Ole Miss Softball’s Great Journey in 2016

Jan 3, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels fans celebrate during the game against the Austin Peay Governorsat C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels fans celebrate during the game against the Austin Peay Governorsat C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports /

Ole Miss softball’s record-breaking season ended in the Norman, Oklahoma, regional over the weekend. Here is the breakdown of their great journey in 2016.

On Sunday the Ole Miss softball team came up just short against the #3 Oklahoma Sooners(50-7) in the Norman, Oklahoma, Regional, which they finished second. The Lady Rebels finished the season with 41 wins, their first SEC Tournament win, their first NCAA Regional appearance and two wins in regional play. When compared to some of top-tier SEC teams those accomplishments may not sound all too impressive, but for this budding Ole Miss program they are huge.

Prior to Mike Smith’s arrival in Oxford the Lady Rebs finished the 2014 season just 3-21 in SEC play and 22-31 overall. Shortly after the end of the 2014 season Ole Miss athletics director turned to Smith, and he’s quickly made an impact on the program. Coach Smith has seemingly gotten the lady Rebs to buy-in. Last season they finished 30-25 overall and 6-18 in conference play.

In fact, his impact is obvious when you consider he turned the program around in his first season, and completely jumped took it to a whole level this season. Due the recruiting efforts of Smith and his staff, along with the way he has structured his program, the focus level he has instilled and the way he has created an identity, the Ole Miss softball program is now relevant.

Personally, I think Coach Smith made a great hire in the summer of 2015 when he brought on Taryne Mowatt, who is a top-notch pitching coach. Mowatt was recently an assistant coach at California-Baptist for three seasons. She helped lead them to NCAA regional appearances each year, along with PacWest Conference championships in 2012 and 2014. As the team’s pitching coach, Mowatt instructed a pitching staff that consisted of program-record holders for wins, innings pitched and complete games. She also coached a conference pitcher of the year, freshman pitcher of the year, and three all-conference honorees.

During her playing days, Mowatt was unstoppable on the mound, leading the University of Arizona to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, she collected numerous awards after breaking single season school records for innings pitched (370), strikeouts (522) and victories (42). Mowatt was named Most Valuable Player at the Women’s College World Series, setting four tournament records during the Wildcats’ 2007 national title run. After a season that went down as one of the best in NCAA softball history, Mowatt collected two ESPY awards as the Best Female Athlete and the Best Female College Athlete.

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The Lady Rebels started out the 2016 season 8-2 . There was an obvious difference in the team, as they seemed to be, to borrow a Hugh Freeze term, “All In.” The Rebels had a new spark to them  and you could feel it when you attended a game. It made for an enjoyable experience at the picturesque Ole Miss Softball Complex.

The biggest hit to next year’s team will be losing ace pitcher, Madi Osias. She is one of just six seniors that will depart from this young team. I often compared her to Ole Miss baseball pitcher Wyatt Short. Osias seemed to never let anything rattle her when she took that mound.

This offseason I expect coach Smith will use the results from this past season to win over some recruits. Only time will tell, but no matter what coach Smith and his staff seem to be able to get the best out of any type of player. I personally think they have to add a couple more great pitchers in the off season to continue the growth and success of the program.

The lady Rebels’ lost three of their final five games on the season. Those three losses came at the hands of two teams whose combined record is 106-12. Florida (56-5) eliminated Ole Miss from the SEC tournament last week, and Oklahoma (50-7) defeated them twice this weekend.

Ole Miss competed with both of those teams, however,  so let’s spread the word, Rebel fans, about our Ole Miss Softball team. So when the 2017 season starts let’s fill the stands(Ole Miss Softball fames are FREE). I fully expect there to be more support next season than in 2016. Let’s support our Lady Rebels! Hotty Toddy!!