BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas’ No. 7 softball team went into Monday’s game with UCA looking to extend it’s winning streak to 11 in advance of this weekend’s SEC season-opening series with No. 25 Texas A&M.
Instead the Bears used a two-run sixth inning, highlighted by Mary Kate Brown’s go-ahead two-run double off the right field fence to shock the Razorbacks 2-1 at Bogle Park.
“I just think they stayed really gritty and compete really well and found a way to make things happen,” Deifel said. “It is just one of those things and they earned the win and they deserved to win.”
The loss for Arkansas (19-4), whose team stranded nine base runners during the game, came after going 6-0 in the Wooo Pig Classic over the weekend.
“We definitely had our opportunities and we just didn’t drive in those runs and they did,” Courtney Deifel said. “Timely hitting is the name of the game and they did that tonight and we didn’t.
“…I hope this one stings a little. It is going to be sting me for a little bit, but hopefully it stays with them a little bit and fires them up to be better this weekend.”
It was obviously a thrilling outcome for UCA first-year head UCA head coach Jenny Parsons, who had been an assistant the previous 10 years.
It was the highest-ranked team UCA (14-5) has ever beaten, replacing a win over No. 14 LSU last season.
“Honestly, I think we are a good team, too,” Parsons said. “I think we are a Top 50 team right now. But it helps us beating them. They are outstanding and I have a lot of respect for what they do.”
Arkansas scored its lone run of the game in the bottom of the first against UCA starter and winner Jordan Johnson (6-2).
Reagan Johnson singled to left, stole second went to third on Hannah Gammill’s fly out to right field and score on Rylan Hedgecock’s sacrifice fly.
The Razorbacks stranded the bases loaded twice against Johnson.
“Listen, she has pitched great all year long,” Parsons said. “She had a bad week of pitching last week. I am just proud she made some adjustments and we honestly changed our game plan for this game.
“What her strength had been, we went away from it, hoping that we would catch them off guard and I think it happened.”
Indeed it did according to Deifel, who said Johnson’s change kept the Razorbacks off balance.
“They absolutely did,” Deifel said. “We watched a lot of video, looked at a lot of things and she used her…third most used pitch mostly.”
“She compete her butt off,” Deifel said. “She spun it really well and just really kept us off balance.
“She is not really someone that throws a great amount of change ups, but she trusted it in really big moments and threw it with a great deal of confidence. It was definitely a difference maker tonight.”
She matched up against Arkansa starter and loser Chenise Delce (8-2), who pitched seven innings while allowing the two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts and three walks.
UCA’s winning really in the sixth started with a walk to McKay Betts, who was forced out at second by Jenna Wildeman.
Trem Harris single and a ground out moved runners to second and third.
A passed ball tied the game and then Brown delivered the big hit.
“Mary Kate Brown has been struggling all year and she is usually a better hitter,” Parsons said. “She finally comes through and gets a big hit.
“We talked about just staying in the moment the whole time.”
Parsons is thrilled Arkansas is playing in-state schools.
“I think it outstanding because I have a lot of kids from Arkansas,” Parsons said. “I think seven or eight of my starters are from the state of Arkansas and for the longest time they weren’t able to play Arkansas.
“Just being able to come up there and play and them coming to play at our place where we get a great crowd. It is just good for the state I think.”
Deifel respects the UCA program.
“We have tough games with them every time we play them and that’s why we like playing them,” Deifel said. “They demand our best game. We know we are going to get theirs. We know they are highly motivated in this match up and so they are always really gritty, always well coached and they compete their butts of tonight and deserved to win.”
Deifel hopes to have pitcher Robyn Herron back this weekend.
“She rolled her ankle yesterday,” Deifel said. “Hope so, but don’t know.”
Photo by John D. James