This past weekend, Ole Miss softball traveled to Austin, Texas to play in a tournament against the UT-Austin, Sam Houston State and Tulsa. The Rebels went 2-3 in the tournament, which, after a midweek win over UCA, brings their 2019 record to 9-6 overall.
I was there. As an Austin resident, I’m always excited when the Rebels play nearby. A sizable group of Ole Miss alumni went to the first game against No. 10 Texas, which the Rebels led 2-0 until the sixth (of seven) inning. They gave up three runs in the sixth and couldn’t recover, ultimately losing 3-2. What could have been a fantastic turn of events for the season just didn’t happen.
Like nearly every Mike Smith team, the biggest problem for this Ole Miss team is hitting. Only three regular starters are batting over .280, and four are below .155. That’s not good at all, to put it mildly.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic about this team’s present and future.
Sophomore Jessica Puk is hitting .412.
That’s not bad imo. Puk, who hit just .209 last season, is off to a torrid start and has made a big difference so far this year. She has hit three home runs in 14 games after none a year ago. If she can keep things going through the year, she could provide much-needed batting near the top of the order that keeps pressure on opposing pitchers.
Abbey Latham leads the team in home runs with four.
Latham, another sophomore, has been crushing the ball this season, hitting .324 overall with a .703 slugging percentage. The high school All-American battled with an injury last season but made the most of her opportunities, hitting seven home runs in just 69 at bats. As a full-time starter, she could surpass that by a good bit. If she does, she and Puk could provide a strong 1-2 punch of sophomores at the plate.
Kylan Becker is providing offense and energy.
The member of the US National Team is hitting .366 on the season, with two triples (after none a year ago). As always, the senior has a spectacular arm in the outfield as well. Watching her play is a joy and it’s clear she’s having fun out there. I noticed her in center last weekend, joking a good bit with the other outfielders and taking fake selfies.
Pitcher Molly Jacobsen is the key on the mound.
Junior college transfer Molly Jacobsen is off to a 3-1 start and sports a 1.27 ERA and a .81 WHIP. She has recorded 21 Ks and only 4 BBs. Beyond the stats, Jacobsen has battled some very good teams and kept them guessing. She’s a great addition, given Kailtin Lee’s graduation. While there are other solid pitchers (namely Ava Tillman and Brittany Finney), Jacobsen has been in a different league so far.
There’s more help on the way.
Mike Smith just signed the No. 18 class in the country (with two top-100 players) currently has the No. 6 class heading into next season. That would easily be the highest rated class in Ole Miss history if it holds. Smith has regularly found a couple of players per class to contribute, but stringing together two highly regarded classes in a row, especially with one in the top 10, would be unprecedented, much like the other success Smith has brought to the program.