OXFORD, Miss. -- For the first time in school history, Ole Miss is an NCAA Regional Champion, and will head to Super Regionals next weekend following a 7-2 victory over North Carolina Sunday afternoon.
The Rebels (43-18) capped off what turned into a memorable weekend in Oxford that saw almost 5,000 fans cross through the gates of the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Through three games in the regional, Ole Miss allowed only two runs, and piled on 17 to claim its seventh-straight win on Sunday.
As has been the case for the latter part of the season, the Rebels relied on the arm of Kailin Lee, who again earned her way to another stellar victory. She threw her school record 12th-straight complete game, and allowed only two runs off five hits, with six strikeouts to settle in after the first couple frames.
Offensively, Elantra Cox again paved the way going 3-for-3, while Brittany Finney had the go-ahead, 2-run blast in the six that gave the Rebels the lead. Senior Miranda Strother, in potentially her final home game as a Rebel, made it a big one with a 3-for-4 performance and two RBI and two runs scored.
Unlike the last few games though, Ole Miss had to battle back after going down early, 2-0, after two innings. The Tar Heels (40-21) jumped on Lee early in the first with a bloop single just past Kaylee Horton at second, before an RBI single to left made it a 1-0 game.
They went on to add another run in the second off an RBI single that sneaked up the middle, but that would be the only scoring of the day as Lee settled down from there. She went on to retire the side four times, and saw solid defense behind her.
The Rebels began their fight back in the fourth after Cox legged out an infield hit to the shortstop, and Strother drove her in off a single back up the middle. Finney then stepped in and singled just over the head of the third baseman, tying it up 2-2 after four.
The Tar Heels threatened again in the fifth after a leadoff double from Leah Murray, before a walk put two on, and Lee intentionally walked another to set up a bases loaded situation. But, she prevailed and got a grounder right back to her ending the threat keeping the game locked at 2-2.
Strother came back in the sixth to leg out an infield single that went to first, before Finney cranked a 2-run shot way over the left field wall, giving Ole Miss the 4-2 lead.
The Rebels went on to add three more in the seventh after Strother singled through the right side scoring Cox for a 5-2 lead, before a wild pitch, and Courtney Syrett RBI single made it 7-2.
• As a team the Rebels finished the weekend outscoring its three opponents 17-2, and trailed only once, for three innings in Sunday's championship game.
• Junior RHP Kaitlin Lee continued her dominating streak of 12 consecutive complete games, which further extends her school record. She capped the weekend with only the two runs allowed on Sunday, and threw two shutouts, struck out 11, and surrendered only 12 hits. She has also tied Madi Osias' single-season wins record from a year ago with her 23rd, and ties Amanda Fine's single-season school record with 26 complete games.
• Junior OF Elantra Cox recorded her second-straight 3-hit game, and fourth-straight multi-hit performance. She finished the regional 8-for-9 (.889) with five runs scored and an on-base percentage of .900. Sunday's performance was also her school record 27th multi-hit game of the year.
• Senior OF Miranda Strother tallied her 10th multi-hit game of the year after going 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs.
• Sophomore Brittany Finney, playing for the first time in more than two weeks, had a big day tying her career high in RBI with three, including her 2-run shot in the sixth. It marked her fifth home run of the year, second-best on the team, and her fifth multi-RBI performance.
• Throughout the weekend, Ole Miss saw two record crowds (1,677 on Friday; 1,709 on Sunday), totaling 4,925 fans for the weekend.
No. 18 Ole Miss awaits its Super Regional opponent, either UCLA or Cal State Fullerton. A UCLA win would send the Rebels to Los Angeles for an Ole Miss/UCLA Super Regional next weekend, while two wins by the Titans would mean a Ole Miss/Cal State Fullerton Super Regional in Oxford.