On a clear Wednesday night in Oxford, Ole Miss softball faced off against the Memphis Tigers for the fifth time this year. The No. 22 Rebels walked away with a 4-0 win, their 27th win of the season.
The Rebels entered the match still reeling from a series loss to No.5 Auburn over the weekend. The Tigers, on a two-game losing streak of their own, travelled to Mississippi with a 23-18 overall record.
As the two teams’ defenses excelled, both sides struggled to score early. Kaitlin Lee, Ole Miss’ right-handed ace, started on the mound and, as usual, dropped batter after batter.
“Our pitching dominated again, as usual, and Kaitlin Lee did a good job throwing strikes,” junior utility player Paige McKinney said. “She always does a good job not throwing too many balls. We had a few clutch hits and capitalized on their errors when they made them.”
The Rebels broke the deadlock in the third inning as McKinney forced a Memphis error and brought in the first run of the night. Miranda Strother earned Ole Miss its second RBI of the inning off a solid knock to the outfield.
The Tigers continued to commit error after error throughout the match as the scoreline continued to slide in favor of the hosts. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Elantra Cox singled to left field, but the Tigers’ left fielder threw it away, allowing Cox to score an inside-the-park home run.
Sarah Van Schaik shot an RBI single up the middle shortly after, scoring Kylan Becker and giving the Rebels a 4-0 lead. Ole Miss put runners in scoring position a few additional times before the game drew to a close, but all were left stranded.
With a vital SEC rivalry series this weekend against Louisiana and a lackluster 3-9 conference record, momentum from beating Memphis at home should be a welcome change of pace for the Rebels. Still, Cox and the rest of the Ole Miss softball players understand there is work to be done.
“We need to work on communicating,” Cox said. “There were some times on the field where we were not on the same page.”
Head coach Mike Smith’s team finally overcame last weekend’s offensive woes. Against Auburn, the Rebels scored just one run in two of their three games. For McKinney, the work starts at the plate.
“We need to continue to square up on balls,” McKinney said. “We go through a period where we don’t get any hits for a few bats.”
The Rebels are scheduled to face off against the Auburn Tigers in a three-game series April 14-15. On Friday, the teams kick off the weekend with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. and subsequently at 5 p.m.