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TUCSON, Ariz. — After surviving its own NCAA Regional, Ole Miss has an even tougher task in this weekend’s Super Regionals — the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona is seeded sixth in the NCAA Tournament after compiling a 45-12 record this season. The Wildcats are in familiar territory in more than one way. Not only do they host Ole Miss at their own Hillenbrand Stadium, Arizona is hosting the Super Regionals for the eighth time. The Cats are 14-7 in Super Regionals and 11-6 at home.
Ole Miss (41-18, 13-10 SEC) is making its second Super Regional appearance in the history of the program, having lost a pair of one-run games to No. 5 national seed UCLA in Los Angeles in 2017. Ole Miss fought its way out of the loser’s bracket to win the 2019 NCAA Oxford Regional, defeating No. 7 Louisiana twice on Sunday to advance to Super Regionals.
Arizona (45-12, 19-5 PAC-12) is in its 34th season under head coach Mike Candrea–the second-winningest coach in NCAA softball history and the Division I leader in wins.
The Wildcats use a balance of offense and pitching to dominate their opponents. Arizona has belted 103 home runs this season. In the circle, Arizona has only allowed 108 runs all season.
Arizona’s power barrage is led by Jessie Harper. The junior has 65 career home runs which ranks her seventh in school history and tenth in league history. But Harper is not alone. A Wildcat either leads or is tied for the league lead in most offensive categories.
Reyna Carranco is hitting .432 and Harper leads with slugging percentage (.861), RBI (69), homers (28) and total bases (161). Dejah Mulipola has a league-high 41 walks.
Offense is only half of Arizona’s success.
Taylor McQuillan boasts a 22-7 record and a 1.54 earned run average. She has also struck out 205 batters. Alyssa Denham has fanned 105 hitters on her way to a 10-5 record. But those pitchers will have their hands full with the Ole Miss offense.
Senior Kylan Becker is hitting .426 and her nine triples helped her become the Ole Miss career leader in that category. First baseman Abbey Latham is hitting .333 and leads the team with 11 doubles and 10 home runs. Becker and Kylee Horton have 32 and 22 stolen bases, respectively.
In the circle, Molly Jacobsen has amassed a 14-7 record with 162 strikeouts. Brittany Finney is 18-9 with a 2.67 earned run average.
The softball connection: Arizona pitching coach Taryne Mowatt spent two years as an assistant at Ole Miss under coach Mike Smith. Mowatt coached current Rebel Brittany Finney and recruited Savannah Diederich.
The football connection: Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez came to Oxford after serving as the head coach at Arizona. He was in Tucson from 2012-17 and was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2014.
The Hollywood connection: In the motion picture, “Speed,” Sandra Bullock’s character had attended the University of Arizona. In the film adaptation of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill,” Bullock’s character attended law school at Ole Miss.
The alums: Arizona boasts such alumni as producer/director Jerry Bruckheimer, singer Linda Ronstadt, novelist Barbara Kingsolver and Joan Ganz Cooney, the creator of Sesame Street.
Something cool about U of A: “Revenge of the Nerds” was filmed on the Arizona campus. The first building on campus, “Old Main,” first held classes in 1891 and the building is still in use today.
Something cool about Tucson: Ole Miss can’t boast the only ‘Rebels. From August 1891 to mid-1892, Tucson served as the western capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory. Tucson is generally known as “The Ole Pueblo.” But in the 1980s, a contest was held to adopt a new nickname for the city. The winner was, “The Sunshine Factory.” The new name never caught on so most still refer to Tucson by its original nickname.
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Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Sunday, 7 p.m., ESPN2 (if necessary)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.