This must be just like living in paradise, and I don’t want to go home.
Van Halen, 1984
It has been more than three decades since the iconic rock band recorded that song, but after the first week of the softball season, no one could blame the Ole Miss team for using it to petition the university to establish a satellite campus in Honolulu.
Not only did the Rebels get the opportunity to explore the sites and attractions of the Hawaiian Islands, they also took care of a little business winning the 2016 Oceanic Time Warner Paradise Classic.
Rebels defeat host Hawaii in title game
Ole Miss went 4-1 in the three-day event defeating host Hawaii 6-5 in a dramatic, extra-inning championship game. The Rebs rallied late in the title game, scoring three runs in the seventh inning and winning it in the eighth.
Trailing 5-2 in the top of the seventh, sophomore Alex Schneider drilled a three-run bomb to tie the score and send the game into extra innings. In the eighth, Haley Culley began the inning on second base and was quickly sacrificed to third on Dakota Matiko’s bunt. Ashton Lampton followed with a single to center to score the eventual game-winning run.
“It (the rally) happened pretty fast, we got a base hit and a hit batter and then we had two or three kids coming up that could do it with one swing,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Smith said. “Alex had a great at bat with a great two-strike approach. She fouled a couple off to make sure she would dictate the at bat and then she got a hold of one.”
Hawaii got a runner to third in the bottom of the inning, but Kayla Landwehrmier shut down the threat to preserve the win.
Earlier in the day, Ole Miss topped St. Mary’s 10-2 in six innings.
Prior to the tournament, the Rebels were able to see the island, visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and the Dole Pineapple Plantation, as well as taking part in a traditional luau.
“We gave the kids some time off and some of them went paddle boarding and body surfing on Waikiki,” Smith said. “But we didn’t want to give them too long in the sun because it was a business trip.”
Taking care of business
The Rebels also defeated St. Mary’s 5-0, Missouri-Kansas City 5-4 and fell to Hawaii 3-0.
Offensively, senior Natalie Martinez paced Ole Miss by going 7-for-14 at the plate, while freshman Hailey Lunderman picked up a team-high eight hits. Schneider, Miranda Strother and Courtney Syrett each homered in the event.
“Overall it was a really great way to start our season off. We had a lot of depth and were capable of using that depth,” Martinez said. “It was really fun this week. We went out and had some freshmen really step up and it’s so nice to see we have such a great pitching staff to turn to. We’re ready to get back going next weekend.”
The Hawaii trip had been on the Rebels’ schedule for about a year, and such a trip should be on future slates. Smith said he hopes to put together an early-season trip each year to a warm-weather destination such as California, Arizona, Texas or south Florida.
OLE MISS NOTES:
- The team obviously had time to bond during the trip. The airplane trip home began Saturday at 9 p.m. (3 a.m. Sunday, central standard time), included a layover in Los Angeles and Atlanta before arriving in Memphis to bus back to Oxford. The team was expected back on campus about 7 p.m., 16 hours after taking off from Honolulu.
- Ole Miss visited the USS Arizona Memorial during the trip. According to official records, of the 1,177 servicemen killed on that ship during the Pearl Harbor attack, nine were Mississippians.
- The Rebels are next in action beginning Friday at the Troy Classic in Alabama. Although the event is out of state, there is an Egg Bowl connection. Trojans’ second-year coach Beth Mullins took the Troy job after serving three seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State.
- The team had a good following in Hawaii and even had a little slice of home at the Dole Pineapple Plantation. When the Rebels arrived, an Ole Miss flag was flying in front of the complex.
(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)