In sweeping No. 11 LSU two weeks ago and taking two of three from No. 14 Alabama last weekend (with the wrong side of a sweep to No. 1 Florida in between), Ole Miss softball has five walk-off wins among its last ten games. The latest? An infield single to clinch the first series win over Bama in program history.
Every time I find myself counting this team out, insanity happens. If they can keep games close, they have a chance against just about everyone.
Five walkoff wins over such a short span is pretty crazy, but there are other great storylines in this season as well. The Rebels are on pace to do something pretty strange, given their record in conference play. They’re also relying on a mixture of new and older talent that seems to be coming together at a good time.
Many of you likely don’t generally pay attention to the sport, but I would encourage you to change that quickly. This team has been really fun to pay attention to this season, and the multitude of interesting circumstances contribute to that.
Ole Miss has a losing SEC record but is top-25.
The Rebels currently sit at 8-13 in conference (34-17 overall) but are ranked No. 20 in the country. This speaks to the dominance of the SEC within the sport as every single conference game this season has come against a ranked opponent. That changes in the Rebs’ final weekend series against Missouri on Friday, but it’s pretty unfathomable to think about. There hasn’t been a single easy weekend since conference play started. I can’t imagine the pressure that puts on the team, since every win matters a ton.
Let’s not forget, this is the first season ever that Ole Miss has been ranked in both of the accepted softball polls, and they’ve been there for many weeks in a row now. This is also the first time in program history that Ole Miss has won a series against LSU or Alabama.
Depth has improved the offense.
Last season, the Rebels finished hitting .287 with 26 home runs. This season, they’re batting .296 with 26 home runs through 12 fewer games. Junior sensation Elantra Cox has seen her average improve from .357 to .424, but outside of her and sophomore Kylan Becker (who may be the second best player on the team), the Rebels are seeing most of their improvements come through depth. The entrenched starters are generally hitting around where they did last season. It’s just that the role and bench players are really a significant improvement. Junior Grayce Majam, for instance, has only played in 29 games this year, but she’s hitting .286 on the season. Having options like that on the bench (and recently starting) is a really big help to the team.
The pitching staff has decreased its ERA by a full run compared to last season.
Kaitlin Lee, the junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, has really taken over where last year’s star pitcher Madi Osias left off. Lee’s ERA is just 2.02, and she has thrown 17 complete games on the year. To put that in perspective, Osias had an ERA last season of 2.97 and threw 13 complete games. Lee is dealing every outing, and she’s getting rewarded with an offense that has come through in the clutch.
Overall, the pitching staff has dropped its ERA from 3.26 to 2.26, a drastic improvement for a team that had already dropped a full run from the season prior (4.3 to 3.26). What the coaches are doing with the pitching talent is pretty remarkable and sets the team up for more success in postseason play.