FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas softball team dropped a pair of Southeastern Conference games against No. 4 Florida on Saturday at Bogle Park.
The Razorbacks matched the Gators with 10 hits in the first game but left six runners on base in a 9-5 loss while Florida exploded for 12 runs on 12 hits in the second game of the doubleheader to defeat Arkansas 12-2 in five innings.
Saturday marked only the second time that Arkansas (24-15, 8-5 SEC) has fallen in back-to-back games at home this season.
Florida (29-4, 11-2 SEC) has won eight straight conference games and has not lost since it fell 10-4 on the road at No. 7/5 Alabama on February 27.
In the first game, Arkansas took an early 3-0 lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Second baseman Courtney Breault got the scoring started with an RBI single to right field to drive in center fielder Jessica Bachkora who led off the game with a double. A two-run double by first baseman Stephanie Brewer capped the scoring. Bachkora finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored.
Florida jumped in front 5-3 in the top of the fourth with five runs on five hits. Back-to-back home runs by catcher Brittany Schutte and first baseman Megan Bush accounted for the first four runs of the frame. Schutte’s three-run blast was her 10th of the year while Busch collected her ninth of the season with a solo shot to center field. Second baseman Aja Paculba drove in the final run of the inning with a double.
A four-run top of the sixth extended the Gator lead to 9-3. A three-run home run by Florida left-fielder Francesca Enea was the big hit of the inning. The Gators added a run when right fielder Kelsey Bruder scored on a throwing error by the catcher.
The Razorbacks tallied runs in the sixth and seventh innings to make the score 9-5.
Arkansas starting pitcher Hope McLemore (12-6) worked 5-1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out eight. The freshman retired the first eight batters she faced and nine of the first 11 before running into trouble in the fourth. Junior Kim Jones surrendered one unearned run on one hit in 1-2/3 innings.
Florida starter Stephanie Brombacher (20-4) surrendered three runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts in 4-1/3 innings. Gator freshman Ensley Gammel recorded her second save of the season after giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 2-2/3 innings.
In the day’s second game, Arkansas rallied with three runs in the bottom of the fifth but fell short as they could not overcome nine Florida runs in the final two innings of the run-ruled shortened game. Razorback third baseman Sandra Smith drove in the first run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk, followed by an RBI single by designated player Miranda Dixon and a sacrifice fly by Breault.
Arkansas junior Layne McGuirt (7-6) allowed six runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out two in 3-1/3 innings. Freshman Chelsea Cohen struggled in her ninth appearance of the season, giving up six runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning of work. Jones pitched a scoreless fifth.
Florida got on the board early with a pair of runs in the top of the first. Bruder drove in the first run with an RBI groundout before the second run scored off an illegal pitch.
The Gators added a score in top half of the second on an RBI single by center fielder Michelle Moultrie to increase their advantage to 3-0.
Three different Florida batters drove in runs in the top of the fourth to make the score 6-0. Shortstop Brittany Walker, second baseman Aja Paculba and left fielder Francesca Enea each drove in a run.
A six-run top of the fifth inning put the Gators in front by a margin of 12-0. A grand slam by second baseman Aja Paculba, the first of her career, was the major blow of the inning.
Gammel ran her undefeated record to 8-0 on the season after shutting out the Razorbacks on two hits through four innings. The right hander walked one and struck out two. Freshman Erin Shuppert allowed three unearned runs on one hit in an inning of work.
The two teams return to action Sunday in the series finale with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. at Bogle Park.
Sunday’s games will be broadcast on KXUA Fayetteville (88.3 FM) and ArkansasRazorbacks.com, which will also carry live stats for the finale of the Florida series.
Rankings are based on the ESPN/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA collegiate softball poll released Tuesday.