Ole Miss Opens NCAA Tournament at Tempe Regional
May 17, 2018

MAY 18-20

Date: May 18-20, 2018
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
Venue: Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium
TV:  ESPN Networks
        Beth Mowins (play-by-play)
        Michele Smith (analyst)
Live Stats: OleMissSport.com
Twitter Updates: @OleMissSoftball

Regional Schedule
Friday, May 18
Game 1: Long Beach State vs. Ole Miss - 6 p.m. (CT)
Game 2: Arizona State vs. New Mexico State - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 19
Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner - 4 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser - 6:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 3 Loser - 9 p.m.
Sunday, May 20
Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner - 8:30 p.m.
Game 7: If Necessary - 11 p.m.

- Ole Miss makes its third-straight trip to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship, the only three appearances in program history.

- The Rebels are the No. 3 seed in the Tempe Regional, the lowest seeding Ole Miss has ever had in its three postseason appearances.

- All games of the regional will be broadcasted on the ESPN Family of Networks, with Tiffany Greene calling play-by-play, while Amanda Scarborough will serve as analyst for all games during the regional.

- The Rebels are 5-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, sweeping the Oxford Regional in 2017 on the way to the program's first-ever Super Regional Appearance.

- Ole Miss is ranked No. 38 in the latest RPI report, sliding back four spots from the No. 34 spot the previous week.

- The Rebs earned eight wins against RPI top-25 teams in 2018, including four wins over teams slotted in the top-10 (No. 1 Oregon, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 10 Georgia twice).

- In the final week of the regular season, Ole Miss defeated then-No. 5 Georgia twice to earn the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament. It was the first SEC series loss of the season for the Bulldogs.

- Ole Miss has played just one of its potential opponents in the Tempe Regional during the Mike Smith era, topping Arizona State 2-0 in the NCAA Regional round.

- The Sun Devils are led by head coach Trisha Ford, who is in her second season in charge of the Arizona State program. During her short time in Tempe, Ford has amassed a 74-33 overall record, quickly building the Sun Devils into one of the top teams in the nation. Prior to joining ASU, Ford spent four seasons as the head coach at Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back Mountain West Championships in 2015 and 2016. Ford also had stints as head coach for nine seasons at Stanford and a pair at her alma mater, Saint Mary's College.

- Offensively, ASU is batting .282 as a team with 281 runs scored on the year on 258 RBIs. The bulk of the Sun Devils damage has come via power, with ASU registering 63 doubles, 60 home runs and 13 triples, good for a .476 team slugging percentage. Outfielder Kindra Hackbarth leads the way with a .363 average, registering 34 runs to go along with 10 doubles, a team-best five triples and four homers. Infielder Danielle Gibson isn't far behind with a .358 average, racking up team-best marks with 12 long balls, 12 doubles and 39 RBIs. Outfielder Morgan Howe rounds out the Sun Devils batting over .300 at .347, scoring a team-high 39 runs with seven home runs.

- Led by USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Finalist G Juarez, Arizona State boasts one of the elite pitching staffs in the nation, ranking ninth in the country with a 1.43 team-ERA and third with a 5.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Juarez comes into the regional with eye-popping numbers, earning a 23-4 record with a 0.92 ERA, striking out 276 to just 34 walks. Of her 27 starts, Juarez has gone the distance 23 times, posting 12 shutouts in 197.1 innings. Breanna Macha has also seen plenty of action at 120 frames, posting a 14-6 record with a 2.33 ERA.

- Kim Sowder is in her 12th season as head coach at Long Beach State, having guided the 49ers to a 398-257-1 record. Sowder, a two-time Big West Coach of the Year, will be competing in her seventh regional at the helm of The Beach softball program. She is one of the greatest players in the history of 49ers softball, being inducted in the LBSU Hall of Fame in 1998, playing shortstop for The Beach from 1989-92.

