Arkansas battles for 12-inning softball victory over Furman

FAYETTEVILLE - Head coach Courtney Deifel made the call to the dugout in the bottom of the 12th inning, senior Sydney Benz in to pinch-hit for the Razorbacks. Benz approached the plate with the winning run on third and one out on the board. Kayla Green stood on third as Benz took the 1-2 count deep into left field. Furman would make the catch but in came Green, tagging from third and scoring the winning run to give Arkansas the 6-5 victory over Furman.

The Razorbacks entered the 12th inning trailing after a solo home run in the top of the inning gave the Paladins the 5-4 lead, but put the tying run on base as senior Katie Warrick kicked off the bottom of the inning with a single over the pitcher’s head.

Junior Ryan Jackson entered to pinch-run for Arkansas and advanced to third as Green laid down a sacrifice bunt and was safe at first after a Paladin throwing error. Jackson then crossed the plate to tie the game at 5-5 after junior Sydney Parr soared a sacrifice fly ball into left field.

Following Parr, senior Haydi Bugarin hit her fifth double of the season, putting Green in prime scoring position for Benz's sacrifice hit.

Arkansas (29-14) took an early lead, as sophomores Hannah McEwen and Danielle Gibson started the game with back-to-back hits. The duo would score off the bat of Ashley Diaz, who singled up the middle to score McEwen from third and give Gibson the chance to score when the ball was misplayed in center field. Gibson followed up her double in the first inning with a home run in the second, her team-leading 10th of the season. Gibson’s long ball gave the Razorbacks a 3-0 lead through two frames.

Furman (10-27) would score its first run in the top of the fourth, with a single to left-center field that scored Paladin pinch-runner Caroline Nageotte from second.

The Razorbacks responded with a run of their own in the home half of the inning, as sophomore Nicole Duncan scored with another RBI from Diaz. Duncan crossed the plate after reaching on a base-hit of her own to lead off the inning.

A three-run home run by Furman’s Marissa Guimbarda in the top of the fifth inning would would provide the tying run that sent the game into extras. Sophomore Mary Haff entered the circle for starting pitcher Autumn Storms and got right to work, retiring the first two batters she faced.

Haff went on to retire 23 of the 28 batters she faced, recording 16 strikeouts in over seven innings and giving up only three hits. Haff's 16 strikeouts is a career-high, besting her 15-strikeout performance at No. 5 Tennessee just last month. Haff now has nine career performances in which she recorded 10 or more strikeouts, second only to Katy Henry who recorded 14 between 2005-2008. Haff is the only Arkansas player to tally nine such performances as just a sophomore.

The Razorbacks and Paladins are scheduled for a doubleheader on Sunday, first pitch of game one is slated for 10 a.m. (CT). Arkansas will continue the nine-game homestand with a mid-week contest with UAPB on Tuesday before hosting No. 7 LSU starting Thursday (April 18).

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