Mississippi State Softball: Ole Miss Q&A Series Preview

CONSUELO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - AUGUST 20: A Close up of tattered baseballs and softballs the players use to practice with on August 20, 2003 in Consuelo, Dominican Republic. Consuelo, which has ten programs for youths to learn and play baseball, is about 50 miles east of Santo Domingo. Of the ten programs, two provide housing for the players. One of which is Latin Baseball Academy, which was set up ten months ago by Luis Silvestre, a taxi driver in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
CONSUELO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - AUGUST 20: A Close up of tattered baseballs and softballs the players use to practice with on August 20, 2003 in Consuelo, Dominican Republic. Consuelo, which has ten programs for youths to learn and play baseball, is about 50 miles east of Santo Domingo. Of the ten programs, two provide housing for the players. One of which is Latin Baseball Academy, which was set up ten months ago by Luis Silvestre, a taxi driver in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Mississippi State Softball To Play Rival Ole Miss On The Road

Mississippi State softball and Ole Miss are set to face off this weekend. The two schools faced each other on the tennis court and the baseball field last week and now it’s time for their softball teams to meet.

The Bulldogs are heading up to Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels. To properly prepare for such an occasion, I had a few questions that needed answering. I got together with Juco All-American of Red Cup Rebellion in hopes that he’d be up for clearing some things up for me about the Ole Miss softball team.

Juco All-American has a considerable amount of insight into MSU’s rivals given that, well, he’s an Ole Miss fan. On top of that obvious bit, he knows a good bit about the Ole Miss softball program and has discussed them for Red Cup Rebellion.

So, I sent him questions and he answered them. That’s kind of how Q&A’s work and, well, this is a Q&A.

What’s Going On With Ole Miss?

Ethan Lee: Last season, we saw Ole Miss burst out onto the college softball scene nationally. This year, the Rebels have hit a rough patch. I admittedly haven’t paid close enough attention to Ole Miss to know what’s really going on. Did they lose any key contributors from last season to this one? What is the biggest reason for this year seeming like a let down after last year?

Juco All-American: Yeah. For the most part it’s really puzzling. The only position player they lost who produced offensively was Miranda Strother (who hit over .300 as a senior), and they didn’t lose a single pitcher. Kylan Becker and Elantra Cox were both invited to TeamUSA tryouts, theoretically suggesting they were two of the top 50 players in the country. Both have seen a step down in their hitting.

The only change on the pitching side came in the way of losing pitching coach Taryne Mowatt, who returned to Arizona, her alma mater. That seems to have made a big difference, pushing the staff ERA up, most notably Kaitlin Lee’s.

Last year, this team got by on clutch play at key moments. They weren’t good at hitting then either; it just kind of worked when it needed to. This year, it has been really bad.

How Do The Teams Compare?

EL: When Ole Miss meets up with MSU this weekend, they’ll be facing a team that is top five in the SEC in both aforementioned categories. Mississippi State who has an ERA of 1.65 and a batting average of .304. But, State is a considerably better team when the Bulldogs are playing at home and, well, they’ve slumped a bit in SEC play. Especially so at the plate. Do you think MSU can string together enough hits to win twice this weekend?

Juco: I can’t say I’ve followed Mississippi State softball and am therefore maybe not qualified to fully answer this. I definitely think they could catch the pitchers struggling, especially with such terrible run support. I don’t expect Ole Miss to win the series.

EL: Statistically, Ole Miss isn’t a great team when compared to the rest of the SEC. That said, their stats are still pretty good. Their team ERA is 2.63 and their team batting average comes in at .250. But, in the SEC, they’re at the bottom of the league in both categories. Which, in your mind, has been the bigger issue this year?

Juco: Definitely hitting. There are several good bats on the team, but there are also several regular position players batting under .200. It’s totally unacceptable and has been a recurring theme through head coach Mike Smith’s tenure in Oxford. I’m a big fan of Smith’s, but he can’t get enough bats in any class.

The Future Of This Rivalry

EL: For a while, it felt like Vann Stuedeman couldn’t lose this series. Her teams simply won against in-state opponents, Ole Miss included. Then, that sort of changed over the past couple years. Do you think this is a rivalry that will continue to go back and forth over the next couple of seasons?

Juco: Again, I don’t really know enough about State’s program. Ole Miss, in theory, has two top five classes inbound in 2020 and 2021, but the 2019 class isn’t very good as of this writing. There are pieces in Oxford that could come together and work, but I have been predicting a dropoff for next year. Obviously that’s unlikely now given that the team can’t really drop off from 4-11 in the SEC.

EL: Can Mississippi State softball and Ole Miss both thrive in an SEC that is as loaded as it is in college softball? We talk about how the Magnolia State struggles to consistently field football teams that contend in this conference, but it’s quite possibly tougher to be a softball coach in the SEC than it is to be a football coach. Can these two teams continue to rise and possibly compete for Women’s College World Series appearances?

Juco: Probably not. Mississippi high school softball is apparently really, really bad. Both teams will have to identify diamonds in the rough and also recruit nationally to make this work. Do the softball programs really have the pull necessary to get highly regarded girls out of California? Probably not.

Prediction Time

EL: I know those were somewhat lengthy question, so let’s wrap this up really quickly. What are your predictions for this series? Who comes out on top?

Juco: State wins two.


And so, that should cover just about everything regarding this series.

In terms of predictions, I think Juco is correct here. Although Mississippi State softball is notably better than Ole Miss statistically, I’m not overly confident in predicting that the Bulldogs will sweep this series. Two wins seems about right given MSU’s struggles in conference play.

The Bulldogs and Rebels will face each other tomorrow night for the first time. The two teams are both looking for SEC wins. MSU is 4-8 in the SEC while Ole Miss is 4-11. If the Bulldogs win this weekend, it’ll help their season continue to trend upward.