The Rebel softball team had its trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, cut short last weekend as heavy rain and wind forced tournament organizers to cancel the Sand Dollar Classic prematurely. After its first games of the season, Ole Miss returned home with a 3-1 record and a +10 run differential.
The Rebels teed off 2018 on Thursday with back-to-back wins over Virginia Tech and Florida A&M at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex. Senior ace Kaitlin Lee took the mound for the first time this year and picked up right where she left off in 2017, allowing just one run through five complete frames. She was relieved in the sixth by Brittany Finney, who held the Hokies to a single hit and no runs to close out the day. Senior outfielder Elantra Cox looked as dangerous as ever against Tech, leading off with a double and eventually scoring the Rebels’ first run of the year.
After pouring on five runs through the three innings, Ole Miss settled in and ultimately finished with a 5-1 lead. Head coach Mike Smith and his team then shifted their attention to the afternoon’s head-to-head with Florida A&M. After a brief intermission, Smith gave the nod to sophomore right-hander Morgan Bruce, who threw six scoreless innings from the circle. Freshman Anna Borgen made her debut on the collegiate stage Thursday, striking out two A&M batters in Thursday’s final inning. This time around, Cox led off with a triple and eventually found her way back home for a score. She later hustled a single into a double and scored again. Contributions from Alex Schneider and Kaylee Horton boosted Ole Miss to a comfortable 6-0 victory.
Day two of the Sand Dollar Classic dawned, and it took the Rebels a few innings to find their groove. First up was Lamar University, and Smith sent Borgen to throw from the circle, her first start as a freshman. She held the Cardinals scoreless until the third, when an RBI single drove in a Lamar run. Bruce took over in the fifth inning, conceding another RBI single and lending the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. But it would not take long for the Rebels to make their move; Schneider was hit by a pitch, advancing to first before moving rounding home after consecutive Ole Miss singles. The score stood tied at two as the seventh inning concluded, forcing an international-rules tiebreaker. Smith sent Dylinn Stancil to second as Schneider stepped back into the batter’s box, cranking a walkoff shot to left field and sealing the 4-2 win.
Friday evening was not as kind to the Rebels as they dropped a hard-fought loss to Lipscomb. Following several hitless innings spurred on by impressive pitching from both teams, the Bisons ultimately outlasted the Rebels’ efforts and collected the 3-0 W. Ole Miss failed to connect for a single hit against Lipscomb, conceding a no-hitter to right-handed hurler Jordan Fortel. Finney got the start for the Rebels and held the Bisons hitless through four before allowing three runners to score in the fifth.
The Rebels were prepared to regroup for the weekend’s final match against Penn State on Saturday, but the weather had other plans. Heavy rain soaked the Gulf Coast and rendered the fields unplayable, which forced the Sand Dollar Classic’s organizers to pull the plug. Ole Miss finished the weekend 3-1. Smith and his group now turn their attention south of the border as they prepare for next weekend’s Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, which is held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The Rebels tee off the tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday against Texas.