Ole Miss pitcher Kaitlin Lee knew Sunday was about more than just balls and strikes.
Lee, a junior college transfer who has emerged as the Cinderella story of the postseason, knew she needed to bring another dimension to the pitching circle.
“I came out there the first two innings, and that’s the first time someone scored on me right away in a while, so I just felt like my team needed my energy,” Lee said in her ESPN postgame interview on Sunday. “I felt like that it was my job to help pick them up.”
The Rebels (43-18) rallied to a 7-2 win over North Carolina (40-21) in the NCAA Regional in Oxford and advance to play UCLA in Los Angeles in the Super Regional best-of-three series beginning Thursday (time TBA).
Lee has had a magnificent postseason, now 7-0 through the SEC Softball Tournament and the NCAA Regionals.
Lee scattered five hits and two walks in pitching her seventh complete game victory of the postseason.
“I told the team when we took the field in the third inning, let’s take that momentum back,” Lee said. “I think the first two innings we had low energy and it was not ourselves. I know it was for me too.
“I went in the dugout and Coach T (Taryne Mowatt) came up to me and said, ‘I know you are tired and exhausted, but we are feeding off of you. Whatever it is, they are feeding off of your energy.”
Mowatt led Arizona to the 2007 Women’s College World Series as the team’s pitcher, winning tourney MVP honors along with two ESPY awards, including Best Female Athlete.
Lee is chasing that dream at Ole Miss, having led the program to its first-ever SEC Softball Tournament championship with her MVP performance, and now lifting the program to its first-ever Super Regional.
Lee pitched four complete games at the SEC tourney, allowing just three runs and walking one while fanning 12 in Knoxville against Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama and LSU.
In three games at the Oxford regional, Lee allowed two runs, walked three and fanned 11 in wins over Southern Illinois (8-0), Arizona State (2-0) and North Carolina (7-2).
Lee has tied Madi Osias’ single-season wins record (23) and is tied with with Amanda Fine’s single-season school record with 26 complete games.