By Adam Brown
Ole Miss sets up a rematch with the host Arizona Wildcats after splitting a pair of games in the Tucson Regional on Saturday. The Rebels eliminated the Villanova Wildcats in the fifth game of the regional by a score of 6-2.
Ole Miss (36-21) found themselves in the elimination portion of the bracket after falling to Arizona 12-6 in the first game of the day.
Against Arizona, the Rebels fell behind 8-0 after two home runs by Dejah Mulipola and a grand slam by Sharlize Palacios in the second inning. Mulipola finished the game going 2-for-3 with two home runs, a walk and three runs scored.
Ole Miss quickly responded in the next two frames with six unanswered runs with home runs by Abbey Latham (in the second) and one by Autumn Gillespie that capped off the third.
“(Autumn and Abbey) both have a winner’s mentality,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “Autumn is elite behind the plate, and Abbey has been our best hitter the last handful of weeks.”
Ava Tillmann came in relief for the starter Savannah Diederich in the third. Tillmann kept the Arizona sluggers at bay for three innings and only allowed two hits until the sixth.
Arizona scored their final four runs in the sixth inning to secure the win.
In the second game against Villanova, Ole Miss jumped on top of the Wildcats with four runs in the first. The Rebels sent 10 batters to the plate as Blaise Biringer got a base knock followed up by four of the next six batters who got aboard with a hit.
“Setting the tone from the start is a great thing,” Latham said. “It gives our pitchers some confidence to go on the mound and do their thing. Let the hitters free up their mind and not put so much pressure on them.”
The Rebels had Anna Borgen back in the circle against the Wildcats. Borgen tossed three scoreless innings on two hits with two strikeouts.
Ole Miss added a run in the fourth as Biringer got her second hit of the night and came across on an RBI single by Latham.
Trachsel brought Diedrich in out of the bullpen in the fourth. The right-hander allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts in two innings.
Villanova got on the board in the bottom of the frame on a solo blast to left-center by Ally Jones.
The Rebels responded with a solo shot of their own in the fifth off the bat of senior Kacey Hvitved.
Villanova cut back into the Rebels advantage after a home run by Tess Cites.
Ole Miss will have to defeat Arizona twice on Sunday to punch their ticket to the Super Regionals. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT and the channel is TBA.