Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Gunnar Rathbun)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas softball team will open its Southeastern Conference schedule at Texas A&M on March 15 at 7 p.m. The first game of SEC play will start an eight-game roadtrip that includes six games against SEC foes.
Arkansas picked up its 19th win of the season on Tuesday night against Stephen F. Austin. The team was paced by a two-run homerun from Chloe Oprzedek and a solo-shot from Jayme Gee. Both hitters have put together excellent starts in 2013, batting .397 and .309, respectively, through 26 games.
The Hogs' team batting average sits at .322 on the season and the team has six batters hitting over .300 this year. Arkansas also features the 2012 SEC freshman of the year, Devon Wallace. The sophomore is putting together a nice 2013 campaign as she leads the nation in on base percentage (.686) and walks (35). She has notched a .492 batting average and has 16 extra base hits including 9 homeruns.
"She is an incredible hitter," head coach Mike Larabee said. "I think she could hit in the middle of our national team, she is that talented. I have seen her hit great pitching."
The Arkansas pitching staff was also superb against Stephen F. Austin and has been excellent all season. The Hogs currently have four pitchers that have all logged significant innings this season. Chelsea Cohen (9-3) leads the team with 67.1 innings pitched. She is sixth in the SEC with 90 strikeouts this season. Coming out of relief has been sophomore, Kimmy Beasley. She leads the team with three saves and has notched 56 strikeouts in 35 innings. Cohen's senior classmate Hope McLemore leads the team with a 1.21 ERA and freshman Kelly Young is 4-0 this season.
This weekend, Arkansas heads to No. 5 Texas A&M to battle the Aggies in a three-game series. Game one of the series will be Friday, March 15 at 7 p.m. Games two and three will follow on Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. and 12 p.m., respectively.
"The team is ready for SEC play," Larabee said. "I think we have had some great preparation and I think our non-conference schedule was much tougher this year than it was last year."
The Aggies are 23-2 in 2013. The team's only losses have come at the hands of No. 5 Missouri by a score of 2-0 and No. 14 Michigan by a score of 9-2. The Aggies are led by Nicole Morgan and Emily Albus, who are hitting .395 and .385 respectively. Morgan leads the SEC with 35 RBI this season.
Texas A&M is ultimately led by its great pitching. An SEC-leading 16 wins have come from senior Mel Dumezich. She is sixth in the SEC with a 1.11 ERA. She is also the only pitcher in the SEC with over 100 innings pitched (107.1). Also pitching well this season for the Aggies is Lauren Ainsley. She has notched seven wins and only one loss in 49 innings pitching in 2013. The sophomore standout also boasts a 1.56 ERA. Arkansas is 0-6 all-time against Texas A&M.
"I am excited to go down to College Station," Larabee said. "It is going to be a battle. We know that we are going to have to play excellent softball to win. We are going to have to get good pitching, play tight defense and when we get the opportunities, clutch up and hit."
All games this weekend will be available through a shared stream.
Next up, the roadtrip continues with two games at Savannah State on March 19 and 20. Then a three-game series with No. 3 Florida opens on March 22.