OXFORD — The Ole Miss softball team didn't just survive its first elimination game in the Oxford Regional to set up a Sunday rematch against University of Louisiana. It made a full-team statement in every phase.
No. 11 Ole Miss defeated Southeast Missouri 10-0 on Saturday in a run-rule shortened five innings to advance to the championship round of the regional. The Rebels advance to face off against Louisiana at 2 p.m. on Sunday, looking to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Ragin' Cajuns on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels will have to defeat Louisiana twice in order to move on to Super Regionals, while one Ole Miss loss will mean elimination.
Ole Miss defeated Southeast Missouri behind the strength of a dominant first inning offensive display. The Rebels sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring eight runs on five hits, including a two-run home run from first baseman Abbey Latham, and forced the Redhawks to use three pitchers to get three outs. Latham finished the first inning alone with two hits and three RBI and five other Rebels drove in one run before the inning ended.
"I was down in the count and I was kind of fouling balls off and I knew that she wanted to probably come into the zone since she was biting around it a little bit," Latham said about her home run. "Even though I had two strikes on me I still wanted to put a good swing on the ball."
"She's humble," Ole Miss coach Mike Smith added. "She crushed that ball. That ball was hit a long way. Quit being humble. That ball was high as well as it was far. She got all of it."
After the first inning, Ole Miss' offense slowed down, only adding two more runs off a fourth-inning home run from third baseman Amanda Roth. But from that point, Ole Miss' pitching took over. Starting pitcher Brittany Finney threw three shutout innings, striking out five batters with no walks while allowing just two hits. Right-hander Ava Tillman relieved Finney beginning in the fourth inning, throwing two shutout, hitless innings to close out the game.
Over Ole Miss' three games in the Oxford Regional, Rebels pitchers have combined to allow one earned run in 17 innings pitched for an ERA of 0.53. Between Finney, Tillman and Molly Jacobsen, Ole Miss pitchers have combined to strike out 22 batters with no walks and have only allowed 10 hits.
"The pitching has been outstanding," Smith said. "It really has. They've given us an opportunity to win each ballgame."
The win was Ole Miss' second run-rule victory of the Oxford Regional, following after the Rebels defeated Chattanooga 12-0 on Friday night.
Ole Miss will return to action on Sunday to face off against Louisiana. Counting their win over the Rebels on Saturday, the Ragin' Cajuns have won 29 straight games, a streak that dates back to their last loss on March 20. If Ole Miss defeats Louisiana in the 2 p.m. game Sunday, that will force a third contest between the two teams with a spot in Super Regionals at stake. A Louisiana win would eliminate Ole Miss from the NCAA Tournament.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.