FAYETTEVILLE- The 2013 Arkansas softball team finished its season as one of most decorated teams in Arkansas softball history.
The 2013 squad broke numerous single season records including batting average (.283), slugging percentage (.470), on-base percentage (.390), stolen base percentage (.859), runs scored (304), runs batted in (274) and walks (229). The Razorbacks finished 36-20 in 2013 to set the highest winning percentage, .643, in program history. Arkansas also defeated nine ranked teams, another program first.
The team began its season with two road non-conference tournaments. The Razorbacks won all five games in St. George, Utah and became the first team in program history to start 5-0. Arkansas won its first five games against Southern Utah, Colorado State, Loyola Marymount, Weber State and Utah. They followed the five wins with a Top-25 win over Tulsa in Tallahassee, Fla. at the Unconquered Invitational. However, the Razorbacks dropped four games, against NCAA qualifiers Florida State, Hofstra and Tulsa in the Unconquered Invite. Arkansas returned home for two tournaments in which they finished with eight wins. After taking two games from Utah Valley State, Arkansas opened SEC play with No. 4 Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks fought the Aggies hard but did not pick up a win in College Station, Texas. Two wins at Savannah State followed, including the first no-hitter since 2006, from Kimmy Beasley on March 19. The bus kept moving to No. 3 Florida, but Arkansas returned home with an 0-6 record in the SEC.
That record would improve quickly to 3-6 after a sweep of No. 22 Georgia. Devon Wallace’s game two, walk-off, grandslam helped propel Arkansas to its first sweep of a ranked team since 2000. This was the first time in Arkansas softball history that the Razorbacks swept Georgia. During the sweep, senior captain Chelsea Cohen started three games and received two wins. She gave up four earned runs in 16 innings of play against the SEC’s No. 1 hitting team at the time.
After the sweep of the Bulldogs, the No. 13 LSU Tigers came to town. Arkansas won game two and had a 4-0 lead in game three, but could not hold on. During the game two win, Beasley notched a then career-high 12 strikeouts.
From there the Razorbacks traveled to No. 8 Missouri and started a run to the postseason. The Hogs took two games from the Tigers, both in extra innings. Game two saw Beasley give up one run in 11 innings and tie a then career-high 12 strikeouts. Arkansas followed the game two win with an 11-10 thriller in eight innings. The Razorbacks scored six runs in the top of the seventh to take a five run lead. Missouri answered with five runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning. The Hogs plated a run in the top of the eighth and worked out of a bases-loaded and zero outs jam to clinch the series. Another SEC series loomed as No. 15 Kentucky came to Bogle Park.
The series wins streak continued as the Razorbacks took games one and two from the Wildcats. Game two of the series featured a combined no-hitter from Hope McLemore and Chelsea Cohen. After the Kentucky series Arkansas entered the Top 25 for the first time in school history.
They used the momentum and took down No. 2 Tennessee in Knoxville. Kimmy Beasley threw another complete game gem, giving up one run on four hits. The following two games were rained out and sent the Hogs home with a 9-10 record in the SEC and a series with Auburn awaiting.
The Razorbacks swept the Tigers behind another great performance from Beasley. She notched a career-high 15 strikeouts in game one and followed with seven more in game three. The Foreman, Ark. native had allowed one run in her last 19 innings pitched. She was named second team All-SEC for her efforts this season.
Arkansas dropped its second round SEC Tournament game to Missouri, 8-0, in five innings. The Razorbacks managed two hits off of SEC Pitcher of the Year Chelsea Thomas. The No. 6 seeded Hogs had the highest seeding in the SEC Tournament since 2002 for an Arkansas team.
A trip to Norman, Okla. awaited as the Razorbacks were placed in the No. 1 Oklahoma regional. Arkansas defeated Fordham twice to reach its second NCAA Regional Final in as many years. However, the Hogs dropped two games to No. 1 Oklahoma to end their season.
Numerous individual records were capped in the final series. Wallace finished the season as the program’s leader in walks (79), slugging percentage (.768) and on-base percentage (.627). She was named second-team All-South Region for her efforts. The sophomore also finished second in UA history in batting average (.376) and runs scored (55). Freshman Stephanie Canfield finished as the UA single-season leader in batting average with a .381 mark. Beasley’s 9.33 strikeouts per seven innings also ranks first in program history in a single season. Ashely Martindale set the single-season stolen base percentage record with a .933 mark. She swiped 14 of 15 bags this year.
As good as the Razorbacks were on the field, they might have been better off of the diamond. McLemore earned Academic All-American status after finishing her college career with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in community health promotion. She was also named to the SEC’s Community Service team and joined Wallace on the Academic All-District team. Wallace finished her sophomore year with a 3.9 GPA, she is a nursing major.
The 2014 Razorbacks will return all nine starters in the field as well as their designated player, Nicole Schroeder. Arkansas is bringing in eight student athletes to fight for playing time next season and will also welcome the addition of Kasey Fagan, a transfer from Florida. Fagan was named the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year and was a standout with the Gators in 2012. Two pitchers will return from the 2013 roster, Kimmy Beasley and Kelly Young. The future is certainly bright in Fayetteville.