Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Gunnar Rathbun)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The University of Arkansas softball team will host the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats in a weekend series at Bogle Park. Game one is slated for Friday at 6 p.m.
The Razorbacks (28-16, 6-9) will try to build on a series win at No. 8 Missouri in which they won back-to-back extra-inning games for the first time since 2004. The Hogs won game two of the series, 4-1, in 11 innings behind a great performance from sophomore Kimmy Beasley. The Foreman, Ark. native went 11 innings and gave up one run on four hits, while striking out a career-high 12 batters.
"She out-pitched a first-team All-American," head coach Mike Larabee said. "She was phenomenal on Saturday. She built on her previous weekend with LSU."
Arkansas followed the game two upset with an 11-10 win in eight innings on Sunday. The thriller capped the Razorbacks' first road series win against a Top 10 team since 2010. Game three belonged to Clarisa Navarro as she went 4-for-5 and reached base in every at-bat of the game.
"I thought Missouri was the best team we have played this year," Larabee said. "For us to go into Columbia and win the series was huge for the program. It was a great weekend for us."
The two wins last weekend pushed Arkansas to No. 32 in the RPI and gave the team votes in both national polls. Arkansas received four votes in the NFCA/USA TODAY poll and garnered seven votes in the ESPN/USA SOFTBALL poll.
"It shows where we are heading as a program," Larabee said. "We are making great strides. The last three weekends have been progressively tougher. We are playing great ball right now and people are starting to recognize that around the country."
Arkansas will look to move into the Top 25 for the first time in school history when they face No. 17 Kentucky this weekend. Game one is at 6 p.m. on Friday and will feature free sunglasses, courtesy of Pepsi, to the first 250 fans into the park. Game two of the series is slated for Saturday at noon and game three will follow on Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission is free to all kids, 17 and under, at Bogle Park.
The No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats have garnered a 33-12 record this season and a 9-6 mark in the SEC. The team defeated No. 3 Florida on Saturday behind a great performance from its freshman pitcher, Kelsey Nunley. She went seven innings and gave up two earned runs, while striking out eight Gators. Nunley is the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week after going 3-0 last week. Her win against Florida gave her 20 on the season and made her the first pitcher in Kentucky history to win 20 games. She is second in the conference with 173 innings pitched.
"Coach Lawson and her staff have done an outstanding job with that program," Larabee said. "They have really developed their players. They have a very solid freshman pitcher and a great pitching staff. I expect it to be a tough series and it's another great opportunity for us."
In this weekend's series, sophomore Devon Wallace will try to set the SEC single-season walks record, which stands at 66. She has 59 this season in 44 games. She is already the UA career walks record holder with 112 in two seasons. The SEC walks record is currently held by Cassie Reilly-Boccia, who set the record for Alabama in 2010.
"I wouldn't be surprised if she set that record this weekend," Larabee said. "I don't think Kentucky is going to pitch to her, the way she hit them last year. Don't' be shocked if she breaks the record this weekend."
Next up, Arkansas will hit the road for its last road action of the season. The Hogs travel to Tennessee to take on the No. 6 Volunteers. Game one is on Friday at 5 p.m. and can be seen on FSN.