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Arkansas softball team's SEC Tournament run ends in semifinals

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The Razorbacks’ run in the 2018 SEC Tournament came to an end Friday afternoon with a 3-1 setback to No. 12 South Carolina in the semifinals. Arkansas had wins over No. 19 Kentucky and No. 8 Georgia in the first two days of the conference tournament. The team is set to enter NCAA Tournament play with a 39-15 overall record.

With their best SEC Tournament showing since the 2001 season, the Razorbacks will learn their NCAA fate Sunday evening with the selection show. The national bracket will be announced at 9 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2 with the regional round scheduled to begin Friday, May 18.

As the lower seed in Friday’s matchup, the Razorbacks opened the game with a scoring threat in the top of the first inning. Freshman Hannah McEwen drew her team-leading 22nd walk of the season and after a base hit to shallow center by Autumn Buczek, Arkansas had runners on first and second with no outs. However, South Carolina (45-13) got out of the inning with no runs crossing the plate.

The Gamecocks got on the board with a run in the second inning but sophomore starter Autumn Storms limited the damage and left a pair of runners standing at the corners. Arkansas put the first two hitters on in the fourth but couldn’t produce a timely hit to get a run home. South Carolina pushed its lead to 3-0 with a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth that brought Mary Haff into the game.

The top-10 finalist for National Freshman of the Year registered 2.2 innings of scoreless relief and three strikeouts to keep Arkansas within striking distance. With the three strikeouts Friday, Haff moved into second on the program’s single-season list with 226 strikeouts this season. That figure is the most by an Arkansas pitcher since Heather Schlichtman set the school record with 305 strikeouts in 2004.

The offense, once again, got its first two hitters on in the sixth inning. The junior duo of Ashley Diaz and Katie Warrick came through with a single and double, respectively, to put runners on second and third with no outs. Senior A.J. Belans lifted a sacrifice fly to center field that allowed pinch runner Carley Haizlip to score but it was all the offense could muster against the tournament’s No. 3 seed.

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