FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears made it interesting, and then some, again Wednesday night, putting a scare in the No. 6/8 Arkansas Razorbacks in front of a crowd of 873 at Bogle Park.
It took a walk-off home run in extra innings by the Razorbacks to knock off the Bears 7-6 and wrap up an historic two-game series for 2021.
The Bears (26-15) overcame a 5-0 deficit after three innings, scoring single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and adding three more in the seventh inning to tie it at 6-6. But the Razorbacks got their third home run of the night, this one from senior shortstop Braxton Burnside, to pull out the victory. For the second time in as many games, UCA out-hit Arkansas 11-9, after winning that category 8-3 in the first meeting. The difference again were the home runs, with the Razorbacks hitting three in both games.
The Razorbacks, who entered the game second in the nation with 79 homers, added to that total quickly with a two-out, three-run shot by Linnie Malkin in the bottom of the first inning. That blast came after a pair of two-out walks by UCA starter Kayla Beaver.
The Bears got one run back in the fourth when Cylla Hill’s triple to the right-field corner scored pinch runner Megan Crownover from first. In the top of the fifth, UCA put runners on second and third with just one out and forced Arkansas to replace starting pitcher Jenna Bloom. Freshman second baseman Mary Kate Brown greeted Arkansas ace Mary Haff with a line drive to right field for a sacrifice fly that scored Tylar Vernon and closed the gap to 5-2.
Malkin, a junior from Broomfield, Colo., added a solo shot to right field in the bottom of the fifth, her 15th home run of the season, to extend the Arkansas lead to 6-2. UCA answered that quickly, loading the bases against Haff with no outs in the top of the sixth. With two outs, freshman Tremere Harris poked a base hit through the left side of the infield, scoring pinch runner Lindsey Williams – running after Jaylee Engelkes’ lead off base hit – to cut the deficit to 6-3.
In the seventh, the Bears got consecutive base hits from Brown and Kaylyn Shepherd to start the rally. Engelkes reached on a fielder’s choice and Cylla Hill fouled out. Kristen Whitehouse then singled to left field to load the bases. Reagan Sperling reached on an infield error with Shepherd scoring to close it to 6-4. Vernon, a sophomore catcher, doubled to center field to bring in two and tie it at 6-6. Vernon finished 2 for 4 with two RBI and a run scored.
UCA’s Jordan Johnson, who pitched the final 4 2/3 innings in relief, worked around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh and ended the inning with a strikeout to send it to extras. The Bears got a leadoff infield single by Jenna Wildeman, who promptly stole second. After a pair of outs and an intentional walk, Haff got out of the jam with an infield popup.
Johnson struck out the first Razorback in the bottom of the eighth and got a ground out for the second out before Burnside’s blast. Burnside entered the game tied for second in the nation with 22 home runs on the year.
Whitehouse and Harris had two hits each for UCA. Malkin finished 3 for 3 with 4 RBI for the Razorbacks.
UCA returns home for an important Southland Conference series on Saturday, hosting Stephen F. Austin. The Bears (14-4) and Ladyjacks (18-0) are the top two teams in the conference standings with three league series remaining.