McEwen's home run sends Arkansas to supers, new heights

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2018
The Arkansas squad meets Hannah McEwen at home plate after her homer in the fourth inning against Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
The Arkansas squad meets Hannah McEwen at home plate after her homer in the fourth inning against Wichita State Sunday May 20, 2018 during the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 6-4.

— Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel had her hand in the air prepared to wave Haydi Bugarin home from first base. There was no need.

Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Arkansas star freshman outfielder Hannah McEwen's hit to left-center field had just enough carry to clear the fence and put Arkansas back in front 5-4.

The Razorbacks did not trail again in a 6-4 win that handed the program its first NCAA regional championship and super regional berth. Arkansas will travel to two-time defending national champion Oklahoma next week for super regional play. The super regional schedule has yet to be finalized.

A home run played a key role in both of Arkansas' wins against the Shockers this weekend. Shortstop A.J. Belans broke a scoreless tie with a solo shot in the fifth inning of Saturday's game. On Sunday, McEwen broke through with her most significant hit of the postseason.

"I thought I was due for something," said McEwen, who was 1-for-7 with an RBI in regional play entering Sunday.

McEwen, who hit her 12th home run of the season, has been Arkansas' most consistent hitter throughout the season. With two hits Sunday, she lifted her average to .344.

The two runs driven in add to her single-season RBI record as well, giving her 56 for the year. McEwen didn't think the ball would carry out of the park. She was hoping Wichita State left fielder Morgan Palmer wouldn't be able to make a play.

"The way her numbers are she’s almost always due for a big hit," Deifel said. "She’s just had an incredible season. For her, I didn’t want to see her press any more. I felt like she was getting a little outside herself, and she needed to let the game come back to her, and it did. It was such a composed at-bat.

"Hannah has just had such an incredible freshman season. She’s just so clutch. The amount of runs she’s driven in … it’s not making the moment any bigger, just trusting yourself and your preparation and just doing what she can on the pitches she gets."

Wichita State freshman Caitlin Bingham, who gave up the home run to McEwen, came on in relief of starter Bailey Lange in the second inning.

Lange had thrown a combined 20 innings and 314 pitches in Wichita State's first three games of the weekend. Arkansas tagged Lange with four hits and three runs in the first inning.

Arkansas went down quietly in the second and third innings against Bingham, but McEwen broke the seal against the freshman in the home fourth. Wichita State coach Kristi Bredbenner didn't think the pitch McEwen hit for the home run "was that bad of a pitch."

"It was really down and outside," Bredbenner said. "When you know that you're facing a drop-ball pitcher, the one thing you definitely want to do is let it get deep in the zone and try to drive it opposite field and it was picture perfect for her right there of exactly what you want to do with that type of a pitch."

McEwen finished the regional 3-for-11, but drove in three runs and scored three times. Her home run, though, was the difference-maker in Arkansas reaching program heights in a season full of firsts.

"It’s been awhile (since my last big hit), so I was ready for it for sure," she said. "I didn’t know it was going to be that."

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