Ole Miss

Standout pitcher Kaitlin Lee reflects on breakthrough season at Ole Miss

Ole Miss Kaitlin Lee had a breakout season for the Lady Rebels
Ole Miss Kaitlin Lee had a breakout season for the Lady Rebels AP File

Ole Miss pitcher Kaitlin Lee turned the NCAA Softball tournament into her personal showcase.

The former Harrison Central High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout was the driving force in Ole Miss’ surprising run through the Super Regionals. Lee will be honored on from 3-5 p.m. June 25 at the Long Beach Recreation Center.

Lee played a leading role in Ole Miss’ historic season that included its first-ever SEC Tournament championship and hosting a regional. She was the SEC’s Tournament MVP, pitching every inning in the tournament. For the season, Lee went 23-11 with a 1.82 ERA and 118 strikeouts. Justin’s World of Softball named Lee its softball breakout player of the year.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Lee said. “I expected to battle my first season at Ole Miss, but I never expected to get as big as it did. The whole experience has been awesome.”

Lee, 21, saw the Rebels’ season-ending sweep at UCLA in the Super Regionals as a learning experience.

“I’m taking the whole season as motivation for next year,” Lee said. “Our goal will be to make it to the Women’s College World Series next year. We are a young team.”

At each level, Lee always made a smooth transition. She earned Sun Herald All-South Mississippi honors after leading the Red Rebelettes to a Class 6A state title in 2014.

Lee went 42-8 in two seasons at Gulf Coast. As a freshman, she led the Lady Bulldogs into the NJCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, Lee had a 138 strikeouts and a 0.84 ERA. She was the first Lady Bulldogs softball player to sign a scholarship with an SEC softball program.

“At Harrison Central, I learned how to win,” Lee said. “Coach Jimmy Parker instilled that in me: you have to hate to lose and love to win. That made me the success I am now. At Gulf Coast, I learned how to be a leader.”

The 5-foot-6 Lee fit right in with the Lady Rebels.

“It’s not anything to adjust to,” Lee said. “I’ve always been myself. I always stay true to myself. I’ve always been ready and the go-to when pressure is on. I wanted to go somewhere and make an impact. I believe I’ve done that.”

Ole Miss coach Mike Smith is impressed with Lee’s savvy and leadership.

“I’ve never coached another player like her,” Smith said at the Oxford Regional. “I’m not sure if I ever will coach another player like her ever again. God has blessed her in so many ways. I’m just thankful we have her on our team. When you have a pitcher that stares you in the eye and says ‘Coach, I got you. I’m good,’ you feel really confident as a coach.”

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones