Ole Miss softball reaches first regional in program history, set to take on Norman, OK regional

Picture via @OleMissSoftball
Picture via @OleMissSoftball /

Sunday night was historic for Ole Miss softball as they received their first ever bid to an NCAA tournament regional. On Friday night they play Tulsa.

First the first time in program history Ole Miss softball has made the NCAA tournament. They are heading to the Norman, Oklahoma, regional as a number two seed. The Rebels (39-20, 11-13) will take on Tulsa (35-19, 9-9) on Friday at 5:30 PM. The regional also includes Wichita State (35-19, 18-6) and host Oklahoma (47-4, 17-1), the overall number three national seed. The host Sooners carry a 22-game winnings streak into the tournament and are coming off their fifth consecutive Big 12 title. The format for the tournament is the same as in men’s baseball, which is double elimination.

It is the highest Oklahoma has been seeded in the tournament since they were number one in 2013, when they won a national championship. While the Sooners are in familiar territory, Ole Miss is not. The team celebration, that was captured in photos on the @OleMissPix Twitter feed, was a sign that Ole Miss softball is proud of all the “firsts” that they accomplished this seasons. Their record-breaking season has been magical to follow and it has endeared the team to a large portion of Rebel nation. 

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If you guys are like the few Rebel fans that I’ve communicated with lately, let me get you up to speed. Not only has Ole Miss never been to a regional in softball, but they just won their first ever game in SEC tournament play last Wednesday when they defeated the 15th-ranked Georgia Buldogs. Before second-year head coach Mike Smith got to Ole Miss they were 16-86 in the SEC play and had never won more than 30 games in a season. All they did this year was set a school record with their 39 wins and tie a school record with their 11 conference wins. Coach Smith and his staff have started turning the program around in just two years.

Their success in the SEC this season is even more impressive when you consider just how great the league is in 2016. Ole Miss is one of just 11 SEC teams to receive a bid to a regional, with eight teams being named national seeds. Also impressive is the fact that the Lady Rebels beat four of those teams from the conference that were named national seeds.

As a team in 2016 the Lady Rebels compiled a .291 batting average and scored a total of 264 runs on 437 hits, while opponents hit just .239 against Rebel pitching. Ole Miss pitchers also surrendered a 3.24 earned run average.

When the Lady Rebs take the diamond this weekend be sure to keep your eyes on two players. Senior pitcher Madi Osias is 21-8 in 33 appearances and has allowed just 69 earned runs in 163.2 innings pitched, good enough for a 2.95 earned run average. She also struck out 131 batters, yielded just a .212 batting average and threw four shutouts. The other player to be on the lookout for is Hailey Lunderman, the outstanding freshman shortstop. Lundermann was actually named to the SEC All-freshman team last Tuesday, after she lead the Rebels with a .372 batting average this season and totaled 73 hits. Even without the bat she was dangerous offensively as she finished third on the team with a .415 on-base percentage, which help her to steal 19 bases, also good for third-best on the team.

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I’m encouraging all Rebel fans to tune in to ESPN3 at 5:30 PM on Friday. And be sure to catch the regional in its entirety on the ESPN family of networks. #HottyToddy

Norman Regional schedule:

Game 1 /  Friday / Tulsa vs. Ole Miss / 5:30 PM

Game 2 / Friday / Oklahoma vs. Wichita State / 8 PM

Game 3 / Saturday / GM1 winner vs. GM 2 winner / 1:30 PM

Game 4 / Saturday / GM 1 loser vs. GM 2 loser / 4 PM

Game 5 / Saturday / GM 4 winner vs. GM 3 loser / 6:30 PM

Game 6 / Sunday / GM 3 winner vs. GM 5 winner / 3:30 PM

Game 7 / Sunday / GM 6 winner vs. GM 6 loser(if necessary) / 6 PM