The Ole Miss Rebels softball team embarks on another historic first this weekend as they play host to a NCAA Regional.
Ole Miss (40-18) welcomes Arizona State, North Carolina and Southern Illinois into Oxford. After coach Mike Smith’s club had a Cinderella story run through the SEC Tournament, ending with a win against LSU.
The Rebels stormed past Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama to meet the Bayou Bengals in the championship game. Junior Kaitlyn Lee led Ole Miss in the circle by pitching every game. Lee only gave up one walk in 27 innings.
Ole Miss got the No. 12 national seed after the run, and now the Rebels look to carry the momentum to Oklahoma City. The first challenge is Friday at 8:30 p.m. when they step on to the diamond to face Southern Illinois.
SIU is led by 18-year head coach Kerri Blaylock. The Salukis of Southern Illinois head into the postseason at 33-22 overall. They earned the automatic bid from the Missouri Valley Conference after topping No. 1 seed Northern Iowa in the MVC Tournament Championship game last Saturday. The Salukis have played well down the stretch going 9-1 in the last 10 games, and finishing the MVC regular season with a 17-8 record. SIU did face both Mississippi State and Kentucky earlier this season, dropping all three contests against each.
SIU has four hitters at a .300 clip or better, led by Shaye Harre’s .348 average and team-high 40 RBIs. She also leads the team with 26 extra-base hits, 18 of which are doubles. She’s also drawn 56 walks and leads the team with a .652 slugging mark. Behind her, Eyrika Brandenburg is hitting .312 with 24 RBIs and 49 hits, while Susie Baranski leads the club with 54 hits and a .305 average. The pitching staff has been anchored mainly by Brianna Jones, a sophomore right-hander with an 18-12 record an 2.14 ERA. She’s thrown 209 innings and struck out 128 with only 33 walks issued. She’s gone the distance in 21 of her 25 starts, tallying five shutouts with a .242 average against her. Savanna Dover is 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 90.1 innings, while Nicole Doyle rounds out the staff with a 3.72 ERA and 8-7 record.
The first game of the regional will showcase Arizona State versus North Carolina at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The winners will meet on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.