Head coach Mike Smith’s resumé was already filled with accomplishments after just one year as the Rebels’ coach, but after year two, the successes have only multiplied as Ole Miss has blossomed into one of the top programs in the country under Smith’s watch.
It all began back on May 29, 2014 when Smith was announced as the fifth head coach of the program. Since, the record books have been rewritten and the Rebels have enjoyed many firsts both on and off the diamond.
Just a year after tying the school record for wins with 30 in 2015, the 2016 edition of the Ole Miss Softball team shattered that by a long shot, winning 41 games en route to the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The road there was peppered with highlights as well, as the Rebels tied the school record for SEC wins at 11 and advanced to the SEC Tournament for the fifth time after being picked 12th in the preseason poll. But, they didn’t just qualify for the tournament. This time, the Rebels came up a winner as the program claimed its first ever SEC Tournament win thanks to a 4-2 victory over No. 15 Georgia on May 11.
Long before Ole Miss’ deep run in the postseason was a regular season that started well, and featured many team and individual high points along the way. Smith’s group started out 8-2, the first team to do so, before going on a school record 12-game win streak from Feb. 24 to March 9. The Rebels also put together a 15-game non-conference win streak, which was also a school record.
Through the first 23 games of the campaign, Ole Miss had only lost three times, the fastest start in program history for the diamond Rebs. Then 28 games in, the Rebels’ win total already topped nine of the previous season’s win totals in the 20-year history of the program, still with the last half of the season left to play.
Along the way, Smith earned his 800th career win as a head coach in a midweek victory over Central Arkansas on March 15. His squad debuted in the crucial NCAA RPI at No. 29, and eventually rose to 27th where they finished, also highest in school history.
Smith’s squad snapped multiple streaks to longtime SEC powerhouses, including defeating Georgia for the first time in 13 years, as well as snapping a seven year skid to Tennessee to cap the miraculous regular season that ended at 38-19 overall and 11-13 in league action.
In NCAA Regional action, the Rebels were victorious in game one for their first ever NCAA Tournament win in their first try, and went on to top Wichita State as well.
All season, thanks to the team’s success under Smith, record-breaking crowds showed up at the Ole Miss Softball Complex en route to a record-breaking year for attendance.
The season total attendance of 13,506 across 29 home contests shattered the previous record by 6,000-plus, and seven of the top ten crowds in program history all came in 2016. Seven of the Rebels’ final nine SEC games at home resulted in record crowds, including a program best 1,410 against No. 9 Tennessee on May 7.
On the field, the team finished the historic campaign with 11 wins against top-50 RPI squads, six of which came away from home, and achieved its highest RPI in recorded history of No. 27. Of the 22 losses, 15 came against top-25 RPI teams, and the Rebels in some way appeared in the top-25 national polls nearly all season long, finishing No. 24 in the final ESPN.com/USA Today Poll for the first time in school history.
Smith coached three Rebels to NFCA All-Region honors, including sophomore outfielder Elantra Cox (First Team), freshman shortstop Hailey Lunderman (Second Team), and senior pitcher Madi Osias (Third Team). Lunderman was also a Top-10 Finalist for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Award, and earned All-Freshman SEC honors following her stellar season.
Thanks to the team’s best season to date, Smith was awarded a contract extension on June 7, ensuring he and Ole Miss’ commitment to the softball program for the long term future.
In Smith’s first season as a Rebel, Smith came up aces, tying the then school record for wins in a season and putting an offense on the field that rewrote the record books. The Rebels set every offensive record for a season, including batting average, runs scored, RBI, home runs, triples, walks, steals and both on base percentage and slugging percentage. Ole Miss also tied the school record for doubles in his first season.
Under his direction in year one, the Rebels advanced to the SEC Tournament for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since the 2008 season. The 30-wins tied the mark for wins in a year set in 2005 and gave Smith a winning record in his first year. Ole Miss also doubled its win total in Southeastern Conference play, tallying six wins which equaled the total number of conference wins in the previous two seasons combined.
He also coached outfielder Elantra Cox to Freshman All-SEC honors as she finished the regular season fourth in steals and seventh in the career record books with 30 in her debut campaign.
