Razorback Softball Wins Opener

Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder Hannah McEwen (23) during a NCAA Regional Softball Game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Manhattan Jaspers at Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Finishing the game with a 5-run fifth-inning extending a 3-0 lead into an automatic 8-run rule, 8-0 victory, the Fayetteville Regional top-seeded/ nationally sixth-seeded SEC champion Arkansas Razorbacks thumped the Manhattan College Jaspers in Friday’s first-round NCAA women’s softball tournament game at Bogle Park.

Coach Courtney Deifel’s Razorbacks, 41-9, advance to today’s 1 p.m. winner’s bracket game against Friday’s winner between the Stanford Cardinal of the Pac 12 and the Summit League champion South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

The New York City based Jaspers, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament champions, fall to 22-15 and this afternoon play Friday’s Stanford vs. South Dakota State loser in the double-elimination tournament’s loser’s bracket.

Saturday night’s loser’s bracket final leads into Sunday’s championship game or games if necessary advancing the Regional winner to Super Regionals.

Skunked 1-0 by Tennessee in its last game May 13 at the SEC Tournament and retired 1-2-3 in Friday’s first by Manhattan now 13-3 starter Nicole Williams, Arkansas started scoring in the second of inning of Friday’s game whose start was delayed two hours by rain.

Linnie Malkin’s 1-out double off the center field wall snapped Williamson’s successes before Aly Manzo’s single to left brought her home.

Kelly Huffine surprised Manhattan with a leadoff bunt single in the 2-run  third. Hannah McEwen doubled Huffine home. McEwen eventually scored on Hannah Gamill’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

McEwen had doubled, and Braxton Burnside singled her to third with one out when Manhattan Coach Tom Pardalis, foreseeing Williams needed for today’s loser’s bracket survival, relieved with Kali Puppolo. Puppolo hit a batter loading the bases then walked in one run and wild pitched another home. Marika Deemer relieved her and walked another then was tagged for Ryan Jackson’s game-ending TKO 2-run double.

Arkansas ace Mary Haff, though “not having her best stuff,” Deifel said, threw a 2-hit shutout, upped her record to 24-6 and should have plenty left for work today, Deifel said.

Deifel opened her postgame summation thanking the grounds crew for the “incredible job” of getting the rainy field in shape to play and extended the compliments to both teams.

“Manhattan did a good job of keeping our team off balance early,” Deifel said. “And I felt our team did as good job of keeping our emotions and letting the game come to us. I’m just really glad to get the first one. We had a slow start but I felt we got better as the game went on and took what they gave us. Mary didn’t have her best stuff but she found a way to get outs. It was a great team win altogether.”

Huffine’s bunt opened the gates for the 2-run third that started Pardalis to thinking better to concede Williams Friday’s services for Saturday survival.

“That was a beautiful bunt and absolutely  a spark for us,” Deifel said. “It was definitely what we needed at that moment. She took the momentum that we really, really needed. And I thought  Linnie (Malkin went 2 for 2 including the double in the second inning and two RBI) looked great the whole game. She was seeing it really well and swinging it really confidently. She was a huge factor for us.”

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