Razorbacks sweep South Carolina for 2-0 SEC start

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Behind a pair of shutout performances in the circle from Kim Jones and Miranda Dixon, the Razorback softball team opened Southeastern Conference play Wednesday with two victories over South Carolina at Bogle Park. Arkansas (13-9, 2-0) topped the Gamecocks, 4-0, in game one, and returned for a 7-0 win in the nightcap. The 2-0 league start is the second in program history (1999), and the first under head coach Jamie Pinkerton.“Kim Jones and Miranda Dixon were very good for us today and we needed that,” Pinkerton said. “These were, by far, their best performances of the year. They were able to pitch relaxed once we got the offense going. This is a great way for us to start the conference season.”After three scoreless innings against South Carolina starter Audrey Broyles in the opener, the Razorback offense broke through in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run homer by Sandra Smith. Amie Hubbard singled ahead of Smith, one of her two hits in game one, and came around to score on the blast to left field. It was the first home run of the season for Smith.Whitney Cloer tacked on a couple more runs for Arkansas with a two-run shot of her own in the bottom of the fifth. With Tori Mort on first, reaching on a fielder’s choice, Cloer clubbed the 2-2 offering from Broyles to deep left field. The home run was the second for Cloer in as many games and gave the home team the 4-0 advantage. The senior catcher leads the club with four home runs and 16 RBI.The offensive output was more than enough for Jones who limited the Gamecocks to four hits in earning her fourth victory of the season. In the complete-game effort, the sophomore pitcher struck out six South Carolina batters, walked two and got error-free play from the defense behind her.South Carolina (12-7, 0-5) stranded seven during game one, including a pair of runners each in the first and fifth innings. Jones got out of the trouble by getting a strikeout and inducing a groundout, respectively. The Razorbacks left five on base, including a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the bottom of the third.In game two, the Hogs jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first. Jessica Bachkora started the Razorback offense with a single to right field. After a throwing error by the South Carolina third baseman and a double steal, Bachkora and Mort stood at third and second, respectively. Kayla Johnson singled up the middle to plate the first two runs of the game. As the starter of game two, Dixon helped her own cause with an RBI single to center that brought Johnson around for the 3-0 lead.In the top of the second, Dixon had a throwing error and Jacqueline Wetherbee singled through the right side to give South Carolina runners at first and second with one out. Dixon struck out Kaitlin Westfall and Brittany Griffiths saved a potential run from scoring by reaching to her left to snatch a line drive by Adele Voigt for the third out.Griffiths doubled to right center in the next half inning for the Razorbacks and scored on a Mort single. After splitting time between the flex position and the batting lineup to start the season, Griffiths has been penciled in to the hitting order in seven consecutive games and has responded by raising her batting average to .306, the third-highest on the team.In three of the last four innings against the Gamecock lineup, Dixon retired the side in order. She gave up three hits against South Carolina, while striking out seven and walking one. In her last two starts, Dixon has totaled 17 strikeouts and just one walk. With the victory, the junior hurler improves to 7-2 on the season.The Razorbacks added more insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Once again, Bachkora started the attack with a single to center. She came around to score on a triple by Mort, who also crossed the plate when Cloer doubled to right field, her eighth two-base hit of the season.In the sixth, Bachkora tripled to deep center to score Smith from first. Bachkora finished the doubleheader with five hits and two runs scored, and pushed her batting average up to .338.Arkansas is off this weekend but returns to SEC play with a March 17-18 series against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. Those games will be broadcast on KXUA (88.3 FM) and live stats will be available at ArkansasRazorbacks.com.

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