Arkansas brought the game-winning run to the plate three times in its final at-bat against Oklahoma. All three struck out as the Razorbacks stranded runners at second and third, falling 5-3 to the Sooners in a Norman Regional elimination game Saturday night.
So, Arkansas’ second season under coach Courtney Deifel has officially come to a close at 31-24. The Razorbacks’ 14-win improvement from last season is the best among Power 5 programs this season. This was the first time since 2013 Arkansas had made the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first before Arkansas responded with 3 runs in the bottom half. The Sooners added a run in the second and the game remained tied until the fourth.
That’s when things got away from the Razorbacks defensively. With a runner on first and 2 outs, three consecutive wild pitches by Arkansas’ Grace Moll allowed Oklahoma to gain its decisive advantage.
After OU added an insurance run in the sixth, the Razorbacks staged a serious threat as they loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half. However, they would all be left stranded following a ground out to first by Ashley Diaz.
Arkansas’ Tori Cooper and A.J. Belans began the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles. Pinch running for Cooper, Haydi Bugarin advanced from first to third on Belans’ single. Belans took second on the throw to third, which Bugarin narrowly beat.
Oklahoma pitcher Paige Lowary then struck out Nicole Schroeder, Madison Yannetti and Katie Warrick in order to end the game. Schroeder, a senior, set a school single-season record with 17 home runs this season.
The Razorbacks caught a tough break having to face Oklahoma, the regional host and No. 10 overall seed, in the elimination game. North Dakota State pulled off a stunning 3-2 upset of the Sooners in 9 innings earlier Saturday.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Arkansas is primed to return a wealth of experience and key contributors next season. The Razorbacks are expected have back seven of the nine hitters in their lineup Saturday. Starting pitcher Autumn Storms, a freshman, also projects to be back.