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Outside mood shifting on Ole Miss softball, but ‘disrespect is already done’

It took nearly a full season of play. But now, with nearly 50 games under their belts and approaching their final series of SEC regular season play, Ole Miss is starting to get some respect on the softball field.

The Rebel team was overlooked and counted out entering the season. Picked to finish last in the SEC, there were certainly some question marks for the Rebel softball team. Their lead pitcher, junior Molly Jacobsen, was a junior college transfer yet to see SEC bats. It was a relatively young team as a whole.

Now May, Ole Miss enters their final series at Georgia with an outside chance at an SEC regular season championship. They need just one win to lock down a bye in the conference tournament.

The respect is finally getting there for the Rebels. But for the girls, the damage seems all but done. That chip on their shoulders isn’t going anywhere.

“Teams are definitely starting to look at us as a really big threat. We’re not under the radar anymore,” said senior Kylan Becker. “The disrespect is already done. I would like some higher rankings, but I don’t care. It all just comes down to what happens at the end.”

It’s sort of a weird thing. While the respect seems to be there from teams around the conference, it hasn’t really carried over into the polls. In the best softball conference in the country, Ole Miss is the only team yet to lose an SEC series. Yet in the D1 Softball Coaches Poll, Ole Miss ranks No. 15 and five conference teams are above them.

Ultimately, rankings aren’t all that important. If Ole Miss plays well in Georgia and then rolls into College Station, Texas the week after and makes a run in the SEC tournament, they’ll be in good shape. But where rankings matter is for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, and whether or not the Rebels will host a regional or super regional.

“I just want to play here again. I don’t want (Tennessee) to be my last home series,” Becker said. “As long as we’re top-16, I’d love to be top-8. I really just want to be able to host and play here again. That’s what matters to me.”

For a relatively young team that finished 32-25 and last in the SEC just one year ago, there’s a lot of girls for whom this position they’re in now in is new. However, there are a few girls that have seen similar successes, just maybe not to this degree. Becker was on the team that won the SEC Tournament in 2017. As was junior Kaylee Horton.

At the start of the year, Horton was the one who said she felt disrespected and that they were going to embrace the underdog role. Her advice to the younger girls is simple: stay calm, cool and collected.

“It’s amazing to know that all that hard work is paying off. We’re not the underdogs this year anymore,” Horton said. “We’re trying to repeat of what we did my freshman year, trying to go all the way.”

This weekend the Rebels get set to take on No. 14 Georgia on the road to finish the regular season. A final chance to boost their RPI and postseason resume before the SEC tournament, all eyes are on that first-round bye and a potential sweep for the Rebels.