FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas softball team continues its season with its third non-conference tournament Friday through Sunday at the NFCA Lead-Off Classic in Columbus, Ga.
“I am real excited about this weekend,” Arkansas coach Mike Larabee said. “It will give us a chance to see where we are at, playing some better competition. We have been playing a lot of mid-majors so I am excited to see how we do against some SEC type teams. From what our players tell us they typically play to the level of their competition so hopefully against the better competition, they will step up and perform well.”
Arkansas is coming off a 3-1 weekend at the North Texas/Sleep Inn Classic in Denton, Texas. The Razorbacks dropped the first game to North Texas, 10-2, before going on a three-game winning streak with victories over Sam Houston State, 12-1, Missouri State, 6-5, and Buffalo, 6-0.
Center fielder Jessica Bachkora was 6-for-16 (.375) in four games with four home runs, seven RBI, five runs scored, 17 total bases, a walk and a stolen base. She accounted for 12 of the 26 Razorback runs on the weekend. Freshman pitcher Hope McLemore played in three of Arkansas’ four games, winning two and saving another. On the weekend, she totaled 13.1 innings, allowed one earned run, struck out 10 and posted an ERA of .053. She is 3-1 on the season with an ERA of 1.15.
In the opening game of the NFCA tournament, the Razorbacks (5-4) will play Nebraska (7-4) with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. EST. Arkansas will then take on Central Florida (4-5) at 4 p.m.
On the second day of the event, Arkansas will play No. 11/8 Georgia Tech (8-1) at 11 a.m., followed by Iowa (6-3) at 1:30 p.m. The Razorbacks will close competition with a 10 a.m. matchup Sunday against Illinois (9-1).
All games will be played at the South Commons Stadium and Complex, the host of practice sessions for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games women’s fast pitch softball.
Arkansas will face some of its toughest competition of the season at the tournament, including facing its first ranked opponent and two other teams with only one loss.
The Razorbacks trail the all-time series with Nebraska, 2-1, but won the last two times the team faced each other, 5-4, in Lincoln in 2003. Arkansas holds a 2-1 lead over Central Florida all time. The Golden Nights earned a victory over No. 22 Tennessee earlier this year.
Arkansas and Georgia Tech are tied 2-2 all time. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 46-15 season and are 8-1 heading into this weekend with their only loss coming against No. 11 California. UA and GT split four games in 2001 and 2003.
Iowa and the Razorbacks met earlier this season at the Metrodome Classic with Arkansas coming away with a 2-1 victory. Sunday’s game will be the first meet between Arkansas and Illinois. The Fighting Illini were 29-17 last season and are off to a program-best 9-1 start this season.
Rankings are based on the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA collegiate softball polls released Tuesday.