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With a doubleheader sweep on the road at Southern Miss on Tuesday, the Ole Miss softball team improved to 6-6 on the season as it comes home to play its first home games of the season at the annual Red and Blue Classic from Friday-Sunday.

"It's tough because we lost a lot of one-run ball games, and if we cleaned up some mistakes in some of those games, or scored some of the runners that we left on base, we would have won some more games," head coach Windy Thees said.

"Overall, if you look at our offense, we're doing really well. We just need to make sure we're scoring the runners when we get on base. Pitching-wise, we're keeping our team in ball games. We need to get the big out with a runner on instead of putting pressure on our defense. Defensively, we have had some great games, but we need to come up with the big play in the infield and outfield. We have made more mistakes this year than I'm used to, but part of that is because we have more drop-ball pitchers and we don't have as my pop-ups or fly balls."

The Rebels are hitting .317 and averaging 4.1 runs per game, led by senior outfielder RT Cantillo and junior third baseman Allison Brown. Cantillo leads the Southeastern Conference with 23 hits on the season, and her team-high batting average of .575 ranks second in the league. Brown is tied for second in the SEC with 16 hits, while her .381 batting average is third on the team.

Through 12 games, Ole Miss has left 88 runners on base, an average of 7.3 per game. Thees said she wants her team to embrace the opportunity and make the great play in situations such as hitting with runners on base.

"Sometimes we're getting some great hits, but we're getting unlucky," Thees said. "A lot of times the kids are putting too much pressure on themselves and not being patient and selective enough to get their pitch early in the count. 

"We're working on that. It's early-season excitement, getting in the box, wanting to come through and seeing the game too big, instead of really small, looking for something up and out so I can drive it opposite field to score the runner."

In the circle, Ole Miss has posted a 2.48 ERA with 39 runs scored -- 28 earned -- on 66 hits with 34 walks and 69 strikeouts. Four pitchers have started games for the Rebels. 

The most consistent option has been senior right-hander Shelby Jo Fenter, who holds a team-best 1.24 ERA in 22.2 innings of work, including a team-high 28 strikeouts. Another right-hander, redshirt freshman Emily Gaitan, is second on the team with a 1.43 ERA in 14.2 innings of work and also leads the team with a .156 opponents' batting average.

"It's nice to have so many options, and they're all four very different pitchers," Thees said. "Part of it is tough because they all need to get more time on the mound, and they're not getting as much as they're used to. 

"I like that we can mix pitchers, so I definitely plan on using my whole staff throughout the season. We don't have that staff where we are going to ride one pitcher like some teams do for the whole season."

Ole Miss opens the three-day, five-game tournament Friday against Bowling Green at 6:00 p.m. On Saturday, the Rebels play back-to-back games at 1:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. against Buffalo and Northern Colorado, respectively. Ole Miss will close the tournament Sunday with games against Saint Louis (1:30 p.m.) and UT Martin (3:45 p.m.)

"It's always exciting for our players and for us as a staff to play in front of our friends, our family, Ole Miss and the community we have here," Thees said. "Our girls are very excited to be at home and play on the field that we practice on and that we know so well. Hopefully we can make everyone proud."

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