CARBONDALE — Ole Miss' softball team became the first eight-seed to ever win the Southeastern Conference tournament, got its first player in school history onto the league's first team, and was still rising Tuesday.
Mississippi (40-18), which hosts SIU (33-22) in the second game of the Oxford (Mississippi) Regional on Friday night, moved up six spots in the USA Today/NFCA poll Tuesday to No. 13. The Rebels moved up two spots in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll to No. 16, and will take a four-game winning streak into its second NCAA Tournament appearance ever.
Kylan Becker, a sophomore outfielder who hit .372 this season, became the program's first All-SEC first team selection. Becker and junior outfielder Elantra Cox went a combined 4 for 7 with four RBIs in the Rebels' SEC tournament championship win over No. 21 LSU, and lead the scouting report.
"The top two make their offense go, so, it's defending against that, which is what we worked on today," SIU coach Kerri Blaylock said. "I think it's the same as when you look at how Indiana State gets on, and things like that nature. You try to play really good defense."
Cox (.417) and Becker are expected to lead off Mississippi's lineup this weekend. The two players are a combined 40 of 50 stealing bases this season for one of the top base-stealing teams in the country. The Rebels average 1.71 stolen bases a game, tied for 27th-best in the NCAA.
Mississippi plays some small ball. Sophomore third baseman Ashton Lampton is the team's home run leader with six in 55 games, but the Rebels hit .294 as a team and have eight different players with 20 or more RBIs.
By comparison, SIU's Merri Anne Patterson (seven home runs), Shaye Harre (eight) and Sydney Jones (nine) all have more round-trippers than Lampton. Six Salukis have driven in more than 20 of their 215 RBIs this season.
Mississippi's style could play well for SIU. Saluki pitchers Brianna Jones and Savanna Dover have allowed 11 and six home runs, respectively, this season, but both have ERAs under 3.00.
"The games that I've seen recently, they push people into making errors, and force things, and I think that's a benefit for us because of our fielding percentage and how well we play defense," Blaylock said.
North Carolina (38-19) and Arizona State (30-20), two at-large picks, are the other two teams in the regional. SIU will play either the winner or loser of their game on Saturday at either 1:30 p.m. or 4, depending on the results.
Harre, Patterson honored: Harre and Patterson were named to the Missouri Valley Conference's Scholar-Athlete first team on Monday.
Both were named to the All-MVC first team and academic all-district. Harre, a senior first baseman from Nashville, has a 3.9 GPA in animal sciences. Patterson, a senior outfielder from Lynnville, Tennessee, has a 3.9 GPA in exercise science.
Harre and Patterson earned first team scholar-athlete honors for the third straight year.