FAYETTEVILLE -- Sydney Parr is a case study in perseverance.
It took the University of Arkansas left fielder three years to break into the regular starting lineup for the Razorbacks softball team, but she never quit striving to improve.
At A Glance
At Bogle Park, Fayetteville
No. 19 ARKANSAS
COACH Courtney Deifel
RECORD 32-14, 6-9 SEC
EYE ON RHP Autumn Storms (17-5, 11 complete games, 144 Ks), CF Hannah McEwen (.362, 54 hits, 10 2Bs), DH Danielle Gibson (.348, 10 HRs, 89 RBI).
No. 9 LSU
COACH Beth Torina
RECORD 36-9, 13-5 SEC
EYE ON 3B Amanda Sanchez (.450, 15 2Bs, 7 HRs), CF Aliyah Andrews (.404, 59 hits, 41 SBs), RHP Shelby Wickersham (10-1, 1.76 ERA, 40Ks)
TODAY LSU vs. Arkansas, 6 p.m.
FRIDAY LSU vs. Arkansas, 6 p.m.
SATURDAY LSU vs. Arkansas, 1 p.m.
SHORT HOPS Arkansas sophomore Hannah McEwen has reached base safely in 13 straight games and leads the team with a .362 batting average … The Razorbacks have won six straight games, all against non-SEC opponents (Wichita State, Furman and Arkansas-Pine Bluff) … Arkansas senior Ashley Diaz needs just one hit to become the eighth ever Razorback with 200 career hits (Jessica Bachkora has the record with 227 hits)… LSU junior Aliyah Andrews is fifth nationally in stolen bases, swiping 41 in 44 attempts … The Tigers are second nationally with a team .439 on-base percentage.
Those dividends now are paying off for both her and the team.
"My first two years, I was basically a defensive replacement and pinch-runner," Parr said. "But within those two years, I just learned so much about SEC softball and have grown so much as a player."
Parr, a three-time state champion, committed to Arkansas during her freshman year at North Little Rock High School. She became a regular fixture at Razorback games, envisioning the day she would wear the cardinal-and-white uniform.
"Being a Razorback is something that I always dreamed of," she said. "It's been incredible, just to be a part of it and represent the state of Arkansas. It's just hard to put words to it. It's just phenomenal getting to play in front of the state that I grew up in."
In a power-driven lineup that has produced 37 home runs this season, the slap-hitting Parr offers a different look in the middle of the order with her speed and agility at the plate.
She entered this season with 11 career hits, 5 RBI and 5 stolen bases. While currently batting .327, she already has more than tripled her hit production with 36, in addition to 14 RBI and a team-leading 5 stolen bases in 5 attempts.
"I just try to go in and do whatever I can to help the team out," Parr said. "I haven't felt any pressure at all, and I'm able to stay relaxed at the plate. My approach is just believing in myself and knowing that I'm going to get the job done.
"That's the thing with being a slapper ... you just make things happen. Getting the job done by putting the ball in play, beating throws out, whatever it takes."
She faced more adversity when the year began as the rules for slap-hitters were altered by the NCAA, forcing them to keep both feet inside the batter's box at all times.
"It's tough because I was taught something from when I was 8 years old, and now I'm 21 and being asked to change something I have been doing all of my life," Parr said. "It's been a big challenge, but I love slapping. I love the speed of it and having four or five different tools that I can use at the plate. It's a great attribute to the game of softball."
She does have the benefit of being engaged to a professional baseball player in former Razorback Evan Lee.
"He likes to coach me a little bit," Parr joked. "He always talks to me about swinging away, because I'm a slapper, and obviously in baseball, they don't slap.
"But he has really helped me out a lot. He has been my rock throughout my three years here. His perspective on baseball and softball translate, so he has taught me a lot. He will even take me in the cages and throw [batting practice] to me. He will give me some tips, and he likes to coach me some."
Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said there is much more to Parr than what the average fan sees.
"She has been just an absolute pleasure in everything that you want from a student-athlete," Deifel said. "She works her butt off and sets the tone for what hard work is out here. She works her butt off in the classroom; she does community stuff. She is a great teammate. She is a great leader."
Parr, a broadcast journalism major, plans to remain close to the game as a sideline reporter or on-air personality. She's also open to working for a Major League Baseball team.
Sports on 04/18/2019
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