This weekend happened to be historic for the University of Mississippi softball team and the SEC itself. No one expected to the Rebels to be in the May 13 championship game of the 2017 SEC Tournament.
UM entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed and started things off by taking out the team’s main rival, No. 9 seed Mississippi State University, 2-1 on the opening day. The Rebels shocked the nation when they knocked off No. 1 seed and top-ranked University of Florida 2-0 and became one of the final four teams standing.
Even the weather couldn’t slow down the No. 19th-ranked Rebels after the May 12 semifinals experienced a rain delay. Both the semifinals and the championship game were moved to Saturday.
In the semifinals, UM took down No. 5 seed and 15th-ranked University of Alabama 4-1, advancing to the title game. There was no stopping the Rebels as they defeated No. 6 seed and 21st-ranked Louisiana State University 5-1 and took the crown.
This is the first SEC Softball Tournament Championship in program history for the Rebels. While hot bats were part of the story, UM pitcher Kaitlin Lee was the star, as she pitched all 28 innings that the Rebels played.
Lee is the first pitcher to take the mound for every inning in the SEC Tournament since Alabama pitcher Kelsi Dunne accomplished the feat over just 19 innings in 2010. The Rebels played in four games this year, while Alabama played in just three games in 2010.
The SEC Conference made history on Sunday, May 14, as the entire 13-team league earned a bid into the 2017 NCAA Division I Softball Tournament. Vanderbilt University not fielding a softball team is the reason only 13 teams reached the tournament.
Half of the 16 national seeds are from the conference, with Florida earning the No. 1 overall seed. Auburn University is the No. 7 seed, the University of Tennessee is No. 8, Texas A&M University is No. 9, Mississippi is No. 12, the University of Kentucky is No. 14, and Alabama is No. 16.
MSU landed in the Salt Lake City Regional with No. 11 seed University of Utah. The Bulldogs open regional play against Brigham Young University on May 18.
The University of South Carolina is in the Tucson Regional with No. 2 seed University of Arizona. In the Norman Regional, the University of Arkansas will visit No. 10 seed University of Oklahoma.
Another tough draw for the SEC is the fact that the University of Missouri is heading west to in the Eugene Regional, which No. 3 seed University of Oregon is hosting. The University of Georgia rounds out the SEC teams in the field as it heads to the Tallahassee Regional with No. 4 seed Florida State University.
This isn’t the first time that a conference got every one of its teams into the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 accomplished the feat back in 2007, and that conference is behind the SEC with eight teams in this year’s tournament.
The Big Ten is third with five teams, the Big 12 comes in fourth with four, and the ACC was able to get three in for fifth place. Four conferences are tied for seventh with two teams, and 23 conferences earned one place in the tournament.