OXFORD, Miss. – After playing 10 consecutive games on the road over the last two weeks, the Ole Miss softball team (18-12, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) returns home to face No. 8 Missouri (12-2, 1-1 SEC) in the Rebels’ SEC home opener Friday at 6 p.m. CT.
“We’re excited to be back home and face a really good Missouri team, a top-10 opponent, and try to take the next step as a program,” Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Thees said.
It will be the first time Ole Miss and Missouri have gotten together since Feb. 16, 1997, the Rebels’ third game in program history. In fact, Ole Miss’ first game in program history was one day earlier against the Tigers. Missouri leads the series 2-0, winning each of those two games by four runs.
Friday’s game will be the Rebels’ first game at the Ole Miss Softball Complex since a doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Feb. 27 in which the Rebels won 4-0 and 16-0 (5). Overall, Ole Miss is 8-2 at home this season.
The first 200 fans at Friday’s game will receive a free pair of sunglasses. On Saturday, fans will be able to enter a raffle to win a digital camera. On Sunday, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, fans will get green eye black, and a ‘Kiss Me I’m a Rebel’ button.
Saturday will also be the first Crawfish Saturday of the season, and Sunday will be the first Sundae Sunday. One hundred pounds of crawfish will be available for fans in the outfield free of charge Saturday. Sundaes will be free at the concession stand Sunday while supplies last.
The Rebels are coming off a seven-day road trip in which they played three games in Lexington, Ky., against then-No. 15 Kentucky, one game in Nashville, Tenn., against Belmont, and one game in Martin, Tenn., against Tennessee-Martin. Ole Miss went 2-3 during the five-game stretch, defeating Kentucky 3-1 on March 8 and Belmont 10-2 on Tuesday.
Junior center fielder RT Cantillo continues to lead Ole Miss at the plate with a team-best .405 batting average. Cantillo has scored 25 runs this season and also has 22 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Allison Brown leads the Rebels and the SEC with 13 doubles, including a career-high three doubles against Belmont on Tuesday. Brown also leads Ole Miss with a team-high 24 RBI.
In the circle, junior pitchers Carly Hummel and Shelby Jo Fenter have started 25 games this season and lead the Rebels with 62 and 67 strikeouts, respectively. Hummel is 7-6 on the year with a 3.18 ERA, while Fenter has an ERA of 3.00 and a record of 6-6.
Mizzou, which has advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals in each of the last five years, enters Friday’s series opener with a No. 8 national ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches top 25 and ESPN.com/USA Softball top 25 polls.
Senior third baseman Nicole Hudson leads Missouri with a .472 batting average, recording 17 hits and 17 RBI in 36 at bats. Senior Chelsea Thomas paces the Tigers in the circle with a 0.89 ERA in 47.0 innings of work, striking out 65 and allowing just six earned runs. Hudson was named SEC Player of the Week on Feb. 18, and Thomas has twice been named SEC Pitcher of the Week (Feb. 18 and Feb. 25).
Game two of the Rebels and Tigers’ three-game series begins Saturday at 2 p.m. CT, and Sunday’s series finale is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. CT.
For all Ole Miss softball news and information, including live stats and recaps of all three of the Rebels’ games vs. Missouri, go to OleMissSports.com. Fans can follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball and on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball.
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