The SEC Coaches Poll was released last Wednesday, and one pick may have puzzled Ole Miss fans. The Rebels are slotted in at seventh in the preseason poll, despite winning the conference tournament and returning a huge portion of the team that got them there. They were picked to finish ahead of Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina, and Mississippi State, all of whom made it to the postseason a year ago.
I won’t pretend that I follow other SEC softball programs enough to know whether those programs deserve to be where they are, but I can say that this ranking makes some sense in Ole Miss’ case. Hear me out.
Unlike seasons past, this offseason saw a lot of player departures.
I’ll be getting into this in more detail in a later post, but the Rebels did, in fact, lose a good bit from last year’s team. Centerfielder Miranda Strother and catcher Courtney Syrett graduated, while catcher Sarah Van Schaik, first baseman Alyssa Gonzalez, and third baseman Ashton Lampton left the team during the off season. All five of those players finished among the top 11 in batting average.
The Rebels did manage to keep their full starting pitching staff intact and added a relatively good freshman class, but from the player side, they lost a lot.
And outfielder Kylan Becker made the cut and was named to Team USA two weeks ago.
BREAKING | Rebel outfielder @KylanBecker has been named to Team ‼️ The junior is the 1st player in Ole Miss history to be selected to the @USASoftball Team‼️— Ole Miss Softball (@OleMissSoftball) January 6, 2018
>> https://t.co/wx0PHaq67y #COMPETE #HottyToddy pic.twitter.com/wp9DaNIXZy
She is the first player in Ole Miss history to make the roster so that’s pretty neat.
And the Rebels lost a great assistant coach.
That doesn’t even factor in pitching coach Taryne Mowatt, who left for the same job at her alma mater, Arizona. Mowatt had a prolific impact on the pitching staff, watching the team ERA decline by a full run each season during her three in Oxford. Ashley Chastain, who replaced Mowatt at Ole Miss, has a strong resume, but her impact for the Rebels remains to be seen.
So wait, are we no longer a softball school?
Do not worry, readers. Mike Smith still seemingly has this thing headed in the right direction. He signed his best freshman class ever in the 2017 season, finishing 18th nationally. The class he just signed in November is a step back, at 33rd, but the two classes coming down the pipe after that one are currently ranked 10th and 6th, according to FloSoftball.com. There may be a setback for a short period, but the trajectory is still very good.
The Ladydiamondsharks hit the diamond February 9-11 at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama to kick off the 2018 campaign.
Get those coolers filled, y’all.