The Ole Miss softball team (26-13) is hosting regional rival Memphis on Wednesday as part of a single-game warmup for its SEC matchup with LSU this weekend. After dropping games last weekend, the Rebels certainly hope to make a statement in front of their home crowd. Here are three questions the team will need to answer before Wednesday’s game:
Can the Rebels bounce back?
Last weekend, the Rebels dropped two out of three away games to No. 5 Auburn. While close and competitive, the results were ultimately disappointing for head coach Mike Smith. Auburn’s nationally recognized pitching and defense dictated the score line throughout the weekend. Memphis, on the other hand, has lost two straight and will not carry much confidence into Wednesday’s head-to-head.
Ole Miss will need to capitalize early and often or risk an unexpected upset to the Tigers. Regardless of how the scoreboard reads after seven innings, fans can expect a heated Mid-South rivalry with both teams swinging for the fences.
Will the pitching dominance continue?
The Rebels boast an elite pitching staff filled with plenty of quality and depth. The starters, namely former junior college All-American Katilin Lee, have displayed dominance against top teams, and Ole Miss’ closers rank among the best in the SEC. This season, Lee has kept a low ERA of 2.38 and continues to carry the Rebels to big victories; expect her to play a significant role against LSU and possibly Memphis.
With an eye on the NCAA Tournament, Smith’s pitchers cannot afford to lose a single step. Going 13-5 at home this year, the Rebels have turned Oxford into an SEC softball fortress. During their final matchup with Auburn last weekend, the Rebels gave up just five hits. While Auburn eventually emerged victorious, constricting the Tigers’ offense should give Ole Miss fans plenty of optimism.
Softball games can turn on a dime, and if the Rebels’ pitching staff lays an egg against Memphis, momentum could turn quickly against the hosts. With LSU, Florida, Alabama and Missouri remaining on the schedule, dropping a game against Memphis could push the Rebels down a slippery slope.
Will the offense show up?
Last weekend summed up the Rebels’ offense this year as the Tigers held them to a single run on Friday but allowed the Ole Miss offense to score 10 on Saturday. The Rebels have been moderately successful at placing runners in scoring position, but too often they are left stranded.
Elantra Cox was one of few consistently impressive offensive players last weekend. With five hits and three runs on the weekend, the junior slugger and former SEC Player of the Week is rounding into form. She’s proven successful as a leadoff batter, in part, due to her base-stealing proficiency. Cox stole 30 bases as a freshman, the second most in a single season in Ole Miss history.
If Smith and his team can sort out their offensive woes and rely on pitching prowess, Wednesday could mark an important turning point for a talented, but at times underwhelming, Rebels softball game.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.