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Softball Opens SEC Play

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Joshua McCoy @OleMissPix

The Ole Miss softball team opens conference play this weekend with a home series against Texas A&M. The Rebels are currently sitting at 21-3 after a home win against SELA Wednesday. So, with conference play set to begin, let’s take a look at how the Rebels have fared to this point (well) and how they’ve gotten here (a good mixture of older and younger players). The Rebels are ranked in the top 25 for only the second time ever.

Junior left fielder Elantra Cox leads the way at the plate batting .570. Cox has been making great contact as a slap hitter and getting on base by beating out throws. She has successfully stolen base seventeen times in 23 games and is already ranked in the top 3 in Ole Miss history for career steals.

After Cox is one of two seniors who play, center fielder Miranda Strother. Strother is batting .397 and is fourth on the team in RBI. Then there’s senior catcher Courtney Syrett at .392. 8 of the 9 player lineup bat over .300, with three freshmen and three sophomores rounding out the group. So yes… this offseason, the team will lose two position players. Then next year they’ll lose Elantra Cox… but… that’s it among current starters. The team is pretty well-positioned for the future.

Did I mention that the lowest ERA on the staff belongs to true freshman Morgan Bruce? Her 1.20 through eleven appearances leads the team as does her .193 opposing batting average. Juniors Alyssa Clayton and Kaitlin Lee have been good as well with 1.88 and 3.29 ERAs respectively. It should be noted that Lee is treated like the ace, pitching against the best teams the Rebels face at each tournament.

Past those three starters sit junior Elisha Jahnke (1.97) and sophomore Brittany Finney (who sports a 3.00 ERA and is an everyday starter at first base and second on the team in home runs… hit).

It’s important to keep in mind that conference play is beginning, and the teams are only going to get harder. Texas A&M is the #7 team in the country. The SEC has nine teams in the top 25. It’s a loaded conference.

But there’s reason to believe this team could continue to make noise. For starters, last year’s team went 30-10 out of conference, a win total that would be pretty tough to NOT exceed at this point. Second, this team hits for a lot more power. The Rebels have already hit 35 doubles, 8 triples, and 20 home runs on the year. Last season, they hit just 48 doubles, 10 triples, and 26 home runs. Again, it would take a pretty crazy stretch for the Rebels to fail to eclipse that.

Then there’s this: last season’s #2 pitcher Elisha Jahnke is now a reliever, and only situational at that. Jahnke has pitched just ten innings on the year and is the only of the five pitchers not to have started a game. This pitching staff is really good, and there is depth in the ranks.

The program is certainly not as storied as the baseball team, but if you want to be paying attention to a group that continues to get better year-over-year, this is the program to watch. Their steady improvement has been staggering.