FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In 2011, Razorback Athletics paid tribute to trailblazers in its various sport programs. That spring, Valanna Lyons and Zenobia Davison returned to campus and were honored at Bogle Park as the first black student-athletes to play softball at the University of Arkansas.
In four seasons (2002-05) with the Arkansas softball team, Valanna Lyons created an impressive resume still evident throughout the Razorback pitching record book. Lyons was a key member of the 2002 team that was 39-28-1 and earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
In her first season wearing the Cardinal and White, Lyons established a strong presence in the circle for the Razorbacks with a 7-8 record behind five shutouts and a 1.21 earned-run average (ERA). Lyon’s ERA during her freshman season still ranks as the second-best mark during a single season for an Arkansas pitcher. She also contributed to the third-best single-season team ERA in school history as the 2002 pitching staff posted a 1.57 ERA.
Lyons was clutch during the Razorbacks’ postseason run in 2002. In game two of the regional round, the Murfreesboro, Tenn., native pitched a complete game shutout against Army to lead Arkansas to the 2-0 win. During her career, Lyons totaled 25 complete games and three shutouts, ninth and tied for 12th, respectively, on the Razorbacks’ all-time lists.
She picked up her first Southeastern Conference win in a 4-1 victory at Florida in 2002. During her sophomore season, she continued SEC success with a three-game conference winning streak and an 11-strikeout performance, a career high, against Kentucky. Lyons finished 2003 with a career-best eight victories, 13 complete games and 115 strikeouts.
During her Razorback career, Lyons struck out 272 batters and averaged 5.08 strikeouts per seven innings. Both figures are eighth all-time on the respective school lists. Her longest outings came in 2002 and 2003, a pair of eight-inning efforts against Long Beach State and Jacksonville State, respectively. In those 16 combined innings, Lyons allowed just one earned run and totaled eight strikeouts.
In addition to her ability to start, Lyons proved her worth at the back end of games, too. She earned four saves in relief appearances during her time in Fayetteville. Those four saves represent the eighth-most by an Arkansas pitcher. She also finished her Razorback career with 22 victories and a 3.04 ERA. All totaled, Lyons’ name still appears on 15 single-season and career lists for Arkansas.
Also making a statement for the Razorbacks during the 2002-05 seasons, Zenobia Davison was a regular pinch runner for the Hogs and worked her way into the Arkansas record books for stolen bases. She finished her career ranking in the top 10 in stolen bases (16) and in stolen base percentage (.640). Davison was a key member of the 2002 team that was 39-28-1 and earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
The Houston, Texas, native was primarily used as a pinch runner during her Razorback career. As a sophomore, she scored seven runs in her 30 appearances off the bench. She collected four more steals as a junior and eight in her senior season with four coming during conference play. She tallied 12 runs on 16 hits during her final season and helped the Hogs to a season record of
Also getting time in the outfield, Davison helped the Razorbacks of 2002, 2003 and 2005 become among the top-second fielding teams in UA history. As a senior, Davison helped the Razorbacks to the second-best stolen base percentage in Arkansas’ history (.857).
Academically, she was a part of the fall 2004 and spring 2005 Athletic Department Honor Roll.
In honor of Black History Month, Razorback Athletics is honoring “Trailblazer” stories celebrating the success and accomplishments of some of the first African-American student-athletes in University of Arkansas history.