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Ole Miss softball cruises to pair of wins on opening day

Ole Miss softball’s first time back on the field since the end of last year’s Cinderella season was a success.

The 14th-ranked Rebels opened the 2018 season with a 5-1 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday in the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Ole Miss followed it up with a 6-0 win over Florida A&M Thursday night.

Ole Miss will continue tournament play Friday against Lamar at 10 a.m. before taking on Lipscomb at 1 p.m. The tournament was scheduled to begin Friday but was moved up a day with inclement weather threatening the Alabama coast this weekend.

Ole Miss (2-0) dropped its final two games of the 2017 season in the Los Angeles Super Regional against UCLA after winning its first-ever NCAA regional as a host as part of an improbable postseason run, which included the Rebels’ first-ever SEC Tournament championship as the lowest-seeded team to ever pull off the feat, but Ole Miss never trailed against Virginia Tech (0-1) in its first game ever as a ranked team.

The Rebels jumped on Virginia Tech starter Carrie Eberle (0-1) for all of their runs in the first three innings, which was more than enough support for Kaitlin Lee, who returned to the circle for the first time since bursting onto the national scene with her performance in last year’s postseason.

Lee (1-0) scattered four hits and struck out five in five innings, keeping the Hokies scoreless until Taylor Clark’s fielder’s choice plated Virginia Tech’s lone run in the fourth. Brittany Finney came on in the sixth and held the Hokies to one hit over the final two frames.

Ole Miss finished with just five hits, but third baseman Dylinn Stancil and freshman second baseman Ally Mena provided the timely knocks. Mena had a single that produced two runs in the second while Stancil hit a two-run double in the third to push the Rebels’ lead to 5-0.

Michigan State transfer Celeste Wood was 1-for-3 and also had an RBI in her first game for Ole Miss.

In the nightcap, sophomore right-hander Morgan Bruce hurled six shutout innings before the Rebels put Florida A&M away with a four-run seventh en route to their first shutout of the season.

Bruce (1-0) faced just one over the minimum, allowing two hits and striking out five, before giving way to freshman Anna Borgen, who closed it out by retiring the Rattlers in order in the seventh.

Elantra Cox had a double, triple and scored three runs from the leadoff spot while catcher Autumn Gillespie went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Wood, Kylan Becker and Alex Schneider each drove in a run.