Rebels’ Fall Slate Begins Sept. 23
Rebels Claimed SEC Tournament Title Last Season
Ole Miss One of 14 Programs Honored for NFCA Division I Regional Coaching Staff of the Year Award
Rebels Close Year at 43-20 in First Ever NCAA Super Regional Appearance
Game Two Set for 8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT Friday Night on ESPN
Three years in and Mike Smith has done more than turn the Ole Miss Softball program around. Behind his leadership, the Rebels have quickly become a respectable, national contender on many levels.
In three seasons his teams have tied the school wins record, then broken it, then reset it a year later in 2017. Ole Miss had only two winning seasons in 18 years prior to Smith’s arrival, but fast forward three years, and the list of accolades have already piled up.
Two NCAA Tournament appearances, including an NCAA Super Regional run in 2017, the 2017 SEC Tournament Title, and 114 total wins are just to name a few.
The resurgence began back on May 29, 2014 when Smith was announced as the fifth head coach of the program. Since, the record books have been rewritten and the Rebels have enjoyed many firsts both on and off the diamond.
The 2017 edition, with many of the same players from 2016’s team, didn’t settle for just a turnaround. They wanted more, and got more. Ole Miss put together a 43-win season, topping the 2016 wins record by two, and won seven of its final 12 SEC contests to rebound from an 0-6 start. After a 10th-place pick in the SEC Preseason Poll, the Rebels rallied to finish eighth and earn the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament.
But, the seeding didn’t faze them, as they went on to top Mississippi State, shock No. 1 Florida, top No. 15 Alabama for the third time, and eventually beat No. 21 LSU for the fourth time to claim the school’s first-ever SEC Tournament title. That feat earned them the No. 12 national seed in the NCAA Tournament to host the first-ever NCAA Regional in Oxford. After a clean sweep there, Smith’s Rebels headed west to take on No. 5 UCLA, falling in two one-run games to cap yet another historic season.
For the second-straight year, three of Smith’s players earned NFCA All-South Region honors, as Elantra Cox picked up First Team accolades for the second consecutive year. Kylan Becker and Kaitlin Lee were named Third Team selections. Becker, a rising star in the outfield, became the school’s first ever All-SEC First Team selection, while Lee picked up Second Team All-SEC honors. Freshman Morgan Bruce became the school’s first ever pitcher to earn All-Freshman Team honors.
To mirror the team’s success and breaking of records, the fans again did their part resetting the top-10 list of largest home crowds. The three NCAA Regional crowds alone all rank 1-2-3 on the single-game attendance list, as 1,709 saw the Rebels take down North Carolina in the regional final on Sunday. 1,677 witnessed Friday’s opening day, and 1,539 braved out a rain delay for a three-day total of 4,925, which would better the series attendance record by nearly 2,000.
Smith and his staff earned one of top coaching awards in college softball, being named the NFCA Regional Staff of the Year for the South Region, also a first-time honor in school history.
The 2016 edition of the Ole Miss Softball team won 41 games en route to the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The road there was peppered with highlights as well, as the Rebels tied the school record for SEC wins at 11 and advanced to the SEC Tournament for the fifth time after being picked 12th in the preseason poll. But, they didn’t just qualify for the tournament. This time, the Rebels came up a winner as the program claimed its first ever SEC Tournament win thanks to a 4-2 victory over No. 15 Georgia on May 11.
Long before Ole Miss’ deep run in the postseason was a regular season that started well, and featured many team and individual high points along the way. Smith’s group started out 8-2, the first team to do so, before going on a school record 12-game win streak from Feb. 24 to March 9. The Rebels also put together a 15-game non-conference win streak, which was also a school record.
Through the first 23 games of the campaign, Ole Miss had only lost three times, the fastest start in program history for the diamond Rebs. Then 28 games in, the Rebels’ win total already topped nine of the previous season’s win totals in the 20-year history of the program, still with the last half of the season left to play.
Along the way, Smith earned his 800th career win as a head coach in a midweek victory over Central Arkansas on March 15. His squad debuted in the crucial NCAA RPI at No. 29, and eventually rose to 27th where they finished, also highest in school history.
Smith’s squad snapped multiple streaks to longtime SEC powerhouses, including defeating Georgia for the first time in 13 years, as well as snapping a seven year skid to Tennessee to cap the miraculous regular season that ended at 38-19 overall and 11-13 in league action.
In NCAA Regional action, the Rebels were victorious in game one for their first ever NCAA Tournament win in their first try, and went on to top Wichita State as well.
All season, thanks to the team’s success under Smith, record-breaking crowds showed up at the Ole Miss Softball Complex en route to a record-breaking year for attendance.
The season total attendance of 13,506 across 29 home contests shattered the previous record by 6,000-plus, and seven of the top ten crowds in program history all came in 2016. Seven of the Rebels’ final nine SEC games at home resulted in record crowds, including a program best 1,410 against No. 9 Tennessee on May 7.
On the field, the team finished the historic campaign with 11 wins against top-50 RPI squads, six of which came away from home, and achieved its highest RPI in recorded history of No. 27. Of the 22 losses, 15 came against top-25 RPI teams, and the Rebels in some way appeared in the top-25 national polls nearly all season long, finishing No. 24 in the final ESPN.com/USA Today Poll for the first time in school history.
Smith coached three Rebels to NFCA All-Region honors, including sophomore outfielder Elantra Cox (First Team), freshman shortstop Hailey Lunderman (Second Team), and senior pitcher Madi Osias (Third Team). Lunderman was also a Top-10 Finalist for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Award, and earned All-Freshman SEC honors following her stellar season.
Thanks to the team’s best season to date, Smith was awarded a contract extension on June 7, ensuring he and Ole Miss’ commitment to the softball program for the long term future.
In Smith’s first season as a Rebel, Smith came up aces, tying the then school record for wins in a season and putting an offense on the field that rewrote the record books. The Rebels set every offensive record for a season, including batting average, runs scored, RBI, home runs, triples, walks, steals and both on base percentage and slugging percentage. Ole Miss also tied the school record for doubles in his first season.
Under his direction in year one, the Rebels advanced to the SEC Tournament for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since the 2008 season. The 30-wins tied the mark for wins in a year set in 2005 and gave Smith a winning record in his first year. Ole Miss also doubled its win total in Southeastern Conference play, tallying six wins which equaled the total number of conference wins in the previous two seasons combined.
He also coached outfielder Elantra Cox to Freshman All-SEC honors as she finished the regular season fourth in steals and seventh in the career record books with 30 in her debut campaign.
Smith came to Ole Miss after he led the McNeese State softball program to three-straight 30-plus win seasons in his three years with the Cowgirls.
He led McNeese State to back-to-back Southland Conference regular season championships in 2013 and 2014, its first since 1994, brought 16 years of head coaching experience to Oxford and a career record of 748-224. He was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
The Cowgirls went 40-17 during the regular season in 2014, a school record for wins in a season, and posted a 3-1 record against Southeastern Conference opponents Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. The Cowgirls finished the season with an RPI ranking of No. 46 and won the Southland Conference regular season title by 4.5 games with a 20-6 record.
In addition to Smith being named SLC Coach of the Year in 2014, the Cowgirls also had the conference's player of the year, hitter of the year and pitcher of the year. In all, the Cowgirls had nine players named to either the SLC first, second, third or honorable mention teams.
Under Smith's tutelage, the Cowgirls had two players named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-South Region team in outfielder Alanna DiVittorio and pitcher Jamie Allred.
DiVittorio, the Southland Conference player and hitter of the year, was the first player in program history to earn first team all-region honors. As a senior in 2014, DiVittorio broke a combined nine school and conference records.
Allred, the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, earned second team all-region honors. She finished 2014 with a school-record 27 wins, as well as 10 shutouts.
Both players earned first team All-SLC honors this season and were each Capital One Academic All-District selections. DiVittorio was also named to the Capital One Academic All-America team, becoming just the second player in program history to earn the distinction.
In 2013, his second season with McNeese State, Smith had five players named to the All-SLC team and four named to the All-SLC Academic Team. On the field, the Cowgirls tied a then-program record with 38 wins, going 38-13.
In his first season with McNeese State in 2012, Smith led the Cowgirls to a 3-1 win over Arizona State, the defending national champions and preseason No. 1 team in the country at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. McNeese State went on to go 34-21 that season.
Prior to McNeese State, Smith coached for eight seasons at California Baptist where he won the NAIA National Championship in 2009, and finished in the top-six in the country all eight years, including seven years finishing inside the top-four. The Lancers won their conference championship and advanced to the NAIA World Series all eight years, and won 60 or more games in each of Smith's final four seasons, concluding with a school-record 66 wins in 2011.
Smith was the interim head coach at UC Riverside prior to his time at California Baptist, and in the four years prior to that he served as head coach at Biola, where he won one league title, had a 50-win season and a 10th-place finish at the NAIA World Series.
A graduate of The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California, Smith was a two-time all-district pitcher on the college baseball team and went on to play in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, reaching the Class AA level. He also played for a number of independent league teams from 1994 to 2001.
Smith was a Western Baseball League Pitcher of the Year with the Mission Viejo (Calif.) team in both 1997 and 1998, and in 2000 was the MVP of the WBL championship series with the St. George team.
Smith also served as a pitching coach for the Biola baseball team from 1996-1998, and was a teacher and coach at Heritage Christian School in Anaheim, California, from 1993-96, where he was head coach for baseball and boys and girls basketball teams, an assistant coach in football and an assistant athletic director.
A San Diego native, Smith and his wife, Ellen, have two children, Ashlee and Tyler.
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