Ole Miss softball blanks Mississippi State

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Junior Kaitlin Lee threw a four-hit shutout and a pair of Mississippi girls in Ashton Lampton and Paige McKinney both finished with an RBI, leading No. 23 Ole Miss softball past rival Mississippi State, 2-0, Wednesday night.

In front of a vibrant crowd of 978 fans, the sixth-largest in school history, the Rebels (22-6) took an early lead from the start and dominated in the field and in the circle, winning their second straight over the Bulldogs (22-8). Lee, a native of Gulfport, was dominant in her 10th start, allowing only four hits scattered across four different innings while striking out four. The transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC finished with no walks in her third complete game of the season.

Offensively, Ole Miss tallied six hits from five different players led by two from Kylan Becker, who finished 2-for-3. Elantra Cox added one with a run scored from the leadoff spot while Miranda Strother, Sarah Van Schaik and McKinney all had one hit each.

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The Bulldogs threatened early on after the leadoff hitter reached on an error, but Lee worked around that and a sacrifice bunt with a pair of groundouts escaping the early trouble. The Rebels responded in their first chance at the plate as Cox reached on an infield single before moving up to second on an errant throw. After Becker put down a perfect bunt for a hit, Strother walked and Lampton drew a hit by pitch for an easy RBI, scoring Cox to put the Rebels in front 1-0.

Mississippi State again put its leadoff hitter aboard in the second, but a sacrifice bunt attempt was no good, and Lee again worked out of it to retire the Bulldogs. In the home half of the second, McKinney drew one of the Rebels’ three walks on the night, but back-to-back fielder’s choice plays and Cox caught stealing at second ended any threat for more runs.

The middle innings produced nothing for either side as both pitchers settled in for the most part before the sixth saw six Ole Miss hitters head to the plate. Van Schaik got the rally started off a hard single to center field before Bry Castro pinch ran for her. A groundout to short moved her to second, and McKinney’s clutch RBI single up the middle scored her, pushing the Rebels’ advantage to 2-0.

The Bulldogs went on to threaten in the seventh as the leadoff hitter reached after being hit by a pitch and a single put runners at the corners, but Lee closed it out with a groundout, capping off the complete-game shutout.

Ole Miss will trek east for its first Southeastern Conference road matchup of the season in a three-game set against No. 19 Tennessee beginning Friday in Knoxville. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday while Sunday’s finale is slated for a 12:30 p.m. start.