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Ole Miss softball taking over Mississippi sports

It started small, as many things do. Just a way to plug a hole with something relevant on a slow news day. Then it got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and before long it was approaching rock star status.

I’m talking, of course, about Ole Miss softball. It’s become a phenomenon in Mississippi over the past couple of weeks. Players are getting standing ovations at baseball games just for showing up. For the first time ever, fans are talking about the possibility of playing in the College World Series in June and mentioning Oklahoma City instead of Omaha.

I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it.

Every sport has its place in the local pecking order, and in Mississippi college softball is generally somewhere between curling and Arena League Football. The state’s teams haven’t been very good, historically, and a lot of the players aren’t from Mississippi. Ole Miss and Mississippi State only have four homegrown players each on their rosters.

So, when it comes to giving it some coverage in the paper, there’s usually no need. Nobody follows it most of the time.

That started to change a couple of weeks ago, when Ole Miss and Mississippi State played in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Not much else was going on that Wednesday, so it was a good thing to plug in to fill the gap.

Ole Miss won, and then the next day it beat top-ranked Florida. It kept winning, all the way through to the SEC championship and then the NCAA regional. The Rebels will play at UCLA in a best-of-three super regional series beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Players like Kaitlin Lee — one of the Rebels’ four Mississippi players — and Elantra Cox became household names overnight. The team’s underdog story captured the attention of the state and maybe even inspired a few folks.

It’s been stunning to see, if not entirely surprising. I’ve always said Mississippi is like one big small town, and if there’s one thing we do it’s root for our own. Whether it’s football, softball or Tiddliwinks, if it’s a Mississippi team and it’s doing well, we’ll root for it. It’s one of the things I really enjoy about living here.

So Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, and go Rebels. Head west and prosper. I can’t promise that we’ll provide breathless coverage of the team next season, but we’re certainly along for the ride right now.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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