Smith came to Ole Miss after he led the McNeese State softball program to three-straight 30-plus win seasons in his three years with the Cowgirls.
He led McNeese State to back-to-back Southland Conference regular season championships in 2013 and 2014, its first since 1994, brought 16 years of head coaching experience to Oxford and a career record of 748-224. He was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
The Cowgirls went 40-17 during the regular season in 2014, a school record for wins in a season, and posted a 3-1 record against Southeastern Conference opponents Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. The Cowgirls finished the season with an RPI ranking of No. 46 and won the Southland Conference regular season title by 4.5 games with a 20-6 record.
In addition to Smith being named SLC Coach of the Year in 2014, the Cowgirls also had the conference’s player of the year, hitter of the year and pitcher of the year. In all, the Cowgirls had nine players named to either the SLC first, second, third or honorable mention teams.
Under Smith’s tutelage, the Cowgirls had two players named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-South Region team in outfielder Alanna DiVittorio and pitcher Jamie Allred.
DiVittorio, the Southland Conference player and hitter of the year, was the first player in program history to earn first team all-region honors. As a senior in 2014, DiVittorio broke a combined nine school and conference records.
Allred, the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, earned second team all-region honors. She finished 2014 with a school-record 27 wins, as well as 10 shutouts.
Both players earned first team All-SLC honors this season and were each Capital One Academic All-District selections. DiVittorio was also named to the Capital One Academic All-America team, becoming just the second player in program history to earn the distinction.
In 2013, his second season with McNeese State, Smith had five players named to the All-SLC team and four named to the All-SLC Academic Team. On the field, the Cowgirls tied a then-program record with 38 wins, going 38-13.
In his first season with McNeese State in 2012, Smith led the Cowgirls to a 3-1 win over Arizona State, the defending national champions and preseason No. 1 team in the country at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. McNeese State went on to go 34-21 that season.
Prior to McNeese State, Smith coached for eight seasons at California Baptist where he won the NAIA National Championship in 2009, and finished in the top-six in the country all eight years, including seven years finishing inside the top-four. The Lancers won their conference championship and advanced to the NAIA World Series all eight years, and won 60 or more games in each of Smith’s final four seasons, concluding with a school-record 66 wins in 2011.
Smith was the interim head coach at UC Riverside prior to his time at California Baptist, and in the four years prior to that he served as head coach at Biola, where he won one league title, had a 50-win season and a 10th-place finish at the NAIA World Series.
In 2011, he served as the head coach of the USA team that played in the Prague International Softball Championships.
A graduate of The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, Smith was a two-time all-district pitcher on the college baseball team and went on to play in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, reaching the Class AA level. He also played for a number of independent league teams from 1994 to 2001.
Smith was a Western Baseball League Pitcher of the Year with the Mission Viejo (Calif.) team in both 1997 and 1998, and in 2000 was the MVP of the WBL championship series with the St. George team.
Smith also served as a pitching coach for the Biola baseball team from 1996-1998, and was a teacher and coach at Heritage Christian School in Anaheim, California, from 1993-96, where he was head coach for baseball and boys and girls basketball teams, an assistant coach in football and an assistant athletic director.
A San Diego native, Smith and his wife, Ellen, have two children, Ashlee and Tyler.
Ruben Felix, a former Major League Baseball coach, joined the Ole Miss Softball Staff as the Rebels Volunteer Coach/Camp Coordinator for the 2015 season. Just two seasons later, Felix has climbed the ladder from a volunteer role, to now Associate Head Coach for the Rebels.
In his first year full time with the Rebels, his assistance and leadership paid off as the team shattered the wins record with 41 advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
Just a year after breaking every offensive record except one – doubles, which they tied – the Rebels saw two more hitting records fall under Felix’s guidance. Ole Miss totaled 457 hits in 2016 shattering the previous record of 444 set just a year ago. The Rebels’ patience also paid off as the 184 walks set a new mark, as well as the program-best 126 stolen bases which ranked seventh in the nation.
