COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Arkansas softball team fell to Illinois 7-4 on Sunday in the final game of the NFCA Lead-Off Classic at the South Commons Softball Complex.
The Razorbacks (8-6) finished the weekend with a 3-2 record, earning wins over Nebraska, Central Florida and Iowa. Illinois (14-1) went undefeated in the NFCA Lead-Off Classic after entering the week ranked just outside the top 25.
Seniors Sandra Smith and Miranda Dixon provided the offense for Arkansas as each went 1-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs. Smith finished the weekend 7-for-16 (.438) with a double and a team-high six RBIs.
Illinois jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a four-run bottom of the second inning. The Fighting Illini loaded the bases with one out and got the scoring started when center Ashley Conrad drove in a run with a fielders’ choice. Second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz had the big blow of the inning, sending in two runs with a double up the middle. A third run scored on an error.
Arkansas responded with a two-run third inning to make the score 4-2. Smith collected her fifth and sixth RBIs of the weekend with a double down the left-field line. Third baseman Brea Van De Pol and right fielder Tori Mort scored on the play after reaching on a walk and a single to start the inning.
The Fighting Illini tallied a run in the bottom of the third to extend their advantage to 5-2. Conrad drew a bases loaded walk to drive in catcher Audrey Gallien, who walked to lead off the frame.
Dixon hit a two-run home run, her fifth of the season, in the top of the fifth inning to make the score 5-4. Center fielder Jessica Bachkora scored on the play after reaching on a walk.
Illinois added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run home run off the bat of shortstop Jessica Davis. Davis’ third home run of the year put the Fighting Illini in front 7-4.
Razorback starting pitcher Layne McGuirt (3-1) allowed five runs (one earned), one two hits through 2-1/2 innings in her fifth start of the year. The junior walked three and struck out one. Freshman Hope McLemore worked the final 3-2/3 innings of the game, giving up two runs on three hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
Illinois pitcher Monica Perry (7-1) earned the win in relief. Perry allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four innings. Starting pitcher Pepper Gay went three innings, surrendering two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five.
Arkansas returns to action Friday through Sunday when its host the first of two-non conference tournaments at Bogle Park. The Razorback Invitational will feature teams from Eastern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, Iowa State, Drake and Southern Mississippi.