No. 18 Ole Miss softball will play for the SEC Tournament Championship Saturday night at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium after the Rebels defeated No. 15 Alabama, 4-1, in the first of two semifinal games.
The Rebels (39-18) will await the winner of Auburn/LSU in the second semifinal game, and play in the SEC Tournament Championship Game at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Ole Miss jumped on the Tide (42-16) early, and rode the arm of junior RHP Kaitlin Lee to its improbable third victory of the tournament. Lee, who’s thrown all the innings thus far, gave up just one earned run and scattered seven hits earning her 19th win of the year.
Offensively, the Rebels applied pressure throughout as the four slappers tallied a combined five hits. Senior Miranda Strother and junior Paige McKinney tallied four hits from the bottom two spots in the order, and Strother and fellow senior Dakota Matiko had one RBI each.
The big inning came in the second when the Rebels plated three and held the lead from there. Kaylee Horton got it started with an infield single, before a hit-and-run moved her to second off the bat of Courtney Syrett. McKinney then singled to center, and made a heads up play to slide into second safely on the throw in. That’s when Strother came up and came through with an RBI single into left, scoring Horton, to put Ole Miss in front 1-0. She then broke for second, got caught in a rundown, and McKinney slid in safely, extending the lead to 2-0.
After Elantra Cox grounded out to move Strother to third, Kylan Becker battled down 0-2 and came back to draw a walk, and then forced another defensive mistake when she broke for second, the throw came home, then back to second, before it was dropped resulting in another run scored and 3-0 lead.
From there, the Rebel defense shined behind Lee, including a big double play in the third when she handled a line drive back to her, and fired to Matiko at first for the double play. McKinney followed that nice play with an incredible pick on what would have been an infield hit, sitting down the Tide in the third.
Alabama again put a runner on in the fourth after a hit by pitch, before Cox ran down a foul ball near the Tide dugout, and a fly to center ended the frame.
Ole Miss tacked on an insurance run in the fifth when Matiko had the biggest at-bat of her senior season, cranking a solo blast to left-center field, extending the then lead to 4-0.
The Tide put another leadoff runner aboard in the fifth with a single to left, before McKinney handled a popup on the infield, then Ashton Lampton laid out to her right to snag a hard line drive saving a would-be extra-base hit. Lee then took a grounder back to the circle and fired to first ending the fifth.
Alabama scored its lone run in the sixth when the first two hitters reached on singles, before Bailey Hemphill lined one to right-center making it a 4-1 game. Cox then tracked down a fly ball in foul ground, before McKinney cut down the lead runner at third and snagged a popup to close the sixth with just one run allowed.
The Tide went on to put two runners aboard in the seventh when after Lee issued her first walk of the tournament, and Chandler Dare singled through the left side. But, a fly to left capped the game and secured the semifinal victory for the Rebels.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports