STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Razorback softball team swept a Tuesday doubleheader against Mississippi State to begin Southeastern Conference play with a 4-0 record. Arkansas (15-9) came from behind for an 8-3 extra-inning win in game one and completed the sweep with a 5-1 victory in the day’s finale. Arkansas had 19 hits on the day against the Bulldogs and got strong outings from Kim Jones and Miranda Dixon in the circle. For the first time in program history, the Razorbacks are 4-0 in conference play.
“We started off early in game two and Miranda had a great outing,” head coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “She scattered seven hits in seven innings, didn’t walk anybody, and stuck out nine. We got great pitching again today, and, as it has shown in the course of the season, when we get good pitching we have a chance to beat anyone. The four outings (in SEC games) we have gotten from Kim and Miranda have been very good. The key is quality starts and we have definitely gotten those to start the conference season.”Mississippi State scored the first runs of the day with a two-run first inning in game one. Chelsea Bramlett, the league’s top hitter, and Sammie Jo Bailey came around to score in the Bulldogs’ half of the first. MSU tacked on another run in the third on an RBI single by Kaili Smith that scored Allie Heon and the home team led, 3-0.In the top of the fourth, the Razorbacks rallied to put a three spot on the board and tie the game. With the bases loaded, Amie Hubbard hit a ball to the shortstop who tried to get the force out at third, but Kayla Johnson was called safe and Tori Mort had crossed the plate to score Arkansas’ first run of the game. Two batters later, Brittany Griffiths singled up the middle to bring in two runs for the Razorbacks.With the score tied, 3-3, the game went into extra innings. Johnson led off the Arkansas half of the eighth with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dixon. Griffiths picked up her second hit of the game and third RBI as Johnson came around to give the Razorbacks the 4-3 lead.Looking to add insurance runs, Jessica Bachkora came to the plate with the bases loaded after Jocelyne Moncrief was hit by a Lindsey Dunlap pitch. Bachkora lined a shot to right field, just under the glove the MSU right fielder Brittany Bell in a diving attempt. The ball rolled to the wall and the bases were cleared as Bachkora rounded the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam and an 8-3 Arkansas lead.
“The team hit well as a group today, too,” Pinkerton said. “I didn’t think we bunted the ball well, but we had good situational hitting and were very good with runners on base.”
Despite giving up a walk in the bottom of the eighth, Jones closed out the game to earn her fifth win of the season. The sophomore pitcher finished the game with two strikeouts and allowing just five hits to Mississippi State.
In game two, the Razorbacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a double to left field by Whitney Cloer. Mort and Griffiths scored on the play. Cloer finished the game with three doubles, boosting her season total to 11.
The senior catcher proved as valuable behind the plate as she was able to gun down Bramlett trying to steal second on two occasions in game two. Bramlett came into the day leading the SEC in stolen bases with 29 and had only been caught three times prior.
Arkansas padded its advantage with two more runs in the fourth. Brittany Robison, penciled in as the designated player in game two, knocked a two-out solo home run to left center to give her team the 3-0 lead. It was Robison’s fourth home run of the season. Griffiths followed with a single and came around to score on a double by Bachkora.
Johnson knocked in the Razorback’s fifth run of the game with a double to right center in the fifth. The senior second baseman plated Cloer who led off the inning with a double of her own. Johnson collected four hits on the day against Mississippi State.
Dixon continued her recent spell of effective pitching with a complete game performance for Arkansas. She struck out nine batters and allowed no free passes to the Bulldog hitters. In her last three starts, Dixon has 26 strikeouts and just one walk. MSU scored a late run in the bottom of the sixth, but Dixon retired the side in order in the seventh to complete the Razorback sweep of the doubleheader. Dixon is now 8-2 on the season.
“We need to come back tomorrow and play good sound defense,” Pinkerton said. “We have to keep Bramlett off the bases because she is the one who makes the Bulldogs go and we need to keep her under control to have a chance at the sweep.”
Arkansas will look for the series sweep when it returns to action Wednesday for the conclusion of its mid-week set with Mississippi State. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the MSU Softball Stadium. Live stats will be available at ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: Arkansas 8, Mississippi State 3.pdf