It’s no secret this offseason was a wild one for Ole Miss softball.
The Rebels finished last year ranked in the top 15, losing in the super regional round after hosting a regional themselves. Theoretically, the Rebels were losing two of its best three or four players in center fielder Kylan Becker and starting pitcher Brittany Finney, but literally everyone was coming back. PLUS, the highest rated signing class in the program’s history was inbound. There was abundant reason for optimism.
Then the craziness began.
Former head coach Mike Smith was placed on leave before being ultimately fired. The university didn’t issue a statement with a precise explanation or reasons, but Softball America wrote an interesting story, outlining potential absurdities around the firing. At the very least, it was a divisive firing. Still, interestingly enough, no players announced they would be transferring after Smith’s departure.
Until three days ago....when OMSpirit.com reported that senior starting right fielder Kaylee Horton decided to enter the transfer portal. Horton was first-team SEC All-Defense last year and hit .290 last year. Her departure is a big, big blow.
The team still has some promise this year.
Even with those losses, there’s a lot of reason for optimism. Senior pitcher Molly Jacobsen (2.15 ERA) and Savannah Diederich (0.88 ERA) should combine for a solid one-two punch on the weekends, and there’s pitching depth behind them as well.
Junior 1B Abbey Latham hit .330 with 10 home runs last season. Sophomore Tate Whitley posted a .290 batting average. There’s tons of speed to run the bases, and team defense should be solid again.
This team has struggled to be consistent offensively in the past and losing Kylan Becker’s .426 average doesn’t help that, but the majority of the contributors last season were sophomores - so it’s likely and hopeful there will be some progress from them in the batter’s box.
The freshmen are looming.
It’s tough to predict which, if any, freshmen, other than Nyomi Jones (No. 32 high school player nationally) and 2B Paige Smith (No. 13 nationally), will start early in the year. There’s plenty of potential there though, with 1B/C Mac Barbara (No. 70) likely ready to step up as well.
Beyond those three there are certainly other players who will contribute to this team. It’s just tough to know exactly who that will be at this point.
The season kicks off this weekend with five games in the NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic, starting with Louisville at noon. A lot more about this team will be certain in a week or so. Stay posted with the latest here at Red Cup as our softball team looks to build on last season’s success.