Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss Beats North Carolina 7-2 to Advance to Super Regional

Brittany Finney has been a part of plenty of big moments.

The sophomore transfer from 2016 national champion Oklahoma has been to the World Series in Oklahoma City. She has a national championship ring and knows what is required to get there.

"She knows what it is like to play on this stage," head coach Mike Smith said. "She knows what it is like to play on this stage. I am so happy for her. It has been an up-and-down year, but she trusted us and the process. I am just thankful she is wearing red and blue."

She stepped to the plate in a 2-2 regional final game between Ole Miss and North Carolina, and delivered in a big moment of her own. Finney sent a ball on the inner half well over the left field fence for a two-run shot that would eventually propel the Rebels to a 7-2 win and to the program's first ever super regional.

"I was just looking for something to drive," Finney said. "It was an inside pitch and I made the most of it."

The floodgates came open shortly after. Ole Miss plated three more runs in the top half of the seventh to remove any doubt for Kaitlin Lee as she stepped back into the circle searching for the final three outs. 

A celebration of large proportions ensued after Lee got Leah Murray to ground out to third base for the final out,  and it was one certainly appropriate for the occasion. Fans lined every corner of the stadium from the outfield fences to behind the plate to celebrate a team that once sat at 0-6 in the SEC, and a program that's that has traveled an even greater distance than that. 

The players gathered at home plate and were serenaded with a "Hotty Toddy" chant before traveling around the outskirts of the stadium to slap hands with the 1,709 witnesses to what had unfolded.

"It is just exciting," Smith said. "It is exciting that our fans were able to experience this. They have never been able to do this with softball. I think we have gained a lot of fans across the country, as well as our community and surrounding areas."

"We are the Cinderella story. We are going to wear that glass slipper. We are two games away from playing in Oklahoma City. That is unbelievable."

Ole Miss scored seven unanswered runs in this game after the Tar Heels plated one in each of the first two innings off of Lee. It was the first time the team had trailed in a game since May 5. 

"We enjoy that though. We are experienced in that and we love that," Lee said. "If there is anything I love more, it is us being behind and the dugout being like that. This was one of the funnest games I have had."

The Rebels initially struggled to time North Carolina pitcher Birttany Pickett, and were held in check until the fourth inning arrived. Elantra Cox legged out an infield single to short. Miranda Stother plated her a couple of batters later with two-out base hit to center. Finney recorded her first of two hits after that by lining a single to left field to tie the game. 

"She was sharp the whole game," Finney said. "But I think our mentality and our approach changed. I know mine did for sure. I think I was more passive in first at bat, and my later at bats I was more aggressive. I tried to find a pitch I could hit and do something with it."

Ole Miss got contributions from all areas of the roster as it plowed through its regional. Lee pitched all 21 innings, brought her season win total to 23 and has now tossed 12 straight complete games. 

Cox was 8-9 in the regional, and wreaked havoc in the leadoff slot.

"She is our catalyst," Smith said. "When she goes, we go."

Kylan Becker had 6 RBIs. Becker and Finney combined to go 13-19 in the top two spots in the order.

"I don think there is a better one-two combination in the country than those two in the top of the lineup," Smith said. "They are potent."

Finney, a pitcher, has taken a back seat to Lee's rise to stardom, but came through at the plate when it mattered the most. She had three RBIs on the day.

"There is no comparison, all the firsts and all of the history this program is making," Finney said. "It is so humbling to be a part of this program, it really is. It is so nice to be able to wear these colors and play for a coach like this and a team like this. There are no words to describe this feeling."

Ole Miss will await to see the results of Cal State Fullerton and UCLA in the Los Angeles regional, but will likely be hopping on a plane to go play the Bruins, standing two wins away from the College World Series.

Lee said she likes to re-watch the team's games after she gets home to soak it all in.

"I'm thinking 'is this real? are we really experiencing this?'" Lee said. "Who really thought we would do this right here and right now. From the day that I stepped here, it was our goal to host a regional. Now we have done that, and now we are going to a super regional."

The latest game with will certainly be one worth re-watching. 

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