Ole Miss Softball started their season off this past weekend in Troy, Alabama competing in the Trojan Classic. Their 2-2 start to the season showed the fans that they have plenty of talent (and power) but lack consistency in their pitching.
Savannah Diederich got the start in the opening game against UAB and pitched a solid 4.1 innings before turning the ball over to Ava Tillman who was lights out. The offense got going early with 5 runs in the 2nd and benefited greatly from solid days for both Tate Whitley and Jessie Puk. Almost everybody got in on the action offensively in Game 1 with a hit, run, or RBI. It was a great win over a good opening weekend opponent.
Game 2 for the Rebels was against the host team, Troy, later that day. Gabby Alvarez saw the ball well, going 2-2 with a walk, but she was alone in that aspect. The Rebels managed only 3 hits and 2 runs, 1 on an error and 1 on an Abbey Latham homerun. Those 2 runs were not enough to lead the Rebs to 2-0. Ava Tillman was solid in her first start of the season, but had a tough time with the Trojans. Troy came through with some big doubles with runners on and won their opening game 5-2.
On Saturday afternoon, Belmont opened up their season with a loss thanks to another strong outing from Savannah Diederich. As if the stifling pitching wasn’t enough for Ole Miss to pull past the Bruins, the Lady Rebels exploded on offense with 4 homeruns. Puk struck for 2, 3-run blasts on her 6-RBI day, and Ole Miss improved to 2-1 on the weekend with a 10-2 rout.
Later that afternoon, a rematch with the UAB Blazers gave Ole Miss its first repeat opponent of the young season. Ava Tillman struggled early despite the Rebels jumping out to a 4-2 lead. Diederich, who seemed to be locked in during her first 2 outings, struggled mightily coming into this one in the 3rd. She allowed just 1 hit but earned 3 runs and was pulled before recording an out. The 4th inning was also messy as the Blazers tacked on 5 more runs. Abby Latham and Tate Whitley did their part offensively, going a combined 4-5 with a walk, but shaky pitching performances and 4 errors ended this game after the 5th inning by the score of 13-5 in favor of the Blazers.
The opening weekend fireworks were exciting to watch. The 6 homeruns in the first 3 games were impressive. Puk with a 1.154 slugging pct. and Whitley with a .517 OBP led the way for the offense, but almost everybody had something to be proud of at the plate. The pitching was either really good or really bad. Diederich ran into some trouble in her 3rd performance of the season (2nd of the day), and that isn’t the biggest concern in the world. It is not easy to start game 1 on back-to-back days and then come in as relief in the second leg of a double header. The staff 4.08 ERA isn’t a nightmare for a team that hits the ball as well as they do, but the BAA needs to tick down way below its current mark of .300 if this team wants to compete in a loaded SEC.
This weekend’s “Strike-Out Cancer” Tournament in Boca Raton will feature 3 games against their first Power 5 opponent, Iowa State, as well as 2 games against the host team FAU. Hopefully all the games will be played, and the Rebel pitching staff can show some much-needed improvement.