Ole Miss Softball Set For Troy Invitational
Published 3:22 pm Friday, February 18, 2022
• Ole Miss continues its 11 game road stand to start the season, traveling to Troy, Alabama, for the Troy Invitational. The Rebels are scheduled to play five games, taking on Nicholls State, Eastern Kentucky and host Troy.
•The Rebels ended their West Coast trip with a 4-2 record, picking up victories over Dixie State, Colorado State, Cal State Fullerton and Cal.
• Ole Miss returns to Oxford next week to host in-state foe Southern Miss in the home-opener on Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.
• Catcher KK Esparza started got off to a hot start in her collegiate career, tallying seven hits, including her first career home run. The Friendswood, Texas, native currently ranks third in the SEC among freshmen with a .500 batting average.
• Right-hand pitcher Savannah Diederich was lights out in relief for the Rebels opening weekend. The senior only surrendered one run in 13 innings of work.
• Senior outfielder Tate Whitley led Ole Miss last season with a team-high .370 batting average. After going 6-of-17 in California, the senior ranks fifth in program history with a .326 career average.
• In her fifth season in a Rebel uniform, Anna Borgen has established herself as one of the top pitchers in Ole Miss history, ranking sixth all-time with a 2.44 career ERA.
• One of the Rebels’ top offensive weapons in Abbey Latham is back for an extra season in Oxford. The fifth year senior currently ranks inside the top five in program history in doubles (33), home runs (29), RBIs (121) and slugging percentage (.538).
Justin Lewis is in his first season as head coach at Nicholls State after being hired in July 2021. He takes over the reins after spending a season at Fresno State. Nicholls State is coming off a 1-3 weekend at the Lion Classic, picking up a 7-3 win over Alabama A&M. The Colonels also played a midweek against a nationally ranked Louisiana team, falling 2-10 in five innings. Nicholls State is batting .292 as a team, tallying 35 hits and 22 RBIs. Melise Gossen poses the biggest threat in the Colonel lineup. The junior is hitting .500 and slugging 1.100 with three doubles and a home run. Paris Lehman paces Nicholls State in the circle with a 4.20 ERA through 13.1 innings pitched.
Head Coach Jane Worthington, is in her 30th season at Eastern Kentucky, guiding her team to three Ohio Valley Conference titles and three NCAA tournament appearances. The Colonels opened the season last weekend at the Northern Lights Southern Nights Tournament in Leesburg, Fla. Eastern Kentucky took on Iowa, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Penn State and No. 23 Northwestern, dropping all five contests. Playing their sixth consecutive game against a Power 5 opponent, the Colonels are searching for their first win of the season against the Rebels. As a team, EKU is hitting .161 through its first five games of the season. Two-way player Samantha Reynoso leads the team with a .333 average and owns a 7.07 ERA in the circle with 14.0 innings pitched on the year.
Beth Mullins returns for her eighth season at the helm of the Troy Softball program after leading Troy back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years in 2021. The host, Troy, heads into the invitational 5-1. After losing the season opener to the College of Charleston, the Trojans have won five straight. The Trojans have scored 36 runs in their last five games. 2021 NFCA All-South Region First Teamer Kelly Horne leads Troy with six hits, three of which have left the ballpark. Horne has also been walked a team-high 11 times. Leanna Johnson has been dominant in the circle, allowing six runs in 25.0 innings pitched while striking out 35 batters.
ONE LAST RIDE
In 2022, four Rebels will be exercising their fifth season of eligibility as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three returners in Abbey Latham, Anna Borgen and Sydney Gutierrez, along with Georgia Tech transfer Bre Roper are set to cap off their collegiate careers in Ole Miss uniforms.
Freshman KK Esparza got off to a hot start in her collegiate career, leading the Rebels with a .500 batting average and seven hits at the Easton Invitational last weekend. She also launched her first-career home run in the second inning, lifting Ole Miss to a 1-0 victory over Cal. The Friendswood, Texas, native currently ranks third in the SEC among freshmen with a .500 batting average and is in the top 100 nationally.
SHUT DOWN STUFF
After ranking second in the SEC and 11th in the nation last season with 16 shutouts, the Rebels’ pitching staff is back at it. Ole Miss tallied its first shutout of the season, blanking Cal 1-0 in the final game of the Easton Invitational last weekend. Borgen and Diederich combined for the shutout, tossing 2.1 and 3.2 innings in the victory.
Borgen, who is entering her fifth season in a Rebel uniform, has established herself as one of the most accomplished pitchers in Ole Miss history, ranking sixth all-time with a career ERA of 2.44, while Diederich ranks 10th with a 2.64 ERA. Together, the duo packs a one-two punch for the Rebel pitching staff.
One of the Rebels’ top offensive weapons in Abbey Latham returns for an extra season in Oxford. The fifth-year senior is coming off one of her most productive seasons and is ready to continue it into the 2022 season. Latham currently ranks inside the top five in program history in doubles (35), home runs (29), RBIs (124) and slugging percentage (.532). Climbing her way through the record books, the Livingston, Alabama, native looks to cement her legacy as one of the Rebel greats.
