Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Storms rolls, helps Arkansas even series with Alabama
Arkansas pitcher Autumn Storms is shown during a game against Alabama on Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas softball Coach Courtney Deifel believed Braxton Burnside’s solo home run in the bottom of the third inning might be all the Razorbacks needed Saturday afternoon.
Autumn Storms proved her right.
Storms tossed a two-hitter while striking out 10 to shackle one of the top offenses in the SEC as the No. 8 Razorbacks beat No. 3 Alabama 4-0 at Bogle Park.
She did get more help from her friends, who hit three home runs — including two from catcher Kayla Green. That was more than enough for Storms, who improved to 6-0 and helped the Razorbacks (33-4, 13-1) bounce back from Friday’s 5-3 loss mto the Crimson Tide.
Seeing Storms dominate early, Deifel had a good feeling when Burnside hit a laser over the left-field wall off Alabama starter Lexi Kilfoyl (11-3) for the first run of the game.
“I thought Autumn was outstanding today,” Deifel said. “I thought she had her best stuff, really good command of her pitches. I thought she mixed it well.
“That’s old Stormy. She looked good. She looked strong throughout, controlling her zone.”
Deifel said Storms wasn’t the only one locked-in from the word go.
“Everyone was just dialed in from the time they got here,” she said. “They just had that look in their eye, honestly from when they went home last night. I felt it with Brax’s, and then when Kayla hit her first one and then she hit the second one, and I felt like that just kinda put the nail in it.”
Arkansas added to its single-season school record, which is now at 72 home runs. Burnside hit her 21st home run of the season to boost her single-season school record, while Green hit her seventh and eighth home runs of the season and drove in three.
The Crimson Tide (30-5, 10-4) came into the weekend leading the league in runs scored in conference play, averaging almost 6.5 runs per game. But Storms, a fifth-year senior from Temecula, Calif., kept the Alabama offense in check. She surrendered just two singles and allowed only one Alabama runner to reach second base.
Storms said this year’s team is loaded with confidence, and Friday’s loss wasn’t going to change that.
“Braxton starting us off with that, and then Kayla and Kayla going again, it takes so much weight off our shoulders as a team,” Storms said. “Just knowing that, ‘Ya know what, we’re good. We’re here and we can beat them. We know it in our hearts.’ ”
She said Green’s two-run home run in the sixth to push the Arkansas lead to 4-0 felt good.
“Oh my gosh! If there was a word I would say it, but there isn’t a word for how relieved I was,” said Storms, who also shut out Alabama a year ago. “And seeing my best friend do it, too. She was just so confident against Alabama.”
Storms did not walk a batter but did hit one. The hard-throwing right-hander’s drop ball was working well as Alabama hit just two balls in the air and struck out a season-high 10 times.
The Crimson Tide’s only threat came in the seventh when Bailey Hemphill was hit by a pitch and Kaylee Tow reached on an error to put two runners on with nobody out.
But Storms got the next three hitters on a pair of groundouts sandwiched around a strikeout to end the game.
The same teams meet in the rubber game of the three-game series today with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.