Pitcher Kaitlin Lee’s rise to stardom came at a perfect time for Ole Miss.
The 12th-seed Rebels will host Southern Illinois at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. In the other game, North Carolina will face Arizona State. The winners will meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lee’s amazing run began with Ole Miss winning its first SEC Tournament title, earning her MVP honors. The Rebels beat Alabama, No. 1 Florida, Mississippi State and LSU in the finals.
The former Harrison Central High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout revealed the secret to her success at the SEC Tournament.
“It’s all my adrenaline and energy,” Lee said in a school press release. “Everybody in the dugout will tell you that I don’t ever go down — it’s always up more, up more, up more. Sometimes I do need to take a deep breath when I get really excited, but that’s what carries me.”
Ole Miss coach Mike Smith saw something special in Lee during her recruiting visit to Oxford last year.
“From the moment I had her in our office with her family,” Smith said. “I mean, what you see is what you get. She’s as transparent as possible. That’s the type of kid that you want. You want 22 of those type of kids. Kaitlin just amazes me every time she goes out with what she’s able to do.”
The Rebels will go as far as Lee takes them. For the season, Lee (20-10) has a 1.78 ERA. Opponents are hitting .231 against Lee, who’s averaging just 3.2 strikeouts per start.
“When you have a pitcher like that who throws every game for you, you’ve got to run the hot hand,” Smith said. “So, we’re going to continue to ride her.”
Should Ole Miss advance, a Super Regional contest at fifth-ranked UCLA in Los Angeles likely awaits the Rebels. The winners between the Oxford and Los Angeles regionals will earn a berth in the Women’s College World Series.