Felix also coached freshman sensation Hailey Lunderman to one of the best freshman campaigns in the country. Lunderman, a shortstop, was named a Top-10 Finalist for the NFCA/Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year, and became Ole Miss’ single season hits leader with 76 on the year. Her 76 hits were second-most among all freshmen in the NCAA, and first among freshman hitters in the SEC and seventh overall. Overall, five hitters in the starting lineup saw their seasons end with an average of .300 or better under Felix’s watch.
The Rebel defense also shined all year long finishing second in the SEC in fielding (.978) and fifth nationally, thanks to only 40 errors committed through 63 games, including seven players who committed just two errors or less all season.
Felix came to Ole Miss prior to the 2015 season after four seasons as the top softball assistant coach & recruiting coordinator at the University of Central Florida. In two of his last three seasons at UCF, Felix helped the Knights advance to the NCAA tournament.
While at UCF, Felix coached hitters, infielders, catchers and was the first base coach for the Knights. In 2014 Felix helped UCF to a 43-18 overall record and their first ever American Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship in program history. The 2014 UCF staff was named Coaching Staff of the Year. UCF had three NFCA All-Region selections, a record 15 Academic All-Conference honorees, one Burnett Honors College Scholarship Athlete, five All-Conference players and the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Farrah Sullivan. As a team UCF won the conference hitting title with a .322 average and pitching title with an era of 1.89, and finished second with a fielding% of 968. Nationally UCF finished in the top-10 as a team in pitching with an era of 1.80, 482 strikeouts and 2nd in stolen bases with 132. In the four seasons at UCF Felix coached 17 All-Conference players, six NFCA All-Region selections, one Scholar Athlete of the Year in C-USA, one C-USA Conference Pitcher of the Year, one C-USA Conference Player of the Year, one C-USA Newcomer of the Year, one Team USA Women’s Baseball National Team Selection, 13 All America Scholar Athletes and finished in the top-20 in team GPA in NCAA in 2012.
Felix is a native of El Paso, Texas, where he was inducted into the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. Felix began his coaching career in 1999 at Texas Tech University where he coached baseball and softball for the Red Raiders after retiring from professional baseball. Most recently in 2014 Felix was the head baseball coach for the Winter Garden Squeeze of the Florida Collegiate Wood Bat League. In 2012 Felix was the manager for Team USA Baseball in the Women’s World Cup where he guided the team to a silver medal against the World Champions Japan in Edmonton, Canada. In 2011 Felix was a manager for Team USA Baseball in the WNT friendship series and was also a scout for the 16U national team. In 2010, Felix helped Team USA Baseball 14U win a bronze medal at the Pan Am Tournament in Managua, Nicaragua, as an assistant coach and scout.
In 2009, while coaching in Major League Baseball for the Baltimore Orioles, Felix was asked to be on staff for Team USA Baseball for the World Baseball Classic. While with Team USA Baseball in the World Baseball Classic he had the privilege of coaching MLB All-Stars: Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedrioa, Chipper Jones, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Jake Pevy, Kevin Youkilis, Jimmy Rollins, Adam Dunn, Brain McCann, Curtis Granderson and others. On the Team USA Baseball staff for the World Baseball Classic was Davey Johnson, Barry Larkin, Bill Ripken, Mike Schmidt and others. For the World Baseball Classic Team USA Baseball finished in fourth-place after losing to defending champions Japan in semi-finals at Dodgers Stadium.
Felix’s Major League Baseball experience includes two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and three seasons with the Cleveland Indians as an assistant coach. Felix has also coached at the triple-A level for the Culiacan Tomateros in the Mexican Pacific Coast Winter League in 2007. As the head bullpen coach for Culiacan Felix helped former Major Leaguer Jose Silva break the league for saves with 23. Prior to coaching at the professional level Felix was the head/assistant coach at Galveston Junior College in Texas from 2001-2004.
While at Galveston he served as the Whitecaps baseball strength and conditioning coach, baseball operations director and academic coordinator. In the summer of 2001, Felix was an assistant baseball coach for the Bethesda Big Train of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer League and was also an assistant baseball coach at Trinity High School in Lubbock, Texas where he coached former Seattle Mariners 4th round pick & MLB pitcher Bobby Livingston. In 2000, Felix was an assistant softball coach for his alma mater Texas Tech University where he served as the hitting, infield and catching coach. In 1999, Felix was on staff with Texas Tech baseball as a volunteer coach working with the bullpen and outfield. That season Felix helped the No. 24 Red Raiders to the NCAA regional championship game versus top-ranked Rice. The Red Raiders finished the 1999 baseball season ranked as the top pitching team in the Big 12 Conference.
