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What’s next for Ole Miss softball after a solid 2022 season?

Lady Rebels fell just short of the Super Regional round

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Gabriella Whisler/Special to the Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Rebels finished its season 41-19 (12-12), losing to No. 5 UCLA in the Los Angeles regional. Getting out of that regional was going to be a tall task all along, as the Bruins have been dominant this postseason. UCLA was 48-8 on the year and only needed two games to dispatch Duke from the Los Angeles super regional.

While the Rebels obviously wish the team was still playing, it was a strong second season for Jamie Trachsel’s club. It’s honestly pretty amazing the Rebels were able to accomplish so much this season, as it ranked seventh in the SEC in on-base, twelfth in slugging, and seventh in team ERA. A number of clutch individual performances kept things moving for Ole Miss, and they’ll have to replicate that moving forward, as they’re losing a lot of the primary pieces that made this season work. Let’s get into it.

Who’s leaving?

Ole Miss loses its entire starting outfield in LF Tate Whitley (.873 OPS) RFBre Roper (.988), and CF Abbey Latham (.928). Those three led the team in batting average and were most of the offensive spark. 1B Sydney Gutierrez (also graduating) rounded out the top four in average.

Ole Miss also loses defensive star shortstop Mikayla Allee who routinely made phenomenal plays. Of the position players, there’s a lot to replace.

And it only gets a little better on the mound. Ace Anna Borgen threw 95 innings in what was a somewhat disappointing season with a 4.7 ERA. Borgen’s 2.49 last season sparked some hope that the Rebels could be dominant in the circle, and it didn’t really work out.

Savannah Diedrich is also gone, finishing her super senior year with 77 innings pitched and a 2.45 ERA. In total, the Rebs lose 44% of innings pitched.

Reasons to be optimistic about next season

This team still returns some key pieces. Freshman Catelyn Riley was sensational in the circle (3.46 ERA) and at bat (2.062 OPS) in limited chances. With a number of position players moving on, there’s likely room for her to become an everyday bat and consistent pitcher.

Sophomore Aynslie Furbush was similar, with a 2.13 ERA and .813 OPS. Juggling two players who are also strong pitchers is a tough task, but it’s also a bit of a luxury. I’m interested to see what Trachsel does here, as both have only really played the designated player spot.

Along with those two, we’ll need two former top-35 recruits to step up in juniors Paige Smith and Nyomi Jones. Smith regressed a bit, going from a .295 average as a sophomore to just .250 as a junior. She’s a good bet for power, but she’ll need to see the rest of her game improve as well. Jones finally gets a chance to be the everyday center fielder now that the outfield is gone. She has looked great at times but struggled as well. Now she gets her chance to prove she can live up to her #32 overall player status in her recruiting class.

And that’s kind of the story of the team. There are a number of players who were highly thought of out of high school who now have a shot to prove why. Catcher KK Esparza (#69 recruit) and infielder Brooke Barnard (#11) are good examples. Esparza hit .204 as the starting catcher all season. Barnard was mostly a pinch runner and hit just .143 in just 14 plate appearances. Both of those have to go way up if this team hopes to continue the momentum it has seen under Trachsel. There are similar stories for DP Angelina DeLeon (.776 OPS) and 2B Keila Kamoku (.733). All these freshmen have to seize this opportunity because the inbound class doesn’t mess around.

#3 recruiting class in the country

The Rebels nabbed six of the top 52 players in this year’s class. The headliner is middle infielder Jalia Lassiter (#19), but there’s help on the way at every position. Typically at Ole Miss, the learning curve for freshmen has been relatively steep, but there will be lots of position battles to monitor in the Fall.

Overall, the team loses a lot this year, but there’s talent waiting. The question is: who will step up?