Ole Miss Softball History
Ole Miss was one of nine Southeastern Conference schools to begin fielding a fast pitch varsity softball team back in 1997. Since, the Rebels have battled their way through the most elite conference in the nation well on their way to building a respectable program.
Joyce Maudie was the first head coach of the Rebels from 1997-98, putting together the beginning pieces of the puzzle for the program.
Candi Letts then took over prior to the 1999 campaign as the longest tenured head coach in school history. Her 2005 team broke through as the first to record a winning season, as the Rebels won 30 games and posted a 10 wins in league play for the first time ever.
That same season ended the career for all-time great DeDe Justice, who finished her Rebel career ranked in the top-10 in 14 different offensive categories. Justice is still the all-time leader in home runs (49) and intentional walks (33), and was a pivotal part of the club's success in 2005.
Following the most successful season ever at the time, Missy Dickerson took over at the helm that began a six-year stretch as coach. During that period she led one team to a winning record, the 2010 club, and also was responsible for the 2007 team that won 11 SEC contests, tied for the most ever in a season.
During her reign she helped coach one of the best players in program history, Lauren Grill, a two-time All-American. Grill, a three time All-SEC selection and SEC Freshman of the Year, is the current career record holder in six different offensive categories, including hits, RBI, runs, walks, total bases and slugging.
Other standouts during Dickerson's time included Mary Jane Callahan, Lisa Conchos, Lauren Rowe, Ashley Dowdy, Becky Nye and Tara Willitt, who all have etched their names into numerous offensive and pitching career record lists.
Beginning in 2012, Windy Thees took the reigns as the school's fourth head coach and helped lead Allison Brown and RT Cantillo as two of the top players in history, who also both are some of the top offensive record holders in the 20-year history.
Enter Mike Smith prior to the 2015 season, who had a history of leading programs to national championships at previous stops in the NAIA ranks. Two years in, the Rebels have completely turned the tables and placed Ole Miss Softball on the map on a national scale.
The 2015 season saw the Rebels tie the school record for wins in a season with 30, as the team was also responsible for breaking every single offensive record except doubles, a mark in which they tied.
The Rebels, who hadn't made it to the SEC Tournament in seven years' prior, broke that streak to cap the 2015 season ending what was a vast improvement for the program.
If all the records broken in 2015 weren't enough, the 2016 team beyond exceeded anything ever accomplished by a Rebel softball team. Labeled as the "Season of Firsts," Ole Miss shocked the league and nation with a laundry list of accomplishments to go along.
The 41 wins were far and away most in school history, which marked the first back-to-back seasons with winning records in program history. The 11 SEC wins tied the record for most victories in the league, which featured a stout list of competition in which 10 of the 13 teams ended the season ranked in the top-25 poll.
Ole Miss was one of those teams, finishing No. 24 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 poll. It marked the first time in recent history the Rebels had even been ranked, and the first they would finish the year as one of the top-25 teams in the country. Ole Miss made its second-straight appearance in the SEC Tournament, but this time made noise defeating No. 15 Georgia for its first-ever SEC Tournament win.
A team that started the year 20-3, the fastest start in school history, the Rebels in some way appeared in the national polls more than half the season. They also never fell lower than 33rd in the NCAA RPI, and capped the season No. 27 in the all-so-important ranking system that ultimately decides the field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament.
That field of 64 featured Ole Miss for the first time ever, which was without a doubt the highlight of the year. Not only did the Rebels qualify for the postseason race to the Women's College World Series, they finished as one of the top 32 teams by playing in the regional final against No. 3 Oklahoma, who ultimately went on to claim the National Championship.
The on-field success only brought more recognition within the fan base, who also did its part in helping set records in attendance. More than 13,500 fans witnessed the Rebels' 29 home games, which shattered the previous season attendance record by 6,000-plus. Seven of the top-10 crowds in school history came in 2016, including all but two of the final nine SEC contests.
Fast forward a year, and the 2017 team near topped all of 2016's accomplishments. It's a rise that even head coach Mike Smith said he didn't expect to happen so fast, but three years into his tenure, the Rebels have amassed 114 wins and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
The 2017 appearance capped off what was a 43-win season, again breaking the record, and a 10-win season in SEC play. Those 10 wins in the toughest league in the NCAA didn't come easy though, as Ole Miss fought back from an 0-6 start to win seven of its final 12 in conference action.
A 10-14 finish earned the Rebels the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament, and from there they began the improbable run to more school history. The Rebels knocked off rival Mississippi State in the first round game for just their second ever SEC Tournament win. But, by week's end, they evened up their all-time SEC Tournament record to 5-5. A 2-0 shutout over No. 1 Florida shocked both the tournament and the nation, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 15 Alabama, which Ole Miss won 4-1. On the same day, after rain on Friday forced a Saturday doubleheader, Ole Miss came back to top No. 21 LSU, 5-1, for its first-ever SEC Tournament Championship.
The week-long run earned the Rebels the No. 12 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning they would host for the first time ever. They showed out both on the field and in community support, as just shy of 5,000 fans packed the Ole Miss Softball Complex over the weekend and set three new single-game attendance records.
On the field, the Rebels were dominant with two shutouts, sweeping the likes of Southern Illinois, No. 22 Arizona State and North Carolina, earning the school's first-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance. That came a week later as Ole Miss trekked west to Los Angeles to take on the No. 5 seed UCLA. After an 11-inning battle that lasted more than four hours, and a 1-0 game two, the Rebels unfortunately saw their season come to an end. But, the fight didn't go unnoticed, as Ole Miss quickly gained a swarm of new fans during its postseason run.
The Rebels ended the year ranked as high as No. 15 in the two national polls, and finished with an RPI of 19. For the third-straight year, multiple school records were broken including runs, hits, triples, RBI, total bases and walks. The pitching staff also broke the shutouts record (17), and again lowered its staff ERA by more than a run to 2.20. Ole Miss' coaching staff earned the NFCA Division I Regional Coaching Staff of the Year award for the first time in school history, capping off what was a memorable, and again record-breaking 2017 campaign.
Coming into the 2018 season with a target on their back after the previous season's postseason run, the Rebels didn't flinch. Ole Miss racked up 32 wins on the season, including victories over ranked sides Oregon, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Georgia. Ole Miss capped the season by receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year, the only three appearances in the program's history.
With their postseason chances on the line, the Rebels did what few thought they could, pulling off a pair of upsets over No. 5 Georgia at the Ole Miss Softball Stadium to bolster their resume, locking up a bid to the Tempe Regional of the NCAA Tournament, the third-consecutive NCAA selection for Ole Miss. Earning the three seed at the Tempe Regional, Ole Miss recorded a pair of victories over No. 2 seed Long Beach State before bowing out in the Regional Championship to eventual Women's College World Series participant Arizona State.
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