Arkansas eases past Georgia, advances to SEC semifinals

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Arkansas' Autumn Buczek scores during a game against Georgia on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Columbia, Mo.
Photo by Southeastern Conference
Arkansas' Autumn Buczek scores during a game against Georgia on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Columbia, Mo.

Arkansas is one win away from playing for a Southeastern Conference championship.

The Razorbacks defeated No. 2 seed Georgia 8-3 on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Softball Tournament in Columbia, Mo. Arkansas will play No. 3 seed South Carolina at 2 p.m. Friday in the first semifinal, which will be televised by ESPNU.

Arkansas (39-14) won its second game at this year's tournament one day after snapping an eight-game tournament losing streak that spanned 17 years. The Razorbacks are in the semifinals for the first time since 2001.

Arkansas took command of Thursday's game with a four-run, two-out rally in the third inning. Katie Warrick's RBI double gave the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead and A.J. Belans followed with a three-run home run to center field to make it 4-0.

"Those four runs in the third inning were huge, and they all were on two outs," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "I just really liked our offensive approach. We just kind of kept the pressure on one through nine and it was someone different stepping up throughout the game."

Georgia out-hit Arkansas 10-9, but the Bulldogs stranded 10 base runners, including the bases loaded in the first inning against Arkansas starter Autumn Storms and in the fifth against reliever Mary Haff. Haff recorded her 26th win with a 3 1/3-inning outing.

"I'm extremely proud of the way Autumn Storms started us off and Mary Haff closed the door," Deifel said. "They're such a good tag team and they did an incredible job with a very potent offense."

Georgia (43-11) scored a run off Storms in the third and fourth innings to pull within 4-2. The Bulldogs had consecutive singles to lead off the fifth and loaded the bases with one out, but hit into a fielder's choice and fly out to come away empty-handed.

"We were able to get some hits on the board, but we weren't able to put enough together to get enough done," Georgia coach Lu-Harris Champer said.

Arkansas scored three more times in the sixth and once in the seventh. Senior outfielder Tori Cooper had RBI hits in each inning and finished 2-for-3 with a walk.

Belans and Warrick also had two hits apiece for the Razorbacks.

Georgia swept Arkansas during the regular season with wins of 8-0, 1-0 and 5-4 in Athens, Ga. The Razorbacks had lost five straight and eight of the last nine against the Bulldogs.

"We knew we were going to get our bike back, as we say," Storms said. "They had our bike and we got it back. I'm so proud of our team."

South Carolina advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 win over Mississippi State on Thursday. Arkansas lost two of three to the Gamecocks last month in Columbia, S.C.


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