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.
With the foundation now laid for the future of the program thanks to the on field success, as well as the fan and community support, the future is sure to be bright for the surging program.
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