OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi's slap hitters didn't force SIU's softball team into an error Friday night, but jumpstarted the only big inning the 13th-ranked Rebels needed at the Oxford Regional.
Two walks, including one to the No. 9 hitter, and an infield hit opened the door to a five-run frame. Right fielder Kylan Becker's two-out, two-strike triple into the left-field corner cleared the bases, and Mississippi went on to run-rule the Salukis 8-0 in five innings at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. It was the Rebels' 12th run-rule win of the season.
Leadoff hitter Elantra Cox went 2 for 3 and scored two runs, Becker had a career-high five RBIs, and Kaylee Horton went 1 for 2 with a run scored.
"Our slappers did a great job tonight. They got on base. They've kind of made things happened for us, offensively, this year," Mississippi coach Mike Smith said. "(Becker) did a great job, as well as Kaylee Horton and Elantra."
The Rebels (41-18) tied their school record for wins, set last year, and advanced to meet No. 22 Arizona State today at 1:30 p.m. for a spot in Sunday's regional championship. SIU (33-23) fell into the consolation bracket, where it will meet North Carolina (38-20) at 4 p.m. in an elimination game.
If the Salukis beat the Tar Heels, they'll play the loser of the Mississippi-Arizona State game at 6:30 p.m. in another elimination game. In five previous NCAA Tournament appearances under coach Kerri Blaylock, SIU has never gone 0-2, and doesn't plan on starting this year.
"I've been before, but these kids have not been before, and, so, we really want to make a statement that we belong here, and I think we do," Blaylock said after Friday's game. "I feel like we played really well tonight, and, so, we want to come out tomorow and show well, and show what we're all about. We didn't come here just to arrive. We came here to try to win."
SIU fell to 14-22 all-time in the NCAA Tournament in its 11th appearance. The Salukis are 9-11 under Blaylock in the NCAA regionals. They went 5-11 in five appearances under coach Kay Brechtelsbauer, finishing fourth at the Women's College World Series in 1971. SIU beat Kearney State 19-8, Upper Iowa 8-5, and then lost three straight, to Kansas State 19-5, to Northern Colorado 8-5 and to Nebraska 13-12.
SIU also made College World Series appearances in 1970, 1977 and 1978.