Softball opens play at home, hosts Ole Miss Classic

Published 4:11 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

Playing at home for the first time this season and in a new stadium, Ole Miss Softball welcomes Kent State, Southeastern Louisiana and UAB to Oxford for the annual Ole Miss Classic March 1-3.

• Through the first 14 games of the season, the Rebels are off to their second-best start in program history (12-2 in 2017 and 2018).
• The Ole Miss Softball Complex is in the midst of a $32 million stadium project, set to be completed by the 2025 season, as part of Ole Miss’ Champions. Now. Campaign.
• Sophomore Jalia Lassiter leads the team with a .431 batting average and ranks 29th nationally with 22 hits on the year. She racked up seven last weekend at the Clemson Classic while hitting .500 over four games.
• As an offense, the Rebels are off to a hot start, boasting a .335 mark at the plate, the fifth-best in the SEC and 24th best in the country. They have tallied 10-plus hits in seven of the first 14 games this season.
• Under head coach Jamie Trachsel, Ole Miss is 39-3 against nonconference opponents in Oxford.
• Senior Makenna Kliethermes has looked sharp for the Rebels in the circle. She leads the team with a 5-1 record and 37 strikeouts through 33.1 innings pitched.
• Ole Miss’ coaching staff features three new faces: Daniel Nicolaisen, Karl Gollan and DJ Sanders all join the Rebels for their first season in Oxford.

Jessica O’Donnell is in her first season as head coach of the Kent State Golden Flashes. She previously coached at Saint Francis University, recording a pair of 40-win seasons. She has started off her Kent State career with a 6-3 record, coming off a 4-1 weekend at the UNCW Tournament. The Golden Flashes enter the weekend riding a three-game winning streak. Sophomore Bri Despines, coming off a 2023 MAC All-Freshman team season, leads the team with a .533 batting average and 16 hits. In the circle, sophomore Macy Irelan boasts a 1.64 ERA through 25.2 innings pitched. Saturday’s contest will be the second matchup all-time between the Rebels and the Golden Flashes. Ole Miss won the first and only matchup 2-1 back in 2005.

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Rick Fremin is in his ninth season as head coach of Southeastern Louisiana. Fremin and the Lions are off to a blistering 12-3 record to start 2024. They are coming off a 4-1 weekend at the Texas A&M Invitational, where their lone loss came at the hands of the Aggies. The Lions return Bailey Krolczyk, who was awarded SLC hitter and player of the year in 2023. The senior backstop is batting .429 so far this season, third on the team. Senior Ka’Lyn Watson boasts the top batting average in the Lions’ lineup, hitting .548 with 23 hits and 15 runs scored. In the circle, Cera Blanchard and Ellie DuBois each have a team-high four victories with sub-2.00 ERAs. Entering the weekend, Ole Miss leads the all-time series 7-1.

UAB head coach A.J. Daugherty is in his second year under the helm of the program. After a 16-8 record in conference last year, Daugherty won Conference USA Coach of the Year. So far in 2024, the Blazers have a 6-9 record and are coming off a 2-3 weekend at the Green & Gold Classic, where they dropped a pair of contests to No. 10 Alabama. As a team, UAB boasts a .238 mark at the plate, led by junior outfielder Bella Wiggins, who leads the team, hitting .368 with 14 hits. Olivia Valbak boasts the top ERA on the pitching staff with a 2.83 ERA through 17.1 innings pitched. Entering the weekend, Ole Miss leads the all-time series 5-2, winning each of the last five matchups, the most recent being head coach Trachsel’s first win at Ole Miss in 2021.

One of the most exciting things fans and student-athletes have to look forward to in 2024 is a brand new softball stadium as part of “Ole Miss’ Champions. Now. Campaign.” This past May, the Ole Miss Softball Complex – which served as the Rebels’ home field since 1998 and has seen one SEC Tournament, two NCAA Regionals and countless other memories – saw its final game ever as the Rebels walked off No. 14 Alabama with a four-spot in the bottom of the seventh inning. Just 23 days later, construction crews began demolition on the ballpark as part of a brand new $32 million facility upgrade. The Ole Miss Softball Stadium renovations will include numerous fan amenities, upgraded grandstands, restrooms and concessions. The team will benefit from enlarged bullpens, as well as improved team offices, locker rooms and storage.

The Ole Miss Softball Complex has been a fortress for the Rebels since the arrival of Tachsel. After going 24-3 at home in 2021 and 19-6 in Oxford in 2022, Ole Miss defended its home field again last season, welcoming in four top-25 foes. Under Trachsel, the Rebels are 58-21 while playing at home, including 39-3 against non-conference opponents.

After capping off her rookie campaign with NFCA All-South Region Third Team Honors, Lassiter is proving to be one of the most electric players in the SEC. Just a sophomore, the Atmore, Ala., native brings a different level of energy to the diamond with her game-changing speed, swagger and confidence. Hitting in the leadoff spot, she leads the Rebels with a .431 mark at the plate and 22 hits (29th nationally) so far this season. Lassiter has tallied multiple hits in seven contests and has reached base in all but one.

Racking up 127 hits through the first 14 games of the season, Ole Miss’ offense is firing on all cylinders. The Rebels boast a .335 batting average as a team, the fifth-best mark in the SEC and 24th best nationally. Further, the Rebels have recorded at least 10 hits in 50 percent (7 of 14) of their games so far this season, including 17 against Miami, Ohio, at the Clemson Classic, the most in the Trachsel era and the third most by an SEC team this season.

Not only are the Rebels seeing the ball fly off the bat, but they are showing patience at the plate, drawing 44 walks (68th nationally) to boast the 29th-best on-base percentage in all of Division I softball at .423.