Gammill homers twice, No. 20 Arkansas softball claims series upset of No. 3 Georgia

Arkansas third baseman Hannah Gammill is shown after hitting a home run, Friday, March 22, 2024, at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat Gazette/Caleb Grieger)

A grand slam by Hannah Gammill in the seventh inning put an exclamation mark on the Arkansas softball team's series-clinching victory at No. 3 Georgia on Monday. 

Gammill homered twice and tied a career-high 5 RBI to lift the No. 20 Razorbacks (26-9, 5-4 SEC) to an 8-2 victory at Jack Turner Stadium in Athens, Ga. 

The series victory was Arkansas' first on the road over a team ranked in the top three. 

"They're an incredibly tough Georgia team in a really tough place to play," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said in an interview posted on social media by Softball America. "I, more than anything, was just incredibly proud of them: their poise, their relentlessness on both sides. 

"They stayed the course. They prepped so intentionally throughout the whole week and just to see it play out and them to have the guts to win the series here — I'm just so proud of them."

With Arkansas leading 3-2 entering the final inning, a bases loaded hit-by-pitch coupled with Gammill’s grand slam blew open what had been a tight game. The five-run seventh was the Razorbacks' highest-scoring inning in SEC play.

"When [we were] in that moment, I just looked at her and she just had this big smile," Deifel said of Gammill. "And I was like, 'She's ready, she's ready."

"She's come up big, but she was seeing it really well and to drive the ball in those situations, we needed every bit of those runs. Going into the bottom of the seventh [ahead by one run] would have felt really, really tight. You never really feel comfortable against Georgia."

It was the first series loss for Georgia (29-6, 6-3), which had a chance to pull within one game of Tennessee for first place in the SEC. Those teams are scheduled to play later this week.

The Razorbacks responded from an 8-2 loss Sunday that followed a series-opening 3-2 victory Saturday. Arkansas has not lost back-to-back games this season.

The Razorbacks held the Bulldogs to an average of 4.3 runs per game, below their season average of 7.0.

Arkansas left-hander Robyn Herron started and pitched for the first time since a 2-1 loss at Auburn on March 17. She suffered an injury to her throwing arm during the first inning of that game.

She combined with right-hander Morgan Leinstock, who pitched the final 3 2/3 innings, to limit an explosive Georgia offense to five hits.

Herron tossed 3 1/3 innings but was not awarded a decision because she exited with the score tied 2-2. The sophomore from Tampa, Fla., gave up 3 hits and struck out 4 batters with 1 walk. Of her 63 pitches, 41 were strikes.

"We had her kind of on a pitch count," Deifel said. "We just wanted to be really careful with it. She felt really good, but we just didn't wanna push it, which is how we've been in getting her back. [We are] just really thinking big picture. But she was exceptional today."

Leinstock did not allow any runs and struck out three batters, including a game-ending swinging strikeout of Sydney Chambley. She gave up 2 hits on 42 pitches against 13 batters faced.

Of the Razorbacks’ eight runs scored, six were via home runs.

Raigan Kramer gave Arkansas a lead with a solo home run to right field in the game’s second at-bat, then Gammill hit a solo home run to lead off the second inning.

Gammill’s first homer put the Razorbacks ahead 2-0 and prompted an early pitching change. Georgia replaced starter Madison Kerpics after 18 pitches.

Right-hander Shelby Walters pitched the next 2 1/3 innings for the Bulldogs and gave up no runs. Lilli Backes, who started in the series opener Saturday, pitched the final 3 2/3 innings and was given the loss for Georgia.

Georgia right fielder Jayda Kearney tied the game in the third inning with a two-out, two run home run to right-center field. It was Kearney’s SEC-leading 14th homer.

It was the lone home run of the series for the Bulldogs, who entered the weekend sixth nationally with 57 homers.

Arkansas first baseman Bri Ellis recorded her team-leading 40th RBI in the fifth inning when she shot a single to left field that scored Lauren Camenzind, who reached on a fielding error. Camenzind scored from second base.

Ellis’ two-out hit put the Razorbacks ahead 3-2 — a score that held until the seventh inning.

The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth inning, but Leinstock stranded runners on the corners with an inning-ending pop up to shortstop.

Camenzind and Reagan Johnson singled in consecutive at-bats in the seventh inning, and two batters later the Bulldogs elected to walk Ellis to load the bases with two outs. Kennedy Miller was hit by a pitch to extend the lead to 4-2.

Gammill then stepped to the plate and smashed her 10th home run of the season, second most on the team, over the wall in left field. She was swarmed at home plate by teammates as she emphatically stomped on the bag.

"They're a great team and so I think just to be able to take two from them is such a huge win for our program," Gammill said in an interview posted on social media by Softball America, "and such a huge win for our defense, our offense, and our pitching staff."

The Bulldogs went down in order in the bottom of the seventh inning to end the game. The six-run margin of defeat was Georgia’s largest of the season.

The Razorbacks moved into sixth place in the SEC standings. The Bulldogs dropped to fifth.

Arkansas is scheduled to host No. 13 Missouri in the opener of a three-game series beginning Friday at 5 p.m.