Softball Team Opens Home Schedule On Saturday

FAYETTEVILLE -- After three weekends on the road, 12 games and three rainouts, Arkansas (4-8) finally opens its home softball schedule with the Lady'Back Invitational on Saturday and Sunday at Lady'Back Yard.

Jamie Pinkerton, Arkansas' first-year coach, can't wait.

"I'm excited, from a coaching standpoint, to be making my home debut," Pinkerton said. "My patience level is, I want to do it right now."

He'll have to wait until 1 p.m. Saturday, when the Lady'Backs meet Missouri-Kansas City. They'll play Louisiana-Monroe at 3 p.m., then play another doubleheader at 1 p.m. Sunday with those two teams in reverse order.

Missouri-Kansas City and ULM will meet at 11 a.m. each day.

Arkansas played acceptably the first two weekends, going 4-5, before stumbling to an 0-3 record last weekend in wet weather at Corpus Christi, Texas.

"I didn't like the way we approached things last week," Pinkerton said. "I'm still learning this team. We hit the ball OK, but didn't handle the pressure well with runners in scoring position."

Looking back, Pinkerton said an injury to senior shortstop Blaire Perry probably affected the Lady'Backs quite a bit.

"Blaire is the heart and soul of the team," he said. "She'll be out six to eight weeks with an arm injury, so we moved Dayna Huckabee to shortstop."

Huckabee, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Texarkana, has good power and potential but is scuffling with a .217 batting average.

Another injury, to No. 2 UA pitcher Sarah Topham (1-2, 3.61 earned run average), also put a damper on things.

"Sarah didn't pitch last week," Pinkerton said. "She might be out a week to 10 days. She had an MRI on her shoulder this week."

Arkansas freshman pitcher Katy Henry (0-2, 4.31) of Poteau, Okla., threw well in a 2-0 loss to a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi team that Pinkerton ranked 19th in the country this week.

Pinkerton said UA ace Valanna Lyons (3-4, 3.18) could have won both of her starts last week, had the Lady'Backs pushed across a few runs.

"Our 1-4 hitters in the order are doing a good job, but the lower half needs to step up," Pinkerton said. "This is the fourth week, so we can't say it's early anymore."

Rachel LeMaster leads Arkansas with a .444 average, followed by Ashley Carter at .375, Kallie Foglesong at .343 and Mindy O'Malley at .297.

Pinkerton got to scout UMKC (1-4) at Las Cruces, N.M., this year, and knows the coach for ULM (5-9).

"Louisiana-Monroe beat No. 22 Illinois," PInkerton said.

Freshman Kelly Ninemire may pitch one game for Arkansas this weekend, but Lyons will continue to get a lion's share of the mound work.

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