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A shocking 11-seed, Rebel softball hosting NCAA Regional for just second time ever

For just the second time in Ole Miss softball history, Oxford and Mike Smith’s Rebels will be hosting an NCAA Regional.

Unveiled in the 2019 NCAA Softball Championship selection show on Sunday night, just about everyone in attendance of the softball watch party at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Jackson Avenue were a bit shook by the announcement.

The No. 11 overall seed in the tournament, Ole Miss (37-17) knew they had a shot at hosting a regional beginning this Friday, but no one expected to be seeded as high as eleven.

“I was very surprised at 11. I thought we’d be somewhere around 14, 15, 16 or maybe sneak in at 13. But 11 surprised me,” admitted Ole Miss head coach Mike Smith. “They took our body of work and took our strength of schedule, which I think was five or six, and that was big… I think out body of work proved that we deserved a seed.”

There were certainly questions as too if Ole Miss would get that much sought-after final home series. “Sometimes, it’s what the committee sees last,” Smith said. And what they saw last wasn’t great for Ole Miss.

The Rebels closed the year by losing five of their last six games, including being swept in a series at Georgia where just one win could have locked them into a bye in the SEC Tournament.

Instead, they had to play Mississippi State – a win – before losing to the team that instead picked up the bye that should’ve been theirs in Kentucky. Not a great way to close they year, a lot of the players on the roster weren’t exactly optimistic about the prospects of being able to host the regional.

“We had our bags packed in our minds,” said senior outfielder Kylan Becker. “Just the opportunity to finally unpack our suitcases and be at home and sleep in our own beds is so exciting.”

For Becker and the other two seniors on the Rebel roster in Brittany Finney and Izzy Werdann, the announcement means a little more. It’s the opportunity to get one last home series in here in Oxford before they walk off into the Mississippi sunset.

As a program, it’s only the second time Ole Miss has ever hosted an NCAA Regional. The first time was not long ago, in 2017 when they closed the season very differently, getting hot late in a run culminating in winning the program’s only SEC Tournament.

Coming to Oxford for the regional will be two-seed Louisiana (50-4, 25-0 in the Sun Belt), three-seed Southeast Missouri State (45-16) and four-seed Chattanooga (35-15). It’s not the easiest grouping of teams by any means, specifically looking at that two seed that won 50 games on their season and went undefeated in conference play.

“We’ve got a tough region. It’s tough. Southeast Missouri has a really good pitcher and they have some good bats. Lafayette can swing it a little bit,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a good regional. I think it’ll be pretty similar to the one the last time we hosted here.”

For the SEC as a whole, it’s the third straight year all 13 schools were placed in the NCAA Tournament field of 64. Five others will host regionals. The first day of the three-day regional in Oxford will feature Louisiana playing SEMO on Friday at 3:30 p.m., with Ole Miss taking on Chattanooga following the conclusion of the opening game.