Rebel softball will take on conference opponents No. 14 Alabama this Saturday in part one of a three-game series. Coming off a 2-1 win in a closer-than-expected battle with Jacksonville State, the Rebels need to finish out the season powerfully if they hope to earn a seeded spot at regionals later this year.
While the Rebels’ most recent game seemed uncharacteristically weak, any win after a scoreless sweep to the top-ranked Florida Gators last weekend comes as a much-needed commodity. The game’s momentum, however, seems to be in favor of Alabama after an 8-1 stomping of in-state opponent Samford on Tuesday.
Alabama is one of the tougher SEC opponents the Rebels will have to deal with this season. Ranked 10th in ERA and sixth in fielding percentage in the NCAA, the Crimson Tide prides itself on defensive resilience.
For the Rebels to break down the enemy camp, getting on base will be crucial. Even then, the Rebels will need to keep those runners on base long enough to put pressure on Alabama’s pitching core and force mistakes.
Veteran pitchers Sydney Littlejohn (1.05 ERA) and Alexis Osorio (1.35 ERA) improved tremendously from last season and together constitute the primary obstacle on the Rebels’ path to victory.
Rebel softball will need to rely on Elantra Cox to guide Ole Miss through what is sure to be a difficult weekend. The junior from Henderson, Tennessee, continues to impress with a bat in her hand; her batting average of .447 ranks 12th in the nation.
Alongside Cox, Miranda Strother, who produced her third walk-off hit of the season to ensure the Rebels’ 2-1 win against Jacksonville State, could add to the Ole Miss cause. Strother, who has the second highest on-base percentage for the Rebels, behind Cox, is known for her clutch batting and decisive base-running.
In terms of pitching, whether the Rebels go with Kaitlin Lee or Morgan Bruce in the circle, the Crimson Tide won’t be hitting for the fences. If Alabama emerges victorious this weekend, it’ll be because of its defense.
Alabama has scored more than three runs against ranked opponents only three times this season, despite playing in an action-packed conference.
This series win could be vastly important for the Rebels’ postseason hopes. Alabama is the last ranked opponent the Rebels will face in the regular season and the last chance for Ole Miss to move up in the rankings. It will be tough enough to break into one of the top 16 spots required to host a regional as is, but losing this series would make it near impossible.
For Alabama, the win is equally important. A loss could drop it out of the top 16, and it’ll want all the help it can get after an early exit from the playoffs last year. It was one of four SEC teams to make it into the final eight before being eliminated at the expense of Oklahoma, the eventual champions.
Whatever the result, the high-stake game will surely be an intense matchup between ranked SEC opponents.
The clash will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Swayze Field. Sunday and Monday’s games will each start at 6 p.m.