Well, 2017 is nearing its conclusion as there is only a few hours left on the year. Ole Miss, to say the least, had an interesting, yet tumultuous year.
Let’s recap the year. In February, Ole Miss self-imposed a one-year bowl ban. Then, the baseball team, which was coming off signing the top ranked recruiting class, failed to make the tournament because it turns out the adjustment to college is, in fact, difficult.
Up next, came some much-needed good news from the unlikeliest of places – Ole Miss Softball and Ole Miss Golf. Ole Miss Softball unprecedentedly won the SEC tournament, while Braden Thornberry won a national championship in golf.
But the honeymoon was short-lived. On July 20, Ole Miss returned to the most scandalous game. Hugh Freeze was forced to resign amidst a pattern of personal misconduct being unearthed.
What ensued next was…entertaining in a way, and it may make a great ’30 for 30′ one day down the line. I won’t spend too much time on that, we all know the story during the season. Ole Miss dealt with speculation for months before finally receiving an NCAA verdict, but not before A.J. Brown became the Mayor of Starkville as Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl.
But enough of rehashing old wounds, let us get to the fun stuff – celebrating the very first Armchair Ole Miss awards. It is the award show for Ole Miss that is guaranteed to make you want to sit in an armchair and read them!
Best Individual Performance
Braden Thornberry anytime he steps on a golf course would be a good answer, and it is exactly where I am going with this. Braden Thornberry won a National Championship in golf. Do I honestly need to say anything else?
Best Record-Breaking Performance
A.J. Brown is a good choice, but so is Kaitlin Lee. What does one do here? After careful scouting, analysis, and new, advanced analytics that I made up in my head, we announce A.J. Brown as having the best record-breaking performance of 2017. Brown set or tied multiple school records including single-game receptions and single-season reception yards. Brown broke the latter in the Egg Bowl, a game in which he dominated Mississippi State. The poetic justice that was A.J. Brown breaking an Ole Miss school record in his hometown of Starkville was simply too much to be overlooked in this category.
Best Championship Performance
Kaitlin Lee, hands down, had the best championship performance. She threw every pitch in the SEC tournament to lead Ole Miss softball on their magical championship run. She also threw every pitch as Ole Miss won their first ever regional. All in all, she pitched seven consecutive games and only allowed 5 runs, tossing three shutouts, two of which came against ranked opponents – No. 1 Florida and No. 22 Arizona State.
Ole Miss Softball was the best Ole Miss team in 2017, and it isn’t close. They captivated the fan base at a time it was nearing one of its lowest points. Mike Smith’s team won the SEC tournament for the fist time in school history, and they hosted a regional for the first time in school history. They then traveled to a blue-blood in UCLA for the Super Regionals where the teams played two classics with Ole Miss unfortunately coming up on the losing end.
It has to be Mike Smith, right? He has transformed Ole Miss from an SEC softball after-thought to SEC Champions and national relevance.
Mount Rushmore of Ole Miss in 2017
A.J. Brown, Kaitlin Lee, Terence Davis, Braden Thornberry
A.J. Brown is the best, and most popular, player on the football team, which makes him an easy decision. I may start a riot if I was to not place him here, and I have no interest in doing that at this moment in time.
Kaitlin Lee became the darling of Ole Miss over a string of seven games, which is impressive and shocking until you see everyone she beat in those seven games, especially the first four. Lee defeated arch-rival Mississippi State, and then No. 1 Florida. Later, she defeated both Alabama and LSU in the same day to win the SEC championship.
Braden Thornberry won a national championship, so he is required, by some law, to be on the list. No, not the list of people you wish to kill.
Finally, Terence Davis makes an appearance. He is the best player on the basketball team, and, frankly, he is more popular than the baseball team’s best player.