By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss softball team continues on the road this weekend as they travel down to the Sunshine State of Florida to take part in the FAU “Strike-Out Cancer” Tournament in Boca Raton. The first pitch for the Rebels will be Friday at 10 a.m.
Ole Miss (2-2) will be joining Iowa State and FAU in the tournament.
The Rebels are coming off of a split weekend to open the 2021 season at the Trojan Classic in Troy, Alabama. The Rebels split their doubleheaders both days, defeating UAB and Belmont and falling to the host Trojans and the Blazers.
Senior utility player Jessica Puk was on fire at the plate during the opening weekend, posting a .385 average with a 1.154 slugging percentage. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native led or tied for the SEC lead with eight RBIs, 15 total bases and three home runs, ranking second in the league with seven runs scored.
The Rebels had plenty in the tank in the power department, launching six home runs at the Trojan Classic, including four times against Belmont. It was the first time in program history that the Rebels homered at least six times in the first three games of the season.
In the Trojan Classic, the pitching staff racked up 28 strikeouts in 24 innings during the opening weekend. Savannah Diederich led the way with 14 Ks, including a career-high nine against Belmont.
Ole Miss will open the tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones who are coming off of a 5-0 weekend at the Doc Halverson Uni Dome Tournament that featured wins over South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Butler, Omaha and Drake. Iowa State outscored opponents 38-7, reaching double-digit runs in two of those victories.
At the plate, Iowa State returns its top five sluggers including 2019 All-American Sami Williams. Willams is a true power hitter and is Iowa State’s all-time home run record holder with 46 career dingers. She also ranks as the NCAA’s active leader in doubles.
The Cyclones pitching staff returns its entire pitching staff from 2020. All 158.1 innings of work a year ago were handled by the freshman trio of Karlie Charles, Janessa Jasso and Ellie Spelhaug. The group had a combined ERA of 3.18 and allowed opponents to hit just .270. Although they have a year of experience under their belt, the rotation is still young.
On Friday afternoon, the Rebels will take the diamond against the host school FAU who opened its season at the FIU Tournament going 1-3. The Owls fell to Winthrop and FIU on the first day of action and split the doubleheader with Winthrop on Saturday, earning their first win of 2021. Through four games this year, Burke paces the Owls offensively, batting .500 with five hits and three RBIs.
The Owls have a senior quartet of pitcher Kara Lokeinsky, catcher Kaitlyn Burke and outfielders Gretchen Ebert and Fayth Davis are expected to lead the Owls in 2021. Lokeinsky owned a 2.87 ERA in 12 appearances a year ago, while Burke led the team in batting average (.355), hits (22), RBIs (15) and total bases (29).
Ole Miss will take the diamond twice on Friday (10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m) and Saturday (11 a.m. and 4 p.m) and once on Sunday (8:30 a.m.).