Arkansas softball run-rules Princeton in NCAA Tournament regional opener
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas vs. Princeton was a clash of one the nation's top five home run-hitting teams in the Razorbacks and a Tigers team that had allowed just five this season.
Something had to give in Game 1 of the NCAA Tournament's Fayetteville regional, and it finally did in the fourth inning. Arkansas first baseman Danielle Gibson launched a grand slam to the packed berm at Bogle Park.
The No. 4-seed Razorbacks were already leading 4-0 when Gibson came to the plate, and her 19th home run of the season broke open the game. Arkansas won in five innings 11-0 via run rule.
"Getting the first one in this weekend is so huge," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "I'm really proud of our team and how they approached the day, how they stayed the course. They're just very business-like. This team's on a mission. They're not going to look past anyone."
Mary Haff breaks another record
Redshirt senior righthander Mary Haff already had the most career shutouts of any active SEC pitcher. With Friday's win, her 27th shutout, Haff broke the program record.
She had been tied with Heather Schlichtmann (2001-04) with 26, but the Princeton win gave Haff the edge.
"I did know before this game that I was tied with the record," Haff said. "The fact that I've been able to come in my freshman year and immediately make an impact and carry that throughout my career just shows how much (Deifel) believes in me."
Haff's name is all over the Arkansas history books. She owns the most wins, saves and games with double-digit strikeouts in program history, and she tossed Arkansas' first solo perfect game in March.
Haff finished with two hits, one walk and six strikeouts.
"I thought Mary 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, and she got better every inning."
Capitalizing on Princeton mistakes
Outside of the Gibson grand slam, only two Razorback runs were batted in. The rest came on an error, a wild pitch and two hit batters.
Arkansas' first run came on a throwing error by first baseman Sophia Marsalo in the first inning. KB Sides showed off her speed and scored from first base on what would have been a fielder's choice.
In the fourth inning, Princeton walked two batters before letting one score on a wild pitch. The Tigers then dealt a walk to Taylor Ellsworth, setting up Gibson to clear the bases. But the scoring didn't stop there.
Princeton pitcher Molly Chambers hit Hannah Gammill in the next at-bat. Gammill later scored on Chambers' second hit batter of the game when she plunked Marlene Friedman. Chambers then hit Sides to drive in Arkansas' 10th run.
Arkansas will play the winner of Oregon vs. Wichita State on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. Princeton will meet the loser of the Ducks vs. the Shockers in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT.