The weekend was not kind to Ole Miss softball and head coach Mike Smith as the Rebels dropped two of three games to No. 5 Auburn. The Rebels failed to overcome a surging Auburn team during their first and third games, losing each 3-1.
The second game, however, saw vast offensive improvements for Ole Miss, driving in run after run to defeat the Tigers 10-4. The series moved Ole Miss’ record to 26-13 on the season and a less than impressive 3-9 in conference play.
Despite being held to just a single score in its two losses, a light at the end of the tunnel persists. There is clearly more to this Ole Miss offense than many have come to expect, and Smith certainly hopes to unleash more of that potential over the coming weeks.
With respect to Auburn’s national ranking, putting up 10 runs against the typically stingy Tigers’ pitching staff certainly holds plenty of weight. In fact, the Rebels’ 10-run outing was Auburn’s worst defensive performance of the year. Doing this while holding Auburn to just four runs represents tangible hope that Ole Miss softball fans can cling to as postseason play approaches.
The sudden display of hitting prowess surprised many, seeing as the Rebels have faced a midseason struggle to drive in runs. Despite early season success against a number of ranked teams, Ole Miss has struggled against quality opponents lately. The sudden hitting improvement could be a sign that fortunes are changing for Smith and his players.
Ole Miss won’t face many teams better than Auburn down the stretch, but a rematch in the SEC Tournament next month is not out of the question. For that rematch to occur, the Rebels will need to channel their best softball and win every game possible. From this point on, every additional loss pushes postseason success a little further away.
With sophomores Kylan Becker and Ashton Lampton both hitting well and team captain Elantra Cox finally living up to her offseason hype, the Rebels can dispatch any team they face. When those leaders go noticeably silent, as was the case in the first and third game of the series, the results are often disastrous.
With only four SEC opponents left before the tournament starts on May 10, the Rebels need to improve their 3-9 conference record as soon as humanly possible. While the Auburn series did not aid in that effort, it did showcase the Rebels’ ability to, when the stars align, handle top-ranked teams.
The Auburn series wasn’t quite the turnaround the Rebels were hoping for, but it did show that a pivotal moment could be just around the corner.