Ole Miss softball’s season came to an end Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Regional Final, falling to No. 15 Utah 4-1.
“I’m proud of the fight that we had today,” said head coach Jamie Trachsel. “We were ready to go. It’s just a game of execution, and we got out-punched a little bit, giving up that three spot in the second inning … I wish we could continue to coach these people, these super seniors, because they’ve been a blast, and they’ve done an incredible job leading our program and our team.”
It marked the end of a challenging season in which the Rebels played 28 games, over half its schedule, against ranked opponents. Despite playing the sixth toughest schedule nationally, Ole Miss found a way to win 32 games and make it to the Regional Final for the third straight year. Four seniors in Mikayla Allee, Savana Sikes, Mya Stevenson and Tate Whitley also took the field for the final time in their decorated careers.
Ole Miss threatened, putting runners in scoring position in the first and second inning, but was unable to capitalize. After a one-two-three first inning from Catelyn Riley, the Utes strung together five hits and cashed them in for three runs. A leadoff single followed by a two-run home run to put Utah up 2-0. They tacked on another run after a pair of singles, but Ole Miss escaped the inning after Paige Smith threw out a runner at the plate to keep it a three-run game.
The Rebels had to make another defensive stand in the third to keep the Utes from blowing things open. Utah loaded the bases with one out, but Ole Miss’ defense held its own, getting an out at the plate on a fielder’s choice and a foul out to escape the jam.
Still looking for their first run of the game, the Rebels continued to barrel up the ball right at Utah defenders. Allee tried to start a two-out rally, sending a double in the gap all the way out to the wall, but a strikeout cut things short.
Utah added a run in the fourth, forcing Riley out of the circle. Grace Sparks took over and quickly retired all three batters she faced to minimize the damage. The freshman kept a high-powered Utah offense off the board for the remained of the game, tossing three shutout innings.
Trailing by four, Aynslie Furbush was hit by a pitch to start the fifth inning. She helped turn the order over the top of the lineup, and Jalia Lassiter smacked a double in the gap to score pinch-runner, Tenly Grisham. Lassiter, however, was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit for her sixth triple of the season.
Needing a late rally, senior Tate Whitley singled in the sixth with two outs in what was her final at-bat in a Rebel uniform, but that was all for the Rebels. Senior Savana Sikes registered a two-out hit in her last collegiate at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, but Utah was able to come away with a 4-1 victory, ending Ole Miss’ season.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports