OXFORD, Miss. - In front of the largest crowd in school history, Ole Miss took care of business with an 8-0, run-rule victory over Southern Illinois Friday night in its first game of the NCAA Oxford Regional.
After a weather delay earlier in the evening, a start pitch of nearly 10 p.m. local time didn't stop the Rebel faithful, as 1,677 fans crossed through the gates. It marks the largest single-game crowd in school history, and the largest home crowd for a Mississippi team in the state's history.
With the victory, the Rebels (41-18) advance to Saturday's winners bracket to face Arizona State at 1:30 p.m. CT. The winner of that contest clinches a spot in Sunday's regional finale.
The second inning proved to be the biggest for Ole Miss, plating five runs in that frame, before going on to add three more in the fifth securing the walk-off victory. Sophomore Kylan Becker had a career night with five RBI off a bases-clearing triple and inside-the-park home run, while junior RHP Kaitlin Lee threw her 10th consecutive complete game with only four hits allowed.
The Rebels got the big second inning started off a Miranda Strother one-out walk, before Kaylee Horton doubled down the left field line. Courtney Syrett then put down a sacrifice bunt scoring Strother for an RBI, giving Ole Miss a 1-0 advantage. Paige McKinney then stepped in and delivered an RBI single scoring Horton to make it 2-0, before Dakota Matiko drew a four-pitch walk and Elantra Cox reached on an infield single to load the bases. Becker then blew the game wide open when she tripled to left field, clearing the bases and extending the advantage to 5-0.
The Salukis (33-23) responded with two one-out singles in their next half, but Lee worked out of the jam keeping the visitors off the board.
In the fifth, Cox got the rally going when she reached on a bunt single, before Becker lined one just inside the left field line and raced all the way around for her first career inside-the-park home run, pushing the lead to 7-0. Ashton Lampton kept it going in the next at-bat, doubling down the right field line, before Dylinn Stancil dropped down a sacrifice bunt moving Bry Castro, who pinch ran, to third. Strother then came up and ripped a line drive to center, scoring Castro, to seal the 8-0, run-rule victory.
Becker led the way with her five RBI off two hits, while Cox also added two while scoring a pair of runs. SIU's Brianna Jones was tagged with the loss after giving up all eight runs, all of which were earned, off eight hits and a pair of walks.
Ole Miss takes on Arizona State Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the first game of the day, with TV designation still to be determined. The winner will advance on to Sunday's finale, while the loser will play game five at approximately 6:30 p.m.