FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas softball team returned to Southeastern Conference play and swept a pair of games against Mississippi State on Saturday at Bogle Park.
Home runs from Arkansas seniors Jessica Bachkora and Miranda Dixon along with strong pitching led the Razorbacks to a 7-2 victory in the first game, while the offense scored 11 runs on 12 hits to claim an 11-6 win in Game Two.
Arkansas (20-11, 5-2 SEC) was led on the day by Bachkora and Dixon who combined to go 7-for-12 with seven runs, a double, seven RBIs and three home runs.
Mississippi State (19-15, 2-6 SEC) matched the Razorbacks with 12 hits in the second game but were unable to muster enough timely hits to challenge for the win.
In the first game of the day, Arkansas starting pitcher Hope McLemore (11-4) limited the Bulldogs to two runs on five hits in her 13th complete game of the season. The freshman struck out six and walked two.
The Bulldogs took an early 1-0 advantage with a run in the top of the first inning. Center fielder Brittany Bell drove in catcher Chelsea Bramlett with a sacrifice fly to left field. Bramlett scored after she reached on a single and advanced to into scoring position by stealing second and third.
Dixon put the Razorbacks in front 3-1 in the bottom of the first with her sixth home run of the season, a three-run shot to left-center field. Bachkora and third baseman Sandra Smith scored on the play after reaching on a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively.
The Razorbacks took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-run home run by Bachkora, her 11th of the year. Shortstop Brittany Griffiths scored on the play.
Arkansas added two runs in the fourth on a two-RBI double to left-center field by Sandra Smith to increase their lead to 7-1. The Tulsa, Okla., native leads the team with 33 RBIs this season.
Mississippi State tallied a run in the top of the sixth on a solo home run by designated player Jessica Spain to make the score 7-2.
MSU starting pitcher Lindsey Dunlap (3-3) allowed five run on two hits in 1-1/3 innings while striking out one and walking two. Bulldogs freshman Stephanie Becker surrendered one earned run in her 3-1/3 innings in relief of Dunlap. Right-hander Misty Fletcher pitched a scoreless seventh.
In the day’s second contest, after getting down early, the Razorbacks scored 11 runs in innings two through five to claim the victory.
Mississippi State was the first on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the first. Bramlett scored on an illegal pitch before left fielder Kaili Smith drove in the second run with a RBI double to left field.
A five-run bottom of the second put Arkansas in front 5-2. First baseman Emily Jones got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Dixon who walked to reach base. A two-RBI double by right fielder Brittany Robison followed by a two RBI-single by Bachkora accounted for the remainder of the scoring.
Mississippi State answered with a pair of runs in the top of the third to cut the Arkansas lead to 5-4. An RBI groundout by Kaili Smith produced the first run while second baseman Ali Banbridge scored on a passed ball to score the other.
A total of four runs in the third and fourth innings extended the Razorbacks lead to 9-4. A solo home run by Arkansas second baseman Courtney Breault in the third and a two-run home run by Dixon in the fourth, were the big blows in each inning.
A two-out, two-run single down the right-field line by MSU center fielder Jessica Cooley in the top of the fifth put the Bulldogs back within three runs at 9-6. The Razorbacks added two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Dixon and Breault to make the score 11-6.
Dixon (2-2) limited the Bulldogs to two runs on five hits while striking out two in 2-1/3 innings pitched to earn her second win of the season. Starter Layne McGuirt worked 2-2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while striking out three. McLemore worked a perfect sixth and seventh.
Four Mississippi State pitchers combined to allow 11 runs on 12 hits while striking out five and issuing nine walks.
Arkansas will return to action Sunday in the series finale against Mississippi State. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Bogle Park.