Oct. 13, 2011
By: John Holt
Exciting, fearless and motivated are three words one might use to describe the 2012 Ole Miss softball freshmen class.
Allison Brown, Sarah Craig, Hayley Davis, Dallas Hardin and Lauren Lindsey make up the class and each bring with them a winning mentality to Oxford.
While the Rebels concluded their 2011 season with a disappointing 18-38 record and have never made an NCAA Tournament in the history of the program, many believe these five newcomers have what it takes to get the program there.
"We have a good group of freshmen," senior Cali Overbeck said. "I'm excited to see what they can do on the field. This fall they've worked really hard. A few of them have the chance to start, if not all of them. Everyone has an equal opportunity especially with a new coach. Everyone on the team is basically a freshman again."
All five of the freshman produced outstanding high school careers. However the class is led by Brown whom Overbeck stated, `has one of the best gloves I've ever seen.'
While attending Los Alamitos High School, Brown a native of Los Alamitos, Cali., was named to the first team All-Sunset League as well as the Long Beach Press-Telegram 2010 Dream Team. She also earned Team MVP honors in 2010 and won the ESPN Rise National Championship while a part of the So Cal Athletics.
"Allison is a great utility player," Overbeck said. "She's the whole package and can play wherever we need her to. She's such a good athlete. I'm pretty excited to see her mold into form. Wherever we have a weakness, she's going to fill it in."
Although Brown has only been in Oxford two months, she said her individual adjustment from high school to college has been a smooth one for the most part.
"It's been a great transition so far," Brown said. "Its hasn't been that hard. The hardest thing has been, having to deal with the schedule of everything. Also, the weather here in Mississippi is a lot different than it is back in California."
Brown played alongside fellow freshman Sarah Craig on the So Cal Athletics. The duo has known each other for two years and today they are best friends.
Davis is the third member of the class and third, from the state of California. A pitcher, and native of Santa Monica she led Righetti High School to an undefeated season and league championship in 2009. Davis also, hails from an athletic background. Her mother Tracy, was an All-American pitcher at UCLA while her father Glen, was an all-world pitcher for New Zealand. In the end, she chose Ole Miss over fellow SEC rival, LSU.
"I always wanted to play in the SEC," Davis said. "My aunt coached at Florida and that's when I absolutely fell in love with the conference."
Hardin comes to Oxford from Covington, Ga. While attending Alcovy High School she was a three-time team MVP and twice was named All-Region Pitcher of the Year. Most impressively however, is the fact that she carries a National Championship beside her name. She won the ASA Gold 18U National Championship in 2010, when she was a member of the East Cobb Bullets 18U Gold team.
"We want to come in and have a better season this year, a winning season," Hardin said. "That's our top goal and then possibly make it to the College World Series."
Lindsey, the last member of the class, is a talented two-way player from Decatur, Ala. She earned honorable mention 6A All-State honors in 2008 and was a five-year letterwinner in softball attending Austin High School. Lindsey noted that her official visit last fall to Oxford helped make it an easier decision when she committed to Ole Miss over her home state, Alabama.
"I'm looking forward to playing Alabama and Auburn this year," Lindsey said. "They're both going to be big, emotional games for me."
Yet when the five-member class committed to the program, they each thought and assumed they would be playing for the coach that recruited them. However when former head coach Missy Dickerson was fired in May, it put the freshman in an unfamiliar position.
In June, the program hired Windy Thees from Memphis to replace Dickerson. While all five agreed that one of the biggest reasons they committed to the program was to play for Dickerson they also admitted they never reconsidered looking to go elsewhere after they learned of Dickerson's firing.
"I was nervous when I first heard about it because I didn't know what to expect," Craig said. "Normally it makes any adjustment easier when you know your coaches, but I really like Coach Thees. She makes us work really hard and we're benefitting from it."
Brown added, "With a new coach, it's like a clean slate. Everyone's mindset is clear and we can all, build from that. Coach Thees' big thing is for everyone to play in the moment. She's all about giving it your all, every time you're on the field."
Overbeck said that she along with the fellow upperclassmen on the team have tried to guide the freshman along the right path.
"There are so many consequences to the little things," Overbeck said. "It's not just softball that's going to make you a better player. It's also how the community looks at you and accountability. One of the biggest things that our freshmen have to learn is accountability for themselves and just doing the little things right. We tell them if they do the little things it will work out for them."
One thing is obviously clear. This freshman class displays an attitude of hope and belief. They're confident they can change the culture and perception of Ole Miss softball. Now, it's only a matter of time before they set off to achieve that goal.
"They know how to win," Overbeck said. "That definitely will help us because we haven't had a winning season the past three years I've been here, so with having freshman come in that have a winning background, its great. They know how to win and they know what it feels like to win. They're going to bring that winning intensity here."