Ole Miss softball is getting ready to face Central Arkansas tonight before a three-game away series against Auburn this weekend.
The Rebels are 24-11 but just 2-7 in SEC play and are hoping to use their game against Central Arkansas to gain some confidence back before returning to conference play. With postseason play just around the corner, that confidence could not come at a better time.
Since Mike Smith took over as head coach at Ole Miss in 2014, the program has gone from that of a basement dweller to, at times, a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. Smith is now just five wins away from 100 at the helm of the University of Mississippi’s softball program. His unique coaching style and impressive recruiting classes have lent themselves well to Oxford.
The first pitch against the Bears will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. As Ole Miss’ final portion of its season, tonight’s game marks its fifth midweek game of the season. Central Arkansas’ current overall record is 13-25, including a recent 3-1 loss to Nicholls State University. Central Arkansas has struggled all season, not just with pitching and defense but also on the offensive side of the plate. The Rebels should match up favorably against a relatively young group of infielders and an equally inexperienced pitching core.
As for offense, with recent hitting surges from Sarah Van Schaik and Kaylee Horton, among others, the Rebels should not have any problems driving the ball far and deep against the Bears. Look for Smith to work tactfully with slap bunts and tricky base running to give his team even more of an advantage.
Central Arkansas is the only opponent left on the Rebels’ schedule not ranked in the top 100 RPI. With 20 games left on the docket, the Rebels have the third-toughest remaining schedule of any team in the NCAA. The remaining 10 opponents are a combined 245-110 (.690), and six have a current RPI inside the top 50. Ole Miss needs to win every game possible if it wants a shot at postseason success, and that starts with a strong showing against Central Arkansas.
The Rebels’ last game against No. 16 Kentucky was a shutout, and the series win marked the first for the Rebels over Kentucky since 2006, when Ole Miss swept that series in Oxford. The Rebels also started their 19th different starting lineup of the year during the final matchup against Kentucky last weekend. As they search for consistency, the Rebels will need to lean on their upperclassman-heavy roster to help them manage tough games.
Several more conference games lie ahead for the Rebels, including matchups against No. 25 Missouri, No. 12 Alabama and No. 5 Florida. Things will not be getting any easier for the Ole Miss softball team any time soon, and its results over the next week will likely determine the path it continues down for the rest of the season.