Arkansas softball survives scare against SEMO, advances to play Arizona in NCAA Fayetteville Regional | Whole Hog Sports (2024)

FAYETTEVILLE — No. 12 Arkansas softball survived a scare against Southeast Missouri State in its first game of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional on Friday.

The Razorbacks (37-16) scored three runs in the fifth inning and came from behind to defeat SEMO 3-2 in front of an announced crowd of 2,655 at Bogle Park. Arkansas advanced to play Arizona, which defeated Villanova 14-3 earlier in the day, in the regional winners’ bracket.

“I'm just really proud of our team for finding a way to win tonight,” Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. “That's exactly what we expected to get from SEMO. They're tough, they're gritty and they gave us everything we could handle tonight. I'm just really proud of the way we stayed the course and found a way to win.”

The Razorbacks and Wildcats are scheduled to play Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner will advance to Sunday’s regional final.

Arkansas entered the bottom of the fifth inning with two hits before Rylin Hedgeco*ck led off with a double down the first-base line. It was the onset of a four-hit, two-walk inning for the Razorbacks.

Reagan Johnson delivered an RBI double up the middle to put Arkansas on the scoreboard. Nia Carter then sent Johnson home with a single to right field, which tied the game 2-2.

“We trusted our plan of being flat, driving the ball,” Johnson said of the adjustments made during the three-run fifth. “[We were] just hitting line drives, which is what we always try to do. We finally trusted that plan, stayed together and did it.”

After Bri Ellis singled up the middle, SEMO elected to intentionally walk Hannah Gammill with two outs. Freshman Kennedy Miller then drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk to give Arkansas a 3-2 lead.

“She's a freshman by year, but she's not a freshman at this point,” Deifel said of Miller. “She's battle-tested. She's been through it all, and she's been clutch for us. In that moment for anybody, it's hard: senior, fifth-year, sophom*ore, it doesn't matter when you're in that moment and the bases are loaded and you're in postseason and the lights are on and everyone's cheering.

“There is a certain level of just controlling your emotions and just being really present. She was just so locked in in that moment….It's huge to not stretch your zone and just take your base in that moment. And it was the final dagger, fortunately.”

SEMO (28-25) went ahead 2-0 in the second inning when Brittany Affolter singled with the bases loaded. It came after the Redhawks loaded the bases to chase Arkansas starter and first-team All-SEC selection Morgan Leinstock.

“I just needed a pitch to hit, and luckily it went up the middle and scored two runs," Affolter said. "It’s probably the best feeling I could have had. It's just nice to be able to come in there and not be afraid, step in the box, take a deep breath and just do what you know how to do.”

The Razorbacks turned to sophom*ore Robyn Herron in the circle, who provided a dominant relief performance.

The sophom*ore left-hander from Tampa, Fla., threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings and shut down the Redhawks after Affolter’s go-ahead hit.

“I really just wanted to have Morgan's back because she's been great for us all season long,” Herron said. “I just wanted to attack every hitter, every pitch, and never take a pitch off. My goal was to win — win every batter, win every pitch.”

The Redhawks threatened in the sixth inning with a one-out single, but in the next at-bat Herron caught a liner hit at her and flipped to first base for an inning-ending double play. It was not the final time the Razorbacks made an energizing defensive play.

In the seventh inning, Carter robbed the Redhawks of a leadoff hit with a spectacular diving grab in left field.

SEMO coach Mark Redburn said he was proud of his team for the way it competed and tipped his cap to Arkansas for making tough plays on defense.

“We knew it was going to be a big environment, and it was,” Redburn said. “I thought that they handled it really well. We didn't commit any errors, we out-hit them 7-6 and we hit a couple of really good balls that they made some great defensive plays on and robbed us.

“I thought we came out and we did exactly what we wanted to do. We played on the big stage and [the team] battled and competed. Just unfortunately this time right here, we just fell a little short.”

Arkansas advanced into the winners’ bracket of a regional for the fourth consecutive year.

The Razorbacks will play Arizona for the third time this season and the eighth time since 2021. Arkansas split a pair of games — both by a 3-2 score — in February against Arizona during the Bear Down Fiesta it hosted.

“They're an explosive offense,” Deifel said of the Wildcats. “They're a team that pitches by committee and they do a good job of mixing their pitchers in with different looks. They have exceptional defense and so we know that everything that we get, we're going to have to earn. It's going to be a battle.”

SEMO will play Villanova in an elimination game Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Arizona 14, Villanova 3 (5 innings)

Arizona (35-16-1) used a big first inning to blow past Villanova in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional opener.

The high-powered Arizona offense scored eight runs in the first inning and defeated Villanova 14-3 in five innings.

Carlie Scupin led Arizona with 3-for-3 hitting, which included a second-inning home run. Six different Arizona players had two RBI, and leadoff batter Dakota Kennedy scored a team-high three runs.

Arizona starting pitcher Miranda Stoddard gave up no runs with 1 hit allowed, 1 hit batsman and 2 strikeouts.

Villanova (31-23) scored all its runs in the fourth inning against Arizona reliever Brooke Mannon. Arizona out-hit Villanova 12-3.

Arizona advanced in the bracket and will face Arkansas on Saturday at 2 p.m. Central. Villanova is scheduled to play Southeast Missouri State in an elimination game Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The game began at 5:55 p.m. due to lightning strikes within 8 miles of Bogle Park which delayed the original start time by 55 minutes.

Arkansas softball survives scare against SEMO, advances to play Arizona in NCAA Fayetteville Regional | Whole Hog Sports (2024)

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