This softball season just got a little more special as the team earned its highest national seed ever at No. 11. The Rebels face UT-Chattanooga Friday, with Southeast Missouri and THE University of Louisiana filling out the regional in the two and three seeds.
It’s a pretty surprising twist given the way the Rebels ended the season. Ole Miss lost 5 of its last 6 games, and even Softball America (which has typically been the most Ole Miss-friendly knowledge source) didn’t have Ole Miss hosting in its final projection. In fact, that projection had the Rebels traveling to Louisiana, which they had as the No. 16 seed.
It seems clear the committee saw what happened during the sweep at UGA when the umps called a shocking number of illegal pitches on Brittany Finney on key outs. It doesn’t look like that sweep affected the Rebels’ seeding much at all (if any).
But we’re past that now. It’s time to pay attention to the matchup.
UT-Chattanooga has good stats, albeit against bad competition.
The Mocs went 37-15 this season in the Southern Conference and sported a .296 batting average and 2.17 team ERA. They’re led by five players hitting over .300 including Amanda Beltran’s 12 home runs.
Don’t get me wrong. This team is no slouch. It’s just that they were also swept by UNC-Greensboro. Any team can win one game, so there’s not much use in analyzing this game too much, but suffice it to say if Ole Miss falls to the Mocs, it will be a pretty big letdown.
Southeast Missouri hits home runs like it’s going out of style.
The Redhawks (SQUAWK EM?) hit 72 home runs this season in the Ohio Valley Conference. As you can imagine, that’s not because of any one specific player. They have four with dingers in the double digits this season. To put this number in perspective, Ole Miss has hit 35 home runs this season... and that’s a lot for the Rebs. On top of the power, they’re also hitting just over .300 as a team, and their team ERA is a respectable 2.60.
This is another example of a team that hasn’t been tested too much. It’s tough to know how they’ll show up against Ole Miss. They did split a two game series against Arkansas, so they have the capacity to deal some real damage in this regional.
Louisiana lost four games this season. Yeah. Four.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are 50-4(!!!) on the year and 25-0 in the SBC. They hit .340 as a team(!) with a 1.37 team ERA(!). Those numbers are absurd, and it’s not as if the teams they played all year were horrific. They were challenged some in out of conference games and really stepped up.
Teams like this are a disastrous draw. Sure, in theory Ole Miss should be more talented because of athletic support, etc., but Louisiana isn’t losing games. That’s not really what the Rebels wanted to see in a 2-seed. Playing a Power 5 opponent that was a mixed bag as a 2-seed would probably be easier than this, but at this point in the season, Ole Miss needs to step up to get the win.
If they win this thing, the Rebels are likely on to Tuscon, Ariz. for the super regional. Then anything can happen.