By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It’s been a year of firsts for Arkansas. The Razorbacks entered the USA softball poll for the first time in program history and earned their highest seed in the SEC tournament since 2002.
Much of that success can be attributed to sophomore Kimmy Beasley, who has put together a breakout season in her second year. She picked up two wins in a three-game sweep of Auburn that preceded the Razorbacks’ entry into the polls and recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts in the first game while doing so.
She also threw her first career no-hitter March 5 against Savannah Atate, fanning seven batters and walking one in the Razorbacks’ first no-hitter since 2006.
It was that game, played a week before the Razorbacks entered conference play, that sparked Beasley. After a strong start to the season, Beasley hit her stride once the Razorbacks entered SEC play, striking out 90 batters while walking just 29 in on her way to being named second-team All-SEC.
“It feels amazing,” Beasley said after completing the six-inning no-hitter. “I also had some great defense behind me. You can’t ever do things like that without a great defense. Getting the shutout is a great feeling.”
It was a sign of things to come. She followed up with a complete game in which she gave up just one earned run against No. 13 LSU as the Razorbacks came back to earn the 4-3 upset. She then three-hit No. 8 Missouri in an 11-inning game that Arkansas eventually won 4-1, the program’s first victory over Missouri in 13 years.
But her best was still yet to come. Arkansas squared off with No. 2 Tennessee on April 26 in what would turn out to be the only contest of a scheduled three-game series to not be rained out. She turned in her best performance of the year, giving up only one run on four hits as Arkansas earned a 2-1 victory, their ninth win over a ranked team on the season.
It was a huge victory for a program that faced one of its lowest points two years earlier when the Razorbacks visited Knoxville and were soundly defeated in three straight games.
“Beasley settled down and pitched a great ball game,” coach Mike Larabee said after the win. “Two years ago we came here and got humiliated. I am so proud of how far this program has come in two years.”
Arkansas, which is making its second tournament appearance in a row and sixth overall, has won eight of its last 10 games. The Razorbacks advanced to their first regional final a year ago before falling to California, and will try to take the next step this weekend with Beasley leading the way.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Larabee said. “We are a lot deeper this year and we are a better team. Playing in the SEC tested us. We have played some of the best competition in the country. I am confident in our girls, they will be ready to play.”
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