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Softball Season Preview: Pitchers

Part two of our Ole Miss softball preview takes a look at the Rebel pitchers. This group was headlined by Kaitlin Lee last season with Brittany Finney, Morgan Bruce and others providing solid options as well. Head Coach Mike Smith believes this year's team will be even deeper inside the circle. See below for an idea of what to expect.

Kaitlin Lee
As Ole Miss began to garner more national attention during its 2017 postseason run, Lee became a fan-favorite and was seen as a major driving force the Rebels' postseason success. Transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Lee posted a 23-11 record with a 1.82 ERA. She logged 249.2 innings, struck out 118 and walked just 37 hitters. Lee pitches to contact with good command and can work both sides of the plate. She earned Second Team All-SEC honors and has garnered a reputation as one of the better pitchers in the toughest conference in college softball. She will be the Rebels' primary arm once again in 2018 in her final collegiate season.

Brittany Finney
Finney won a national championship as a freshman at Oklahoma before transferring to Ole Miss last year. The Kansas native immediately became an important piece of the puzzle for the Rebels. She swings a good bat and contributed at first base and designated player while also posting a 6-1 record with a 1.80 ERA in 11 appearances and six starts. Finney whiffed 33 batters in 42.2 innings and was the usual secondary option for the Rebels in the postseason. She allowed one run in Ole Miss' final game at UCLA and gave the Rebels a good opportunity to pull out a win. She will be used in a variety of different ways this year, including in the circle.

Morgan Bruce
Bruce posted an 8-5 record as a freshman with a 2.85 ERA in 21 appearances and 12 starts. She tossed 5.1 innings of shutout, three-hit ball in a win over a ranked LSU team and did not allow an earned run in each of her first five collegiate starts. Bruce had a promising freshman campaign and proved to be more than capable of being a viable option when Smith needs one.

Alyssa Clayton
A senior lefty, Clayton complied a 6-2 record with a 2.74 ERA in limited innings coming off an injury in 2016. She made seven starts and totaled two shutouts with three complete games. Opponents hit .215 off of the senior in her 46 innings of work. When Smith talks about being deeper in the circle this year, a healthy Clayton is certainly a big part of that. 

Elisha Jahnke
Jahnke, a senior right-hander, made eight appearances a year ago with one start. She logged 12.1 innings and struck out 12 hitters in that span and posted a 1.70 ERA. Jahnke will provide depth to the Rebel rotation and may see some starts in spot duty.

Anna Borgen and Ava Tillmann
The Ole Miss pitching staff will have tremendous experience with all five pitchers back from a year ago. However, Borgen and Tillmann will also have plenty of opportunities to see action during their freshman campaigns. Borgen, a lefty out of Dallas Christian School in Texas, was a three-time first team all-state honoree, posting a 44-7 career record. Tillmann, meanwhile, garnered all-state honors her junior and senior years at Cedartown High School in Georgia and concluded her career as the school's all-time leader with 817 strikeouts. 
For all Ole Miss softball news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball, on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball and on Instagram at Instagram.com/olemisssoftball. Fans can also follow head coach Mike Smith on Twitter at @msmithsb16. Additionally, fans can get a behind the scenes look at Ole Miss softball and all of Ole Miss athletics on Snapchat under the handle, @WeAreOleMiss.

Pitching, Defense Key Rebels To Win

Ole Miss struck early with five runs over the first four innings, which Chris Ellis and Wyatt Short made hold up in a 6-1 win over Mississippi State Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The leadoff man for Mississippi State reached base safely in five of the seven innings that Ellis started, but he limited the damage to one run in 6.2 innings, as he scattered eight hits with a walk, two hit batsmen and two strikeouts. It marked the seventh time in nine starts that he allowed no earned runs or one earned run this season.

"He was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He made pitches when he had to. He looked like he was so in command of the game. I was proud of the way he pitched, better than he's been in a while."

"It felt like every inning they got a leadoff guy on, whether it was beating out an infield single, or I walk a guy, or hit a guy, but it was good to have defense behind me that turned doubles plays and made the big play to get me out of the inning," Ellis said.

A trio of defensive plays in the middle innings highlighted the effort in the field that included just one error and saved at least one run and possibly more. 

"Chris had a great game today, throwing strikes and making it easy on the defense, getting ground balls and double-play balls to get out of innings," Errol Robinson said. "He kept us in the game throwing strikes and not too many walks today."

In the fourth, Preston Overbey knocked a ball down hit to a hole on the right side and then caught the lead runner in a run-down between third base and home for the last out of the inning. 

In the fifth, Robinson and Overbey combined on a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning, and then in the eighth, Braxton Lee started the inning defensively with an outfield assist, as he cut the ball off and threw out the runner at second.

"It was a big double play, not just by Errol but also a tough turn," said Bianco of the double play. "They run well. We're not holding the guy at first, so he gets a great jump, and then it's a tough turn for Preston because they're all over him. He makes a great turn and gets out of it." 

Mississippi State threatened again later in the eighth with runners at first and second and two outs. Short, who entered the game the seventh, was behind 3-0 to Wes Rea, and then he battled back to a 3-2 count before getting a lineout to Overbey to end the inning.

"We need that," said Bianco of the defense. "We defended really well up until a few weeks ago, so we need to get back to that."


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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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