Last season, Paige Smith added a much welcome punch to the Rebel lineup. In 2021, Smith earned SEC All-Newcomer honors after starting all 58 games for the Rebels. She was an offensive force for Ole Miss, scoring 31 runs and driving in 39 with her bat. The sophomore slugged a team-high .524 and became the ninth Rebel in program history to hit double-digit home runs in a season, finishing with 11. The junior wasted no time this season, blasting a three-run shot in her first at bat of 2022.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Ole Miss Softball Complex has been an absolute fortress for the Rebels over the last few years. After going a perfect 8-0 at home in 2020, Ole Miss won each of its first 13 home games in 2021 to set the program record for a streak within the same season, finishing off the streak with 24 straight home victories overall. Finishing the season 24-3 at the Ole Miss Softball Complex, the Rebels have won 57-of-65 games in Oxford dating back to the start of the 2019 season.
Outside of SEC play, the Rebels have been nothing short of dominant when playing in front of its home crowd. Ole Miss has won 42-straight non-conference regular season home games in a row, having not fallen to a non-SEC team in Oxford during the regular season since a 5-0 defeat to Boston College in 2018.
Following the conclusion of the 2021 season, Ole Miss announced the addition of two transfers who look to contribute right out of the gate. Utility player Bre Roper joins the Rebels from Georgia Tech as a fifth-year senior. With the Yellowjackets, Roper was a four-year starter, racking up 53 extra base hits, including 34 doubles and 16 home runs in her career. Last season, she started 44-of-46 games, ranking fourth in the GT lineup with a .298 batting average and pacing the team with 42 runs scored. Also making her way to Oxford is junior right-hand pitcher Brooke Vestal. The former No. 1 recruit in the nation by FloSoftball and high-school All-American joins the Rebels after spending the last three seasons at Oklahoma. In 2021, she saw action in seven games, including one start, surrendering just three hits on the year in 7.1 innings of work and recording five strikeouts.
ROOKIES IN THE RANKINGS
Head coach Jamie Trachsel’s first recruiting class at Ole Miss welcomed nine freshmen to Oxford. The talented group ranked No. 10 in the nation by Extra Innings Softball bolsters a healthy mix of talent across the field. The class includes eight total signees, including four members of Extra Innings’ Elite 100 Player Rankings.
Infielder Brooke Barnard was tabbed as the No. 11 ranked recruit in Extra Innings Softball’s 2021 Recruiting Rankings. A three-time letterwinner at Palm Beach Gardens High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Barnard helped lead PBGHS to district championships in 2018 and 2019, while receiving all-district, all-county and all-state honors in both seasons.
A three-time South Dakota First Team All-State and four-time Class A All-Tournament Fastpitch honoree, Lexie Brady checks in tied for 52nd in Extra Innings Softball’s Recruiting Rankings. As a senior at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Brady hit .544 with nine doubles, a triple and eight home runs, scoring 35 runs and driving in 28 more.
Makenna Segal comes to Oxford ranked tied for 65th in Extra Innings Softball’s Recruiting Rankings. A four-time letterwinner at South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, she set school records in career batting average (.489), career on-base percentage (.620), home runs (34) and career walks (118).
KK Esparza rounds out the Rebel freshman class in the Extra Innings Softball’s Recruiting Rankings at No. 69. Esparza was a three-time letterwinner at Friendswood High School in Friendswood, Texas, where she played under Olympic gold medalist Christa Williams-Yates.
OLE MISS PICKED 9TH IN PRESEASON SEC POLL
Ole Miss has been picked 9th in the 2022 Preseason SEC Softball Poll. Last season, Ole Miss finished eighth in the conference after being picked last in the coaches’ poll. The Rebels garnered a 12-12 record in league play in 2021, with the 12 wins ranking as the second-most ever in a season in program history. In five of the past six completed seasons, Ole Miss has outperformed its projection in the conference preseason rankings.
SOFTBALL SIGNS NATION’S NO. 3 SIGNING CLASS FOR 2022
Trachsel’s second signing class at Ole Miss, the Rebel class is ranked No. 3 in the nation by Extra Innings Softball, features seven plays ranked inside the top-200 in Extra Inning’s rankings, with six incoming Rebs garnering Extra Elite 100 status.
The $350 Million CHAMPIONS. NOW. capital campaign has been established to vastly improve the Ole Miss Athletics facilities and raise the standard for the Rebels level of competitiveness and success within the Southeastern Conference and nationally.
The Ole Miss Softball Complex is one of the first phases of the plans with a $20 million stadium renovation, featuring a larger press box, upgraded grandstands, enlarged bullpens, as well as improved team offices and storage, helping raise the standard.
For all Ole Miss softball news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball, on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball and on Instagram at Instagram.com/