The Ole Miss Softball team advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals after outlasting the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Sunday. The Rebels won the first game 5-1 and claimed the title in walk off fashion 5-4.
The Rebels put an end to the Ragin’ Cajuns 29-game win streak to win their second ever NCAA Regional and punch a ticket to Arizona for the Super Regional. Head coach Mike Smith has led the squad to the postseason four years in a row and the Ole Miss Softball Complex looks, feels and sounds like a party when the Rebels are in action.
“We had our backs against the wall and this team stepped up. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a team, these three girls to the left and those girls down the hall in the locker room. We just had a never-say-die attitude.” Smith said after the wins. “We felt disappointed after our loss yesterday and we came back with a vengeance. We knew that we wanted to get to a Super Regional. I’m happy for this senior class that we get that opportunity to go out to Tucson, Arizona and play.”
The Rebels won the first game by flashing prowess in the field and at the plate. After two quiet innings, the flood gates opened for the Rebel bats. True freshman shortstop Mikayla Allee hit a solo shot over the left field wall to give the Rebels the lead, only to be followed by a top-10 highlight play by Kylan Becker, the first of many on the day.
Becker laid down a bunt and the Ragin’ Cajuns fielded it cleanly, but the throw to first ended up near the visitor bullpen in the right corner of the outfield. Becker used her speed to round the base pads and score with no play at home plate unassisted. Abbey Latham added a home run of her own and Kaylee Horton plated Autumn Gillespie and Kelsha Loftin to make it 5-0.
The barrage of runs caused Louisiana head coach Gerry Glasco to pull star pitcher Summer Ellyson, the first of three pitching changes in the first game.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got on the board in the third as well. With runners on first and second, Keeli Milligan hit a grounder toward first base. What looked like an easy play at first rolled through Abbey Latham’s legs into the outfield, allowing Kourtney Gremillion to scoot around third base and score.
The Rebels were able to limit the Louisiana offense to one run. Louisiana put a bunt down with a runner on third but Amanda Roth came in and popped the ball to Gillespie who tagged the runner out at home.
The score held at 5-1 and the Rebels forced a winner-take-all matchup immediately after.
In the second game, Ole Miss used the momentum to grab an early 3-0 lead. Gabby Alvarez sent Becker home with an RBI single before Jessica Puk brought Gillespie in with a single of her own in the first inning. Kaylee Horton extended the lead to three in the third inning with an RBI single.
After a scoreless fourth inning, the Ragin’ Cajuns got the bats going against Britanny Finney in the fifth. Raina O’Neal tied the game with a three-run homer and took the lead in the next inning.
With the season on the line, it was the true freshman Mikayla Allee who stepped to the plate for the Rebels and delivered with a lead-off double to get the ball rolling. Kylan Becker found herself on base again and stole second to put two runners in scoring position.
Gillespie brought home a run with a bunt to tie the game. With Becker on third, Kaylee Horton came up and made solid contact to force the winning play. Horton reached on a fielder’s choice as the infielder got the tag between second and third but allowed Becker to stride home for the walk-off run. Becker’s late-game heroics gave her the Ole Miss single-season record for runs scored with 52.
“We knew today that we were going to win. Honestly, we all came to the field and I think yesterday when we lost the first time I got a little emotional, maybe got a little teary-eyed,” Becker said after the victory. “After that first loss before and today there were no tears. Our team felt so confident that our team had it. Honestly, I think the whole team knew we were going to do this.”
The Rebels will head west to face the Arizona Wildcats in a best-of-three series to decide who advances to the Women’s College World Series.