Smith hits grand slam; Arkansas comes up short

TEMPE, ARIZ. – Despite a grand slam home run by sophomore Sandra Smith, the University of Arkansas softball team suffered a 6-5 loss in a hard-fought, eight-inning battle against No. 2/3 Arizona State on Saturday night at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Smith’s eighth home run of the year set a new individual season home run record and marked the Lady Razorback’s 29th home run, breaking the season home run record. The Sun Devils ended Arkansas’ 12-game win streak, but the Lady’Backs still hold the best start in program history at 18-3. The Sun Devils improved to 20-1 with the victory.

“As a team we were disappointed with the end result, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way the ladies battled,” said head coach Jamie Pinkerton. “We had a couple of unfortunate breaks, but if we continue to play that well the rest of the season, good things will happen.”

Down, 5-1 in the sixth inning, Smith launched a grand slam home run to right center, evening the score at five apiece. Sophomore Jessica Bachkora, junior Kayla Johnson and senior Dayna Huckabee each singled to load the bases before Smith’s grand slam. She was just the fifth Lady’Back to hit a grand slam, with Kim Eiben being the last in 2001.

“It was a clutch hit at a clutch time,” Pinkerton said. “When we’ve needed a big hit, someone has stepped up, and tonight it was Sandra Smith. I was really pleased.”

The four consecutive Arkansas hits with no outs chased off Arizona State’s starting pitcher, Megan Elliot, and Katie Burkhart entered the game in relief on a 2-0 count to junior Whitney Cloer. Burkhart struck out two and a ground ball to shortstop ended the top of the sixth at a 5-5 tie.

In the bottom of the inning with two outs and a runner on third base, sophomore Miranda Dixon was called upon to relieve Henry in the circle. Dixon walked lead-off batter Jessica Mapes before causing Jackie Vasquez to fly out in foul territory right in front of the Lady’Backs’ first-base dugout.

Three up, three down half innings by both squads in the seventh pushed the game to extra innings.

The international tie breaker rule went into effect in the eighth, putting Bachkora on second in the top of the inning. Dixon singled with one out to move Bachkora to third, but a strikeout and a pop fly left the score locked at 5-5 going into the bottom of the inning.

Mindy Cowles was placed on second for Arizona State and was sacrificed to third by Renee Welty. Cowles scored the winning run by sliding into home on a wild pitch to end the game, 6-5.

Dixon (6-2) picked up her second loss after pitching one and two-thirds innings. She gave up one unearned run, walked on and struck out one.

Burkhart (8-1) earned her eighth win throwing three innings in relief. She gave up just one hit and fanned six.

Arizona State got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the first when Cowles scored Vasquez on a hard-hit double to right field. Caylyn Carlson put the Sun Devils up 2-0 in the second inning with a solo home run to left-center. In the top of the third, senior Samantha Buckner brought the Lady’Backs within one on a line-drive home run to center field. Two base hits and two errors in the fifth led to three Sun Devil runs and put Arkansas behind 5-1.

Henry threw five and two-thirds innings, giving up seven hits and five runs, only two of which were earned. Henry also fanned seven batters.

The Lady’Backs defeated Creighton 10-1 earlier in the day with a four-home-run performance. Dixon, Smith, Huckabee and Buckner homered in the win.

Arkansas plays its final game of the Wilson-DeMarini Invitational against Drake tomorrow at noon.

For more information about Arkansas softball, please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.