at 10-10, the Hogs plated a run in the top of the eighth and worked out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam to clinch the series. The series wins streak continued as the Razorbacks took two of three from No. 17 Kentucky in Fayetteville. Game two of the series featured a combined no-hitter from Cohen and Hope McLemore. After the Kentucky series Arkansas entered the Top 25 for the first time in school history. The Razorbacks used the momentum and took down No. 2 Tennessee in Knoxville. Beasley threw another complete-game gem, giving up one run on four hits. The following two games were rained out and sent the Hogs home with a 9-10 record in the SEC and an upcoming series with Auburn. In game one against the Tigers, Beasley tallied a career-high 15 strikeouts to send Arkansas to a sweep. The Foreman, Ark., native allowed just one run in her final 19 innings of the regular season and went on to earn All-SEC Second Team accolades. Arkansas entered the SEC Tournament as the No. 6 seed after accumulating a 12-10 conference record. The seeding for the Razorbacks is the highest earned for the conference tournament. The postseason continued with a trip to Norman, Okla., for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas beat Fordham twice to advance to the Regional final against No. 1 overall seed Oklahoma. It marked the Razorbacks’ second-consecutive NCAA trip to the tournament’s top seed having traveled to Berkeley, Calif., the previous season against California. Numerous individual records were capped in the final series. Wallace led the NCAA in two statistical categories with 79 walks and a .627 on-base percentage. She was named to the All-South Region Second Team. The sophomore slugger also finished second in program history with her .376 batting average and 55 runs scored. Freshman Stephanie Canfield set the single-season program record with a .381 batting average. As good as the Razorbacks were on the field, the success continued off the diamond and into the classroom. McLemore earned Academic All-America status after finishing her college career with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in community health promotion. She was also named to the SEC Community Service Team and joined Wallace on the Academic All-District Team. Wallace finished her sophomore year with a 3.9 GPA as a nursing major. The 2014 Razorbacks will return 16 players from last year’s team, led by seniors Jayme Gee, Amanda Geile, Ashley Martindale, Clarisa Navarro, Chloe Oprzedek and Jennifer Rambo. Along with Beasley and Wallace, Arkansas also welcomes back juniors Sierra Bronkey, Kasey Fagan and Megan Pearson and the sophomore class of Canfield, Claire Clark, Kyndra Meeker, Nicole Schroeder and Kelly Young. The Razorbacks will also be boosted by their 10-player newcomers group. For more information on Arkansas softball, follow @RazorbackSB on Twitter.