OXFORD As Ole Miss softball tries to replace one of the top players in program history, coach Mike Smith is excited about the talent he has coming in to take steps in the right direction.

And to keep the Rebels pointed toward Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series.

Smith has spent his early summer working to hire a pitching coach and is in the first few weeks of recruiting for the 2020 class.

The group signed last November is stocked with young outfielders he hopes to fill the void left by Kylan Becker.

Becker, an All-American center fielder, set a season record for runs scored and hit .600 in the Oxford Regional to help the Rebels reach a super regional for the second time in three years.

There was a gap between the supers in the 2018 season that Smith is trying to avoid.

Seeking consistency

“The consistency piece, you have to take care of the ball, you have to do the little things. Once we continue to do that year in and year out you’re going to see us continue to have that shot at getting to the college world series. That’s the next step in our process,” Smith said.

Smith was not pleased with the Rebels’ defense in the super regional losses at Arizona. It was not a new development but season-long issue of inconsistency that came from having first-year starters on the right side of the infield, he said.

The Rebels in 2020 will return eight starters and their top pitcher, Molly Jacobsen. From a team that went 41-20, 13-10 in the SEC. Ole Miss narrowly missed being the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament. The fifth-place finish in the league was still the school’s best.

Smith believes incoming freshman Nyomi Jones, the No. 32-ranked player and one of three top 100 players in the class, can do some of the things Becker did as she develops.

Freshman Raegan Cheyne will also get a look in the outfield.

Both are from southern California.

Becker will remain in the program as a student assistant coach.

“I don’t know that you ever replace a Kylan Becker. You just find someone who can hopefully give you something from some of those areas she was so successful in,” Smith said. “Kylan Becker’s one of those players that doesn’t come around very often.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com Twitter: @parrishalford

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