GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Arkansas began its SEC tournament journey as the top seed under the dim Florida lights Thursday night with a 3-0 win over Ole Miss.
The win sets up a showdown with host, No. 13 Florida, at 5:30 p.m. EST in the semifinals, a short turn around considering the No. 6 Razorbacks didn't put away Ole Miss until roughly 1 a.m.
It was a pitcher's duel at the highest level between the Rebel's Anna Borgen and Arkansas's Mary Haff. While Haff gave up more hits, it was the quality the Razorbacks were able to extract from their three hits that made the difference.
"Our hits didn't fall tonight," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "I know we hit two long balls, we scored on the error, but when you don't feel like you're really in the groove and you're really putting a ton of pressure on, you need a performance like that out of Mary and I thought she was exceptional tonight."
Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder KB Sides (8) runs home off of catcher Taylor Ellsworth's (17) RBI double during the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at the University of Florida Thursday.
Arkansas is a prolific home run team. The Hogs blasted 100 long balls in the regular season, and that power wasn't going to disappear just because it's tournament time.
Senior outfielder Linnie Malkin powered her way into the Arkansas record books when she turned on a 1-2 pitch to rifle a line-drive in the bottom of the 2nd in the inning's opening at-bat. It was her 20th home run of the year and 48th of her career, setting a new Arkansas record while pushing her two ahead of teammate Danielle Gibson's 46.
Arkansas led 2-0 after a pair of innings, but Borgen's pitching game was as tight as her signature braids. She effectively worked the mental aspect of the game by moving the ball around the plate, changing up speeds and pitches successfully while slowly revealing a clear plan with each at-bat.
She kept Razorback hitters off balance for the next three innings, which set up the Rebel's best chance to pull the upset.
Ole Miss put a pair of runners on the bases in the 5th with no outs as Haff worked to a 3-0 count on Bre Roper. However, all the rally animal balloons in the world couldn't rattle one of the SEC's most experienced pitchers.
Haff continued to calmly check her wristband for the right pitches while maintaining an expression so chill that it was easy to imagine her running a heart rate somewhere in the 50s. A flyout and two strikeouts later, Arkansas was back in the dugout looking to extend the lead as the clock ticked past midnight.
It didn't take long for that to happen.
Freshman Kacie Hoffman rewarded Haff's resiliency by flipping her wrist on an off-speed pitch inches off the plate and driving it just inside the right field foul pole.
That would be all the offense for either team as Haff closed out the game with nine strikeouts while Borgen struck out seven in one fewer inning of work.
In other games, Missouri upset No. 2 seed Alabama and No. 8 Tennessee held off Mississippi St. in 13 innings.
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