When the Ole Miss softball team takes the field late Friday afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma against Tulsa, it will soon collect a number of NCAA Tournament firsts for the program. The first hit, run, recorded strikeout, and thrashing of an opponent will all be recorded in the giant sports ledger used to keep track of such records and referenced forever when Ole Miss softball trivia questions are asked.
But those won't be the only records this team sets. They've already piled up a school-record 39 wins and won the program's first ever SEC Tournament game. Ace pitcher Madi Osias already has the single-season Ole Miss record for wins (21; AND COUNTING, AM I RIGHT?). Most incredibly, all of this has happened just two years in to head coach Mike Smith's effort to turn the program around.
What I'm saying to you, dear reader, is that you need to make it your business to watch and/or monitor the softball team this weekend. Not only will you be watching history (you can even tweet about it!), you'll also be watching a good Ole Miss team in a postseason tournament, which is reason enough to abandon all responsibilities and become emotionally invested at a dangerously unhealthy level (that's how I choose to approach these things).
Let's run through what you need to know about Ole Miss softball's regional appearance.
I'm new here, so how do softball regionals work?
While the NCAA is very silly about a staggering number of things, they have managed to figure out efficient ways to conduct tournaments (or they just copied someone else along the way). That means four-team softball regionals are run in a standard double-elimination format identical to the men's tourney. The top seed in each regional -- in this case Oklahoma -- hosts at its home stadium.
Here's what the Norman, Okla. regional looks like.
Though this bracket does not show it, the seeds are as follows:
- No. 1 Oklahoma (47-7, No. 3 national seed)
- No. 2 Ole Miss (39-20)
- No. 3 Tulsa (35-19)
- No. 4 Wichita State (35-19)
And just like men's baseball, the last team left standing moves on to a super regional and all of the crippling anxiety that comes with that.
When is all of this happening and how can I watch?
The regional starts on Friday, with Ole Miss and Tulsa playing at 5:30 CT (HAPPY HOUR TIME, FRIENDS). If the Rebels win, they will most likely play Oklahoma at 1:30 CT on Saturday afternoon. But in case that doesn't come to fruition (AS IF), here's the full schedule for every scenario.
Since all of the above games will be available through one of ESPN's many tentacles, including the WatchESPN app, you can watch and/or monitor the team from wherever you are. Except maybe in tunnels, so hold off of any weird tunnel exploration thing you might have going on this weekend.
Plus, you know who else is going to be watching?
Who are some of Ole Miss' top players so that I may be informed and build shrines to them for the weekend?
- Hailey Lunderman, freshman SS/2B (.372 average, .415 on-base %, 40 runs, 19 stolen bases)
- Elantra Cox, sophomore OF (.369 average, .395 on-base %, 30 runs, 20 stolen bases)
- Miranda Strother, junior OF (.315 average, .429 on-base %, 42 runs, 31 stolen bases)
- Madi Osias, senior (2.95 ERA, 21-9 W/L, 10 complete games, 163.2 innings pitched, 131 strikeouts)
- Elisha Jahnke, sophomore (3.97 ERA, 10-7 W/L, 5 complete games, 111 innings pitched, 63 strikeouts)
How good are the other teams in the regional?
Oklahoma, being the No. 3 national seed, is obviously very good. In fact, EVERYONE IN THEIR LINEUP has a batting average of at least .300 and an on-base percentage of .400, which, according to my calculations, is okay, I guess.
Tulsa, the regional No. 3, may not boast the greatest offense, but their top two pitchers have ERAs of 1.72 and 2.31, which contribute to their national ranking of 23rd in this category.
The fourth seed, Wichita State, fields three players with at least 10 home runs and 44 RBI (for comparison, Ole Miss' home run leader has five). That kind of power is the reason the Shockers are ranked 31st nationally in homers per game.
In order for Ole Miss to win the regional and continue causing the citizens of Oklahoma to wail and gnash teeth, it will need the standard regional-winning formula of outstanding pitching, a couple of hitters getting hot, very few mistakes, and the sports gods deciding to have some fun* with the Sooners.
*Bob Stoops coaching or advising the team in a pressure situation is an acceptable form of #fun.
How's the team doing as they prepare to make history?
Based on the Twitter accounts of Ole Miss softball and head coach Mike Smith, the team is doing perfectly fine. Since arriving in Norman yesterday, they've practiced (GOOD CALL) and toured the Oklahoma City National Museum & Memorial. I'm sure other interesting things will pop up on those accounts, so follow both of those to keep your fingers on the pulse Ole Miss softball.
My one issue with the trip so far was at the send-off on Tuesday. The buses taking the team to Norman could've used about 580 percent more wraps. I have corrected that problem.
Vision issues for the driver? MAYBE. But well worth the risk to have more obnoxiously awesome buses, IMO.
Finally, if Ole Miss wins the regional, will there be Crying Jordans of the other teams?
YOU KNOW IT.
LET'S DO THIS, REBELS.