NORMAN, Okla. – The No. 24 University of Arkansas softball team topped the Fordham Rams, 5-2, on Saturday in Norman, Okla. and advanced to its second NCAA Regional Final in as many years.
Arkansas (36-19) will take on No. 1 Oklahoma tomorrow at 1 p.m. and will need to defeat the Sooners twice to advance to an NCAA Super-Regional. This is the second consecutive NCAA Regional Final for the Razorback softball program.
"We are continuing to build our program," head coach Mike Larabee said. "We are not quite there, but we can get closer tomorrow. We have an opportunity tomorrow to move onto the next level and get to a super-regional."
Chloe Oprzedek had the big night at the plate for the Razorbacks. She went 3-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and also played a superb defensive game at third base. Stephanie Canfield also tallied two hits and increased her total to seven on the weekend. The freshman also knocked in two RBI.
"Our team bounced back well," Larabee said. "We were coming off of a tough loss to Oklahoma and we faced a team coming off of a win. We got timely hits tonight and manufactured runs."
Senior captain and Ringling, Okla. native Hope McLemore entered the game in the sixth inning and allowed one run on one hit. She replaced Kimmy Beasley, who allowed one run on four hits and struck out three. Beasley received the win and McLemore picked up the save in the game.
"I thought Kimmy pitched really well," Larabee said. "Hope came in and did a great job too. She closed it out and we had some great defense tonight. It was a good team performance to get the win."
The Razorbacks were the away team in their second game of the day and put two runners on base early. Devon Wallace drew her NCAA-leading 79th walk of the season to start the game. Clarisa Navarro followed and was hit in the head. However, both runners were left stranded and the game remained scoreless.
Beasley came out of the gate strong and retired the first five batters she faced. Michele Daubman broke the streak with a rope-single to leftfield. Beasley came back and blew a fastball past Brianna Turgeon to end the second inning.
Oprzedek knocked the first extra-base hit for the Hogs in the third. Her two-out triple hit off of the top of the centerfield wall. Amanda Geile followed and rocketed a ball down the third base line. Kayla Lombardo picked the ball off of the white of the line and threw out Geile to end the top of the third.
Canfield started the fourth inning with a five-pitch walk. After Andrea Sullivan flied out to the warning track, Sierra Bronkey advanced Canfield to second on a groundout. Rambo saw two strikes and shot a single up the middle, scoring Canfield. Gee followed with an RBI-single of her own to score Rambo from second. Her 27th RBI of the season gave Arkansas a 2-0 lead.
The momentum stayed with Arkansas into the bottom of the fourth as Beasley cruised through the Ram lineup. She allowed a two-out walk to Gabby Luety but came back to retire Daubman and end the inning.
The second hit of the game for Oprzedek came in the fifth as she blooped a one-out single. The junior stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error during the play. She came home to score on an illegal pitch from Jamie Labovick in the next at-bat. Canfield singled two batters later for her sixth hit of the regional. Sullivan followed with an 11-pitch walk, however, both runners were left stranded.
The Rams notched a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth as Paige Ortiz roped a ball to centerfield. Claudia Law followed with a walk and Labovick singled to load the bases for Chelsea Palumbo. She roped a ball to centerfield and Canfield got a great jump on it. The freshman caught the ball on the warning track and held the Rams to a sacrifice fly. The score was cut to 3-1, Arkansas.
After a 1-2-3 inning from the Arkansas offense, McLemore was inserted into the game in the circle for the bottom of the sixth. She got Lombardo to fly out to leftfield for out number one. Amanda Summerford made a nice catch in foul territory to help her senior classmate. Luety followed two pitches later and skied a solo-homerun over the foul pole in leftfield. Her 13th homer of the year trimmed the lead to one. Daubman worked a 3-2 count and walked to put the winning run at the plate. McLemore fired back and struck out Turgeon on three pitches. Another strikeout followed as the senior captain gunned down Ortiz on a fastball.
Oprzedek beat out her third hit of the night with an infield single to the second-baseman. She stole second and advanced to third on an error for the second time of the game. Deja’ vu struck again as she crossed home on an illegal pitch that sent Geile to first. Canfield followed with a single to put two runners on for Sullivan. She smacked a single to the leftfield wall that scored Geile from second. Canfield was caught in a rundown and tagged out on the play for out number two. Bronkey popped out to end the top of the seventh.
McLemore came back out for the seventh and worked a 1-2-3 inning. The Ringling, Okla. native picked up her second save of the season and sent the Razorbacks to the regional final.
Next up, the Razorbacks will face No. 1 Oklahoma in the Regional Final. The game will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow and will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.
For more information regarding Razorback softball please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
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