KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ole Miss left Lee Stadium as champion of the most decorated SEC Softball Tournament in history, and less than 24 hours later, the Rebels were rewarded for it.
“It’s part of a legacy these girls are trying to create,” third-year Ole Miss coach Mike Smith said, discussing the likelihood his program would earn a top-16 seed and thereby be an NCAA Softball Regional host for the first time.
“They deserve this because they put the time and the work in,” Smith said. “They wanted to play in front of their fans and the city of Oxford and the people who have supported us the three years I’ve been there.”
Ole Miss (40-18) is the NCAA Softball Tournament’s No. 12 seed and will play host to Arizona State (30-20), North Carolina (38-19) and Southern Illinois (33-22) starting on Friday.
Ole Miss coach Mike Smith and SEC Softball Tournament MVP Kaitlin Lee discuss Rebels 5-1 title game victory
Posted by SEC Country on Saturday, May 13, 2017
The Pac-12 at-large Sun Devils open play at the Ole Miss complex at 6 p.m. ET on Friday against ACC tournament runner-up North Carolina. TV: ESPN.
The Rebels, making their second NCAA Softball Tournament appearance, play at 8:30 p.m. ET against the Missouri Valley Conference tourney champ Salukis.
Ole Miss made 1 error in 28 innings of play at the SEC Softball Tournament, and tourney MVP Kaitlin Lee issued 1 walk in pitching 4 complete games — at that, on a 3-2 pitch she contends was not a ball.
The Rebels, as a No. 8 seed in the SEC tourney, were the lowest-seeded team to win the championship in the 21-year history of event.
All this, after starting this season 0-6 in SEC play.
“I think we’re a great team right now, and we’re playing on all cylinders,” Smith said. “I would not want to play Ole Miss in softball right now, I really wouldn’t.”
Smith’s team beat Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama to reach the SEC tourney title game for the first time in school history, and then knocked off LSU 5-1 in the championship game on Saturday night.