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Ole Miss softball edges Mississippi State, advances in SEC Tournament

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Behind another stellar performance from junior right-hander Kaitlin Lee and a pair of key hits, No. 18 Ole Miss advanced to the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 2-1 victory over rival Mississippi State Wednesday afternoon at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.

The Rebels (37-18) took the lead in the second and never looked back, winning their second-ever SEC Tournament game and second in as many years. With the victory, Ole Miss will take on No. 1 seed Florida in the second round Thursday at 1:30 p.m. CT.

Lee was dominant yet again in her 30th start of the year, allowing just one run off five hits with four strikeouts and no walks. She helped to strand five Mississippi State (36-20) baserunners, earning her 17th win of the season.

The top four and bottom two hitters in the lineup accounted for the six hits, and Sarah Van Schaik and Miranda Strother produced the two RBIs. Elantra Cox went 1-for-3 from the top with a run scored, breaking the school’s single-season record, while Grayce Majam scored the other as a pinch runner.

Cox got the scoring going in the first when she led off the game with an infield single before she moved to second on a groundout and scored when Van Schaik flared one into right-center making it a 1-0 game.

The Bulldogs came right back in the second to tie it up when Olivia Golden cranked a solo shot to right-center before Lee worked around two more singles to strand two in the frame.

Ole Miss got the run back in the home half after Kaylee Horton reached on a hit by pitch and Courtney Syrett drew a walk, taking advantage of two mistakes by the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher, Cassady Knudsen. After Paige McKinney roped a hard line drive right at third, Strother stepped in and came through from the nine-spot with an RBI single back up the middle, scoring Majam to take a 2-1 lead. Cox then drew a walk to load the bases before Alexis Silkwood entered for MSU and got out of the jam.

The Rebels threatened again in the third when Ashton Lampton led off with a single and Van Schaik reached on a walk. A sac bunt moved Lampton and Bry Castro into scoring position. But a fielder’s choice and forceout at home and groundout back to the pitcher again left the bases loaded.

From there, both pitchers settled in as Lee allowed one hit the rest of the way and Silkwood also worked around a couple of Ole Miss hits. The Bulldogs put a runner on in the seventh after an error, but Lee didn’t let it affect her, securing the win.