UA rally capped in grand fashion

By: Steve Andrews Special tothe NWA Democrat-Gazette
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2019
Arkansas Southeast Missouri Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, during the inning at Bogle Park on the university campus in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas Southeast Missouri Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, during the inning at Bogle Park on the university campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Senior Ashley Diaz took the first pitch to calm her nerves, then proceeded to send the second pitch over the left-field wall for a grand slam.

Her big fly Saturday led the No. 17 University of Arkansas softball team to a 7-4 comeback victory over No. 16 South Carolina.

Down 4-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Razorbacks (21-6, 3-2 SEC) scored seven times to give the Bogle Park crowd of 2,858 something to cheer about.

"I just knew that I had to be big for my team," Diaz said afterward. "The feeling was just unexplainable. The rush was great, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates getting on base. We did it as a team."

Junior Sydney Parr got things started by beating out an infield single. Sophomore Hannah McEwen then ripped a one-out single to left field. After Dixie Raley replaced South Carolina starting pitcher Kelsey Oh, she walked Taylor Greene to load the bases.

"Our girls just kept battling to get on, and Parr was such a spark to start that inning," Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said. "From that point, our team grabbed the momentum and never relinquished it. That was just such a team effort."

Senior Katie Warrick blooped a single to left to score Parr with the Hogs' first run. Sophomore Kayla Green followed with a walk to force in McEwen and cut the lead to 4-2.

The Gamecocks (20-7, 0-5) re-entered Oh to pitch to Diaz, who cleared the bases with her second home run of the year. Junior Aly Manzo followed that shot with a solo home run off the left-field foul pole to set the final score.

"I'm just so stinkin' proud of them," Deifel said. "We have been challenging them to just lay it out there, and that inning is what can happen when you lay it all out there.

"We didn't look great until that inning, but that's why you play seven innings."

Arkansas starter Mary Haff was in a jam during the first inning. After walking the first two batters, she hit Jada Johns to load the bases with no outs. The Gamecocks then scored a run on Cayla Drotar's groundout, but they were unable to do further damage as Haff got two of the next three to pop out.

The Gamecoacks scored three more in the third, including a solo home run from Mackenzie Boesel, to take a 4-0 edge. Junior Autumn Storms relieved Haff to record the final out of the inning.

Storms pitched the final 42/3 innings, allowing only two hits to move her record to 10-1 on the season.

The Razorbacks already have secured their first SEC series victory, but they will go for the sweep today at 1 p.m.

Sports on 03/17/2019

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