Prior to the start of his coaching career, Felix played professional baseball for five seasons in the United States and Mexico. He had playing stints with the Los Mochis Sugarcane Growers and Navojoa Mayos of the Mexican Pacific Coast Winter League (AAA), Corpus Christi Barracudas and the Lubbock Crickets of the Texas Louisiana League (AA), and also the Stockton Ports of the California League and the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League (A) in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Felix was part of two minor league championship teams the 1995 Midwest League Champion Beloit Snappers and 1994 Corpus Christi Barracudas. While playing for the Barracudas Felix was named to the league All-Star team, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year in 1994 with a record of 7-0, era 2.41 and also led the league in saves with 15.
Felix played his collegiate career with Lubbock Christian University, New Mexico State University, Dodge City Community College and Howard Junior College. Felix was a Jayhawk League All-Star, playing summer league ball for the Elkhart Dusters and helped them to the NBC World Series in 1992. Felix was an All-Conference and All-Region pitcher at Lubbock Christian and Dodge City Community College.
Felix comes from a baseball and fastpitch softball family. His twin brother, Larry, currently plays men’s AA-Major fastpitch softball with teams from Texas and Mexico after retiring from playing professional baseball as shortstop/second baseman for 12 seasons for the Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlantic League and the Mexican League. His younger brother Eugene also played professionally at shortstop for the Lafayette Bullfrogs of the Texas/Louisiana League. Felix’s father played men’s fastpitch for over 30 years for teams from Texas and Mexico. Felix played men’s fastpitch during high school and college career with the El Paso Toros and Team Casa softball clubs.
Felix graduated from Texas Tech University in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies. Felix has been married for 17 years to his wife, Michelle, who is a nurse at the Oxford Children’s Clinic. They have one son, Matthew Ripken Felix.
Ashley Chastain joined the Ole Miss Softball staff in November 2017 as the Rebels’ assistant coach and pitching coach. She came to Oxford after serving in a similar role at Michigan State.
Chastain, a finalist for the Rising Star Award from One Dream Zero Distraction, is no stranger to the Southeastern Conference. The Palmetto, Georgia native pitched for three seasons at South Carolina, finishing 11th in career relief appearances for the Gamecocks. Following her playing career, she joined the South Carolina coaching staff as a graduate assistant coach.
Chastain joined the Michigan State staff prior to the start of the 2017 season, helping the Spartans to a 34-24 overall record and a run to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Upon her arrival in East Lansing, Chastain made an immediate impact on the Michigan State pitching staff as the Spartans lowered their team ERA by nearly a run and a half from the previous season.
Chastain was instrumental in the development of junior Bridgette Rainey, who led MSU with a 16-8 record with a 3.84 ERA and 145 strikeouts. Both of those marks were career-bests for Rainey, as was her 144 innings pitched.
Prior to making the move to Big Ten country, Chastain was the pitching coach for three seasons on Linda Kalafatis’ staff at the College of Charleston, helping lead the Cougars to a 99-68 record over those three years.
Chastain’s final season in the Palmetto State was particularly successful, as the Cougars concluded the campaign with a 35-23 record, registering program records in fielding percentage (.974) and errors (42). In the circle, Chastain’s pitchers posted the eighth lowest opponent batting average in school-history at .242 as well as the ninth fewest runs allowed with 191.
Over her three seasons at CofC, Chastain produced four All-Colonial Athletic Conference honorees in addition to three NFCA All-Region award winners.
Chastain earned a bachelor’s degree in history from South Carolina in 2011. The Georgia native remained in Columbia following graduation, earning a master’s degree in secondary education from USC in 2012.
Katie Rietkovich, a former Georgia Bulldog, joined the Ole Miss family in September 2015 as the Rebels’ volunteer coach and camp coordinator.
The Savannah, Georgia native has been instrumental in her short time on staff, helping Ole Miss to its best season to date in 2016. The Rebels won a school