OXFORD, Miss. — “The kids are alright.”
Although that phrase is most closely associated with the song of the same name by rock legends, “The Who,” it seems to aptly fit the 2019 Ole Miss softball team.
The season did not end the way the team and its fans wanted as the Rebels finished with a two-game sweep at the hands of Arizona over the weekend, but a look at head coach Mike Smith’s team bodes well for 2020.
Yes, there are losses that will be felt deeply. Kylan Becker, Brittany Finney, and Izzy Werdann are all seniors who will be sorely missed. Becker, the prototypical leadoff hitter, used her speed to not only get on base, but to take the extra base, and her defense was key in the Rebels’ 41-20 season.
Finney was a dual threat for Ole Miss. Not only was she formidable as a pitcher, but she also provided incredible power at the plate.
But just look at who comes back in 2020.
In the circle, Molly Jacobsen returns. Starting out as somewhat of an unknown commodity as a junior college transfer, all she did was finish the season with 14 wins and lead the team in innings pitched.
Sophomore Ava Tillman also comes back after earning valuable experience spelling Jacobsen and Finney in the circle.
The lineup should be solid as well next season as the entirety of the defense returns except for Becker in centerfield.
In the infield, Amanda Roth is back at third, Mikayla Allee at shortstop, Jessica Puk at second, Abbey Latham at first and Autumn Gillespie behind the plate.
In the outfield, Kaylee Horton is back as is Freshman All-SEC performer, Tate Whitley.
Gabby Alvarez and the speedy Kelsha Lofton also return after posting solid performances in 2019.
And that is what the 2019 team was — solid.
In its 40 wins, Ole Miss beat Women’s College World Series bound Oklahoma State as well as Florida.
The Rebels also competed well against two other WCWS-bound teams — UCLA and Texas.
Ole Miss beat tournament teams Kentucky, Mississippi State, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and dropped a game to Boise State.
Don’t forget the Oxford regional when the Rebels beat a 50-win Louisiana team twice—and their NCAA win-leading pitcher Summer Ellyson—to reach the Super Regionals.
The ace in the hole in the Ole Miss hand is head coach Mike Smith. In just five seasons in Oxford, he has turned the Rebels from an afterthought in the SEC to a force in the conference. Before he arrived on campus, Ole Miss had never reached the NCAA Tournament. Under his leadership, the Rebels have played in two Super Regionals.
But the thing he has done is make the Ole Miss softball brand appealing to recruits nationwide. He has the ability to sell the program to recruits around the country and the campus setting sells itself.
It is like the old adage, “If you don’t want to go to Ole Miss, don’t take a visit.”
Perhaps Becker best summarized the shape of the Rebels’ softball program. “Every year just keeps getting better. I think we have a pretty good recruiting class coming in,” she said. “We only lose three players, and that’s a really young team and they look really good. There’s a lot of fight in them. I think they’re going to be good next year.”
That’s just another way to say, — “The kids are alright.”
Ole Miss Super Regional Post Game Press Conference – Day Two