Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss Handles Southern Illinois 8-0 in Five Innings

As fans filed in for a 9:45 p.m. start time, and quickly filled the Ole Miss Softball Complex that had been prepped with added temporary seating all week, Ole Miss players came out of the dugout to gaze at the scene.

It certainly did not disappoint the 1,677 that showed up for a 8-0 win run-ruled win in five innings over Southern Illinois. It was the largest crowd for a softball game in Mississippi history.

"These fans were unbelievable tonight," head coach Mike Smith said. "I am so proud that I get to wear Ole Miss across my chest, and have them cheering for our team tonight."

Ole Miss starting pitcher Kaitlin Lee was not fazed by the crowd, and relished the support she felt behind her.

"It is cool for me, because when we have big atmospheres at other places, I tell myself they are cheering for me," Lee said. "This time they really were cheering for me so it was awesome. It is a lot easier to play in that."

Lee danced her way out of some early trouble and was the benefactor of a five-run second inning that was capped off by a bases clearing, three-RBI triple down the left field line from Kylan Becker. The sophomore right fielder was 2-3 and drove in five runs. She recorded the latter two of her RBIs with an inside the park home run to a similar spot in the fifth inning. It helped Ole Miss end the game in the same frame, run-ruling the Salukis 8-0 with three runs in the fifth. 

"When I got up there with the bases loaded, I was like 'okay I need to get the job done,'" Becker said. "I would have settled for one, but three was awesome. Were were just trying to get Kaitlin off of the mound as soon as possible."

The five spot in the second was more than enough for Lee as she went the distance, shutting out the Salukis and yielding four hits with a pair of strikeouts, and did not walk a hitter. It wasn't Lee's sharpest outing, but she worked out of trouble when it came, including stranding four base hits in the first two innings and provided an outing that was more than sufficient for her to earn her 21st win of the season, and help Ole Miss avoid a first-game slip up.

"I think I threw my change up for a ball a little bit more tonight. I think that was me trying to go get their game plan," Lee said. "I think in the first inning I threw more pitches than I wanted to, and the second inning as well. I was trying to test them."

Elantra Cox had two hits. Mirand Strother and Dakota Makito each drove in a run.

It was a historic evening that will serve as another memorable chapter in a season filled with program firsts and shattered records. 

"How electric was that atmosphere tonight?" Smith said. "We are so excited."

The Rebels move on in the winner's bracket and will play the two seed, an Arizona State team that trounced North Carolina 9-3.

"They're a very good team. They swing the bat," Smith said. "The ball jumps off their bat. We know that. They come from a great conference in the PAC 12. There have been a lot of comparisons between the two conferences. It is going to be a great battle."

First pitch on Saturday is set for 1:30 p.m.

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