- As a team, the 49ers are batting .308 with 307 runs scored and 277 RBIs. The calling card for The Beach has been two-baggers, ranking sixth in the nation with 1.65 doubles per game, good for 89 total. Outfielder Naomi Hernandez paces the 49ers with a .388 average, racking up a team-high 18 doubles with 47 runs and 36 RBIs. Infielder Nichole Fry is next up with a .372 average, leading LBSU with 51 runs, while adding 16 doubles, seven homers and 39 RBIs. Infielder Taylor Rowland leads the team with 58 RBIs to go with her .358 average, crushing a team-high 12 long balls. Infielder Julia Lombardi is the final 49er batting above .300, scoring 22 runs and driving in 19 more.

- The 49ers have also been strong in the circle, posting a 2.27 ERA as a team with 327 strikeouts and 163 walks, holding opposing batters to a .213 average. Cielo Meza is the ace with 170 innings in the circle, registering a 22-4 record with a 1.48 ERA, striking out 217 batters to just 64 walks. Jessica Flores has pitched 107.2 frames, posting a 10-2 record with a 2.93 ERA, while Devyn Magnett holds a 10-6 record with a 3.02 ERA in 90.1 innings.

- New Mexico State has been led by head coach Kathy Rodolph for the past 15 seasons. During that time, Rodolph has amassed a 465-388 record with the Aggies, making her the winningest head coach at NM State currently. Prior to taking over the program in Las Cruces, Rodolph spent two seasons as the head coach at NCAA Division II program Angelo State (TX). Overall, Rodolph holds a 534-422 record as a head coach.

- The Aggies boast a dangerous offense, holding a team batting average of .316, with six everyday players batting over .300. As a team, NM State has registered 297 runs on 271 RBIs with 78 doubles, 13 triples and 58 home runs. WAC Player of the Year Kelsey Horton has had one of the most prolific seasons in the nation, topping Division I with 25 home runs, ranking fourth in RBIs with 64 and seventh in slugging percentage at .927, while also leading the team with a .402 average and 52 runs scored. Catcher Nikki Butler boasts a .382 average with 13 doubles, 11 homers and 52 RBIs, while outfielder Victoria Castro sits at .352 with 10 dingers and 32 RBIs. Infielder Rachel Rodriguez is batting .357 with 41 runs scored, stealing successfully on 14-of-15 attempts.

- In the circle, the Aggies are averaging four earned runs allowed per seven innings, allowing a .290 average to opposing batters. Kayla Green paces NM State with 135.1 innings, posting a 14-8 record with a 3.52 ERA, while Samaria Diaz holds a 4.17 ERA in 95.2 innings, registering a 6-9 record. Analise De La Roca has a 9-4 record with a 4.34 ERA in 80.2 frames.

With both Ole Miss and Arizona State in the same regional bracket for the second-straight year, there is potential for a rematch of sorts between the Rebels and Sun Devils from last season's Oxford Regional. In that game, Ole Miss shut down ASU behind the arm of Kaitlin Lee on the way to a 2-0 victory to advance to the Regional Final, ultimately earning its first-ever trip to the Super Regional Round. Entering the sixth team with neither team cracking the scoreboard, Ole Miss strung together three-consecutive extra-base hits from Elantra Cox, Kylan Becker and Miranda Strother to take the lead, with Lee closing out the shutout in the seventh.

With all three of Ole Miss' opponents based near the west coast, and the Rebels having four California natives on the roster, there are quite a few connections for this weekend. The most easily recognizable is Grayce Majam, a senior infielder for LBSU who transferred to The Beach from Ole Miss this summer. Rebel second baseman Bry Castro will see plenty of familiar faces, with Esperanza High School teammate Brynley Steele playing in the outfield for Arizona State and fellow Yorba Linda, California native Rachel Loera on the roster for LBSU. Ole Miss freshman Gabby Alvarez, ASU sophomore Jade Gortarez and 49er senior Jessica Flores all hail from Riverside, California. Additionally, both Rebel sophomore Dylinn Stancil and New Mexico State freshman Sarai Mejia are natives of Temecula, California.

Despite batting at the bottom of the order for virtually the entire season with an average just over .200, freshman Amanda Roth has been the artist behind a number of clutch plays for the Rebels in 2018. The Carrollton, Texas native seems to be developing a knack for the walk-off long ball, recording her second game-ending big fly of the season in game one against Georgia. Entering the seventh inning with a pair of hits in as many at-bats against the Bulldogs, the freshman wore a pitch on the elbow but was called back into the box by the home plate umpire for leaning into the pitch. On the very next pitch, Roth took Kylie Bass deep to left-field, planting a ball in the bleachers and meeting her teammates at the plate to celebrate a crucial win. It was a near mirror-image of a dinger the freshman hit earlier in the year to walk-off against Auburn, parking a tank in the crowd beyond the left field wall at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Roth is becoming known for her power, leading the Rebels with six dingers on the year.

While it's pretty logical that when you collect more hits than your opponent you are going to come out on top more times than not, for Ole Miss that equation has been infallible this season. The Rebels are a perfect 22-0 in 2018 when outhitting their opponent. Meanwhile, the Rebels are just 6-16 when allowing more base knocks than they are able to record themselves.

While the vast majority of pitchers throw from the other side of the rubber, Ole Miss has been extremely successful this season when facing off against left-handed pitchers. The Rebels are batting .365 against left-handed hurlers, more than 100 points higher than against righties. Players batting above .300 against lefties this season are Elantra Cox (.750), Kaylee Horton (.636), Autumn Gillespie (.462), Kylan Becker (.417), Paige McKinney (.364) and Amanda Roth (.333).

One of the keys to a big inning is to get off to a strong start, an area that Ole Miss has exceled at. The Rebels are batting .362 as a team when leading off an inning, with six players batting over .400 to start a frame. Brittany Finney leads the way at .517 and is followed by Alex Schneider (.440), Paige McKinney (.432), Elantra Cox (.405), Amanda Roth (.417) and Izzy Werdann (.400).

After struggling through the first half of the season, junior Brittany Finney has become one of Ole Miss' most dangerous bats in the lineup. Starting all 19 games during April, Finney posted a .328 average during the month with a three home runs, three doubles, 12 RBIs and five runs. The Wichita, Kansas native has also shown a tremendous eye, drawing eight walks for a .408 on-base percentage. If you add in the final game of March, the junior reached base in 18-of-20 contests, batting .359 with a .563 slugging percentage.

It's said that one of the hardest tasks in sports is pinch hitting, coming off the bench cold and attempting to hit a round ball with a round bat. When called upon to come off the bench and swing her stick, senior Alex Schneider has been extremely proficient in 2018. Schneider has been inserted as a pinch hitter six times on the season, registering a hit in four of those scenarios for a .667 average.

During her four-year career at Ole Miss, Elantra Cox has cemented herself as the greatest base stealer the school has ever seen. With her 20th steal in the second game at UTEP this past weekend, Cox became the first player in program history to ever swipe at least 20 bags in four difference campaigns. In fact, no player had ever one it more than twice before the Henderson, Tennessee native stepped on campus. Each of Cox's base stealing seasons has ranked in the top-10 in the record book, including 30 during her freshman year to rank third. Cox entered the season tied for the Ole Miss record in stolen bases and now sits 27 steals ahead of the next closest Rebel.

Kylan Becker and Kaylee Horton have both had solid seasons at the plate but the pair of slappers have been even more impressive with two outs in an inning. In that scenario, Becker is batting .457 (16-for-35), while Horton is hitting at a clip of .395 (15-of-38). As a team, 79 of Ole Miss' 192 total RBIs have come with two down in the frame.

While power hitting may not be a calling card for Ole Miss this season, with the Rebels registering 24 home runs on the season, when the Rebs do go long it usually leads to a victory. Ole Miss is 14-2 this season when posting at least one home run. Of the Rebels' 23 long balls, nine have come in the last nine games.

Through two-plus seasons, Kylan Becker has been the epitome of steady defensively in the outfield. The Miami, Florida native has never committed an error in 192 chances through her first two-plus seasons in Oxford. To this point, Becker has kept up her consistent play while adjusting to a new position, sliding from right field to center to start the 2018 campaign. No player in program-history has ever finished her career with a perfect fielding percentage in at least 100 chances. The current roster in general has been rock-steady defensively, with three players, (Becker, Alex Schneider, and Brittany Finney) ranking in the top-10 all-time in career fielding percentage.






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