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Solid performance can’t lift Lady’Backs at the SEC Tournament

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Solid performance can’t lift Lady’Backs at the SEC Tournament

Jump to box score ATHENS, Ga. – Stellar performances from freshman Sandra Smith and sophomore Katy Henry were not enough to lift the University of Arkansas to victory at the 2006 Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament in Athens, Ga., Thursday. Arkansas (26-35) ended its season with a 2-0 loss to eighth-ranked Georgia (51-12) on the Bulldogs’ home field in the first round of the single-elimination tournament. The loss ended the careers of three Arkansas seniors in Blaire Perry, Shana Easley and Mindy O’Malley, all of whom graduate this year. “We were picked dead last in the West during the preseason and we were not even expected to be here,” said head coach Jamie Pinkerton. “We started four or five freshmen all year and we were not favored to win this game but we hung in there. We just wanted to play good, solid ball and I think we did that today.” Smith, a freshman from Tulsa, Okla., was solid defensively for the Lady Razorbacks while Henry, the ace of the Arkansas staff, held Georgia in check early in the game. Junior Rachel LeMaster paced the Arkansas offense with two of the three Lady’Back hits. Arkansas started strong in the top of the first inning when LeMaster opened the offense with a one-out chopping single that bounced over the Bulldog pitcher and skipped into shallow center for the first hit of the game. But LeMaster was caught stealing for the final out of the inning trying to generate some early offense for Pinkerton and the Lady’Backs. Henry held Georgia to a 1-2-3 inning in the first and Arkansas was again knocking on the door in the second. Perry tapped a two-out single into center but Arkansas couldn’t move the runner. Henry continued to play well going three-up, three-down in the first three innings. She got out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth when Georgia got its first hit of the game and stole second. A ground ball to Easley followed by back-to-back defensive gems from Smith ended the threat. Georgia threatened again in the bottom of the fifth frame but again the defense rose to the challenge sparked by a big strikeout from Henry to quiet the Georgia bats. The Bulldogs finally put the game away in the sixth inning when Charvi Greer ripped a pinch-hit single through the right side of the defense to lead off the stanza. Leadoff hitter Kellie Middleton followed with a hard ground ball to Dayna Huckabee at short. Huckabee fielded the ball cleanly but an ensuing error on the play saw Middleton reach safely and moved Greer to third base. A single to the left side of the infield from Bulldog Courtney Knight plated Greer with the first and what proved to be the game-winning run. Georgia added an insurance run in the frame with a sacrifice fly taking a 2-0 lead. Arkansas tried to rally in the top of the seventh inning when LeMaster led off with a single to third base but three fly balls ended the game and the Lady’Backs’ season. “I felt good about our performance today,” said LeMaster. “We did what we had to but Georgia was just the better team today. Our seniors were great and we’re going to miss their leadership but we want to make our presence at the SEC Tournament a habit. We can definitely build on this for next year.”



Sports Category : Softball