OXFORD, Miss. - In a game Rebel Nation won't soon forget, the Ole Miss softball team (6-8) showed its grit, determination and fight in a thrilling come-from-behind 9-8 victory over McNeese State on Friday night at the Red & Blue Classic.
With two outs on the board at the Ole Miss Softball Complex and the game tied in the bottom of the eighth, Lauren Lindsey hit a walk-off RBI single through the right side to give the Rebels the dramatic victory that saw them fight off a five-run deficit entering the bottom of the do-or-die inning.
"I'm really proud," Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Thees said. "I think Lu (Lauren Lindsey) has done such a phenomenal job. All she has needed is at-bats and the more at-bats she gets the better she gets. I'm so happy for her because I know she wanted this moment.
"There's never been a doubt to me one, how talented our team is, and two, how much they want to win," Thees said. "It's just about figuring out how to win. ... We're still figuring it out, but hopefully this win right here will catapult us to tomorrow and the next day."
After tying the game in the bottom of the seventh, Ole Miss loaded the bases but couldn't end the game in regulation and the two teams went to the eighth.
The Cowgirls (9-6) plated five runs in the top of the eighth, but the Rebels showed their resolve in the bottom of the inning by matching the Cowgirls run for run and never showing an ounce of quit.
"There was no let down; there were no thoughts in the dugout that we weren't going to keep going up to bat," Thees said. "Everybody had their helmets on (in the dugout) that was even in the lineup and they were ready to go up to bat and get a hit."
Lindsey, who entered the game with a hit in each of her last five at-bats, seized her opportunity in the clutch situation.
"You always say, `Do what you can with the opportunity you're given.' I was given an opportunity, so I had to take it," Lindsey said.
The Rebels dug themselves into a hole early in the game as McNeese State got on the board in the second inning with a solo home run to center field. The Cowgirls then stretched the lead to 3-0 with a two-run home run to left-center.
Thees then turned to senior pitcher Erinn Jayjohn, who threw a complete game shutout Wednesday night in a victory over Southern Miss, and the captain delivered by taking Ole Miss the rest of the way and earning her second victory in as many games.
"We've kind of been trying to figure out who we are still," Jayjohn said. "Being able to come out of an 8-3 hole like that is huge, especially for us right now."
One inning later, the Rebels tacked another run on the board when sophomore third baseman Allison Brown hit a line drive at the pitcher. With no other play, Cowgirls pitcher Jamie Allred threw Brown out at first and freshman shortstop Halley Culley came home.
Brown tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI single up the middle that scored Culley from second. The Rebels again loaded the bases later in the inning but could not drive any more home and the game went to extra innings.
After allowing five runs in the top of the eighth, Ole Miss regrouped in the bottom half of the inning with its back against the wall. With the international tie rule in effect due to tournament play, Marina Parra began the inning on second base. Bri Payne was hit by a pitch and Kelly Nolan hit a single to load the bases. Culley then earned an RBI walk to score Parra and cut the lead to four.
"Bri getting hit by that first pitch was huge for us," Thees said. "It was just like, boom, we have two runners on, now we got three, now all of a sudden we're just pecking away and pecking away."
An RBI by Cantillo on a fielder's choice cut the deficit further, and a wild pitch later in the inning scored Nolan from third base to make it a two-run game. Freshman Madi Osias reached on a fielding error and advanced to second base, scoring two runs to tie the game.
Lindsey put the final touch on the incredible rally with a two-out single through the right side that scored Osias from second base and gave Ole Miss the 9-8 victory. It was the first extra-inning game Ole Miss has played this year, and it was the Rebels' first victory of the season when trailing after six innings.
Lindsey finished 3-5 with three singles and an RBI. Culley was 3-3 at the plate with three singles, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk. Jayjohn threw 5.1 innings, striking out two and picking up the victory.
Ole Miss will play two games Saturday, day two of the Red & Blue Classic. The Rebels will open with UT-Martin at 1:30 p.m. CT, and finish with Drake at 3:45 p.m. CT.
For all Ole Miss softball news and information, including live stats and a recap of each of Ole Miss' games at the Red & Blue Classic, go to OleMissSports.com. For live stats and box scores of each of the games at the Red & Blue Classic, visit the tournament central page. Follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball and on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball.
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