STARKVILLE — Ole Miss senior pitcher Madi Osias looks forward to hanging out with her teammates this weekend.
“There is no school and this is the first weekend all year where we have not had games to play,” Osias said. “I will be honest with you, this is going to be a lot of fun. We are going to hang out and bond and just enjoy being with each other.
“It will be a long weekend because there is so much excitement about what lies ahead.”
Ole Miss saw its run in the Southeastern Conference tournament end with a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Florida in the quarterfinals Thursday night at Nusz Park.
Ole Miss (39-20) will await NCAA Selection Sunday, when it is expected to be chosen for a regional for the first time in school history.
Florida (53-4) will face Alabama or Auburn at 4:30 p.m. today (ESPNU) in the semifinals. Thursday’s late game between Alabama and Auburn was postponed by rain and will be played at 11 a.m. today (SEC Network).
The first semifinal will match Tennessee and LSU at 2 p.m. today (ESPNU).
While Ole Miss was eliminated from the single-elimination event, the 1-1 stay was deemed “positive” by players and coaches. Ole Miss beat No. 15 Georgia 4-2 Wednesday night for its first victory in a conference tournament game.
“You have to take a lot of confidence from these two games,” Osias said. “These are the types of games we will play next weekend, so even though we lost, you take the fact that you played the No. 1 team to a 1-0 game and you are excited about that. If you can play with this team and have a chance on the final out, you can play with anybody.”
When Mike Smith was hired, Ole Miss had two winning seasons in program history. In his first season a year ago, the Rebels matched a school record with 30 wins. The program has taken another step forward this season. It entered the tournament with a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 27, essentially making it a lock for a regional. After the victory against Georgia, Smith was still campaigning for his team to get into the NCAA tournament. His tune changed slightly Thursday night.
“I think we have played well enough to be a two seed in a regional,” Smith said. “We have done nothing to damage our resume in the last 48 hours. I think you saw a team that deserves to go and deserves to be highly seeded by the committee. I am not on the committee, so I don’t know what they will do.
“However, I know this team and what they have been able to achieve this year. It doesn’t matter where we go. We could be sent to the West Coast or we could be sent somewhere geographically closer, such as Oklahoma or Baylor or (Louisiana-Lafayette). We will take our assignment and be ecstatic.”
Smith echoed the sentiments of Osias, who pitched a complete-game four-hitter against the Gators.
“You have to really take (this game) as a positive,” Smith said. “(Thanks to a rain delay), we held Florida scoreless for four hours. I don’t know who else has done that this year? While I am joking there, you have to be really pleased at how well you played in this tournament. It’s trial run for what is coming next week. We hope to play this type of game. We hope to get that one hit we couldn’t get tonight.”
Ole Miss had one hit against Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio. Still, Ole Miss had the best chance to score first. In the fifth inning, Kylan Becker had a leadoff hit. Courtney Syratt sacrificed Becker to second base. Ocasio relieved Barnhill and walked Dakota Matiko on four pitches, including a wild pitch that sent Becker to third. Florida escaped the jam thanks to a line-drive double play from shortstop to first.
Kelsey Stewart started the home half of the inning with a double. She took third when the ball was misplayed coming back in. Two walks loaded the bases. Osais then struck out Florida’s top hitter, Kristi Merritt. A passed ball followed for the only run.
The throw appeared to be in at time at the plate, but Stewart was rule safe coming in from third base. Osias then got a strikeout and popout to end that threat.
Florida retired six straight in the last two at-bats to complete its 28th shutout.
While Ole Miss was disappointed in the loss, especially after losing three regular-season games to Florida by a combined score of 18-3, it was short lived because thoughts quickly turned to what is next.
“My first two years here, there was no SEC tournament, there was no regional,” said Osias, who is a California native. “I could buy my plane ticket to go home (after the season) with three or four weeks left in the season. Last year, we made the SEC tournament, so that was a little better. This year, though, has topped all of that.
“To know something special is waiting for us is very exciting. We have wanted this for quite some time.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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