HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The Razorback softball team split a pair of games Saturday at the Southern Miss Invitational. Arkansas (2-1) opened the day with a 7-4 victory over Western Kentucky, but a late-inning rally fell short against Southern Miss in a 9-7 loss.“Our effort has been really good all weekend,” head coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “Offensively, we continue to execute well. If we score seven runs, we should win that game. Defensively, we have to clean some things up and make plays to get out of innings. Again, the effort is there but we need to have a sharper start and keep the intensity up all game.”
In game one, the Razorbacks went ahead when Jessica Bachkora knocked a lead-off home run over the right field fence on the second pitch of the game. The junior center fielder was 3-for-8 with four RBI and three runs scored over the two games.
After a Kayla Johnson double, Miranda Dixon hit a single to score her teammate from second and give Arkansas a 2-0 lead after its first time at the plate.
In the top of the second, the Razorbacks pushed its lead to 3-0 when Amie Hubbard scored on a sacrifice fly by Bachkora. Hubbard reached on a double down the line in left field. She advanced to third on a wild pitch by Jennifer Kempf of Western Kentucky and came in to score on Bachkora’s second RBI in as many innings.
The Lady Toppers cut into the Arkansas lead with a two-run fifth. Aided by an error in the infield, Jamie Hennis and Rachelle Boucher crossed the plate for Western Kentucky. Dixon pitched out of the jam to leave a runner on base.
With their lead down to one, the Razorbacks wasted little time in responding. Jocelyne Moncrief started the Arkansas half of the sixth with a single to center field. After walks to Bachkora and Tori Mort, the bases were loaded for Johnson. She came through with a double to plate two runs; Mort was thrown out at home trying to score from first.
Sandra Smith reached on a throwing error by Western Kentucky. Dixon lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Johnson who moved over to third on the previous misplay. Whitney Cloer capped the four-run inning with an RBI double that scored Smith and Arkansas led 7-2. The senior catcher finished the game with three hits.
After scoring a run in their half of the sixth, the Lady Toppers trailed by three heading into the final inning. They loaded the bases with no outs, but Kim Jones, replacing Dixon to start the seventh in the circle, gave up just one run to seal the 7-4 victory for the Razorbacks.
Dixon improved to 2-0 on the season with a six-inning outing. She allowed 11 hits and three runs, none of which were earned.
In their second game of the day, the Razorbacks loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first but were held to one run. With the bases full, Dixon worked a walk from Southern Miss starter Courtney Ramos to send Mort in from third base.
After wasting a two-on, no-out situation their first time up, the Golden Eagles took the lead with a three-run second inning. All three runs were scored with two outs. Southern Miss tacked on an additional run in the top of third to take a 4-1 lead.
Teighynne Hulsey, making her first start of the young season, struggled with her control in the early innings. She hit the first two batters of the game and uncorked a wild pitch over the first two innings of play. The Edmond, Okla., native worked three innings, giving up six hits and four runs to Southern Miss. Layne McGuirt replaced Hulsey to make her season debut.
In McGuirt’s first inning of work, the Golden Eagles loaded the bases with one out with the help of three singles. Arkansas couldn’t work itself out of the jam as four Southern Miss runs crossed the plate in an inning that featured two Razorback errors and a hit by pitch. The Golden Eagles led, 8-1.
Arkansas began to chip away at its deficit by scoring five runs in their half of the fourth. Mirroring their opponents, the Razorbacks loaded the bases, but with no outs. Bachkora drove a ball to the base of the right center field wall for a two-run double, scoring Hubbard and Brittany Robison.
Bachkora came around to score, followed by Johnson and Smith who reached base on a fielder’s choice and error, respectively. Cloer capped the inning with the RBI single that brought in Smith. The Razorbacks trailed by two, 8-6.
Southern Miss tacked on an extra run in the top of the sixth, and the Razorbacks trailed by three heading into the seventh. Robison led off the half inning with a shot over the left field wall and Mort singled up the middle with two outs to keep the rally hopes alive, but Johnson grounded out to first to end the game.
Arkansas will close its play at the season-opening Southern Miss Invitational with a Sunday matchup with Samford. First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m. from Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss. For live stats and more information, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.