FAYETTEVILLE — No. 4 Arkansas used a grand slam by Danielle Gibson in the bottom of the fourth to erupt for eight runs on the way to an 11-0 run-rule win at Bogle Park before 3,085 fans in the opening round of the Fayetteville Regional.
Arkansas (45-9) also got some outstanding pitching from Mary Haff. She pitched a complete game allowing only two hits, striking out six and only walked one. Courtney Deifel was pleased to see her team get the win and move on to Saturday’s winner bracket game at 1 p.m.
“I’m just really proud of the way we started the weekend,” Deifel said. “I thought it was very business like in our approach. I thought our team did a really good job of staying the course. Obviously it’s always nice to score in the first inning.”
Arkansas’ run in the first inning was a perfect example of why KB Sides was the SEC Player of the Year. She walked, then when Hannah McEwen grounded to shortstop she was already on second forcing Princeton’s Grace Jackson to throw to first. Sides kept running for third though. Princeton first baseman Sophia Marsalo threw wide to third and Sides scored.
“So that was great KB using her legs there,” Deifel said. “I thought our team stayed the course and we got some big hits. One really big.”
Deifel also praised Haff for her performance throwing a shut out against a very good Princeton team.
“I thought Mary just had a very seasoned outing today,” Deifel said. “I don’t think she had her best stuff. But she showed her trust in her team today and she got better every inning. I’m just really proud of the way she fought for us today.”
Gibson only had the one hit, but what a hit it was. Following the game she talked about the grand slam that really helped break the game wide open.
“Our team, like you said, anyone could have put one out,” Gibson said. “I think at that moment I was just looking at hitting the ball hard. The pitcher (Molly Chambers) that had came in I was just looking for something over the plate. She hadn’t thrown a lot of strikes. So I was really selective. It went out and I’m really happy. It was a key momentum shift I think it really shut the door.”
Princeton used three pitchers. They had no strikeouts, walked seven and allowed seven hits that led to the 11 runs.
Sides and Taylor Ellsworth each had two hits while Gibson had five RBI. McEwen and Linnie Malkin each added one hit for the Razorbacks. Haff (19-4) was the winning pitcher and Alexis Laudenslager (11-8) was the loser.
Princeton (27-16-2) kept the game close for three innings. Following the game, Princeton Coach Lisa Van Ackeren was complimentary of Arkansas and Bogle Park.
“What an awesome environment to play in,” Van Ackeren said. “Today we knew this was going to be a really incredible experience for our kids. Amazing environment to play in front of today. You didn’t get the best of Princeton softball, but we’re here to compete all weekend. We’re looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
Arkansas will play the Oregon-Wichita State winner at 1 p.m. in Game 3 on Saturday and Princeton will face the loser at 3:30 p.m. in an elimination game. Then the winner of Game 4 will face the loser of Game 3 at 6 p.m. Saturday night.