Paige Smith’s tenth-inning home run capped off a thrilling start to the 2023 SEC Softball Tournament as No. 11 Ole Miss softball took down No. 6 LSU Wednesday morning at Bogle Park.
Playing their longest game of the season, the Rebels (30-25, 8-16 SEC) battled in extra innings with LSU (40-15, 13-11 SEC). Tate Whitley and Lexie Brady each registered multiple hits on the day, while Jalia Lassiter reached base four out of five times and flashed her speed to score a pair of early runs. Catelyn Riley had a strong start in the circle going 4.1 innings. She passed the ball off to Aynslie Furbush, who didn’t allow a hit in the final 5.1 innings to pick up the victory.
LSU struck first in the opening inning, taking an early lead. A leadoff walk came around to score on an RBI single with two outs. Riley, who faced six batters in the inning, went on to cruise through the next three in the circle.
The Rebels utilized their speed to create chaos on the basepaths and take the lead in the third. Brady reached on an error to start the third and went first-to-third on a passed ball to move 60 feet away. She tied the game up on a fielder’s choice by Lassiter beating the throw to the plate.
Even at one, Lassiter scored from second the very next batter thanks to a combination of heads-up base running. Tate Whitley laid down a perfect bunt and took off for second since no one was coving the base. With the Tigers focused on Whitley, Lassiter sprinted home to help the Rebels take a 2-1 lead.
Ole Miss tacked on a third run in the fifth. Once again, it was Lassiter’s speed on the bases that put pressure on the LSU defense. She swiped second base and scored from second on a ground ball back to the pitcher that was misplayed to make it a 3-1 game.
The Tigers, however, tied it back up in the bottom of the fifth on a two-RBI double past a diving Lassiter in the gap. With one out and LSU still threatening, the Rebels made the call to the bullpen for Furbush. She took over in the circle and retired the next two batters to escape the jam and keep the score tied at three.
After a quiet sixth inning from both teams, Ole Miss had an opportunity to plate the game-winning run in the seventh. Brady led off the inning with a double in the gap, but the Tigers to brought in their ace to stall the Ole Miss offense. In the bottom half of the inning, Brooke Vestal was called in to pitch with a runner on and two outs. She recorded the final out via flyout to send the game to extras in Fayetteville.
Furbush reentered the game in the eighth and continued to deal in the eighth and ninth, thanks to spectacular defensive play. Mikayla Allee, Whitley and Lassiter all robbed hits from LSU.
Going into the 10th inning, Ole Miss looked to retake the lead with the heart of its order coming to the dish. Whitley led off the inning with a base hit, slapping a flare into shallow left field. Smith stepped into the box next and crushed a two-shot off the top of the wall and over the fence down the left field line to send the Rebel dugout into a frenzy.
Needing just three more outs, Furbush retired the Tigers in order to help Ole Miss win its opening game at the SEC Tournament for the second straight season.
The Rebels advance to the second round of the tournament. They’ll take on No. 3 seed Auburn Thursday morning at 10 a.m. CT on SEC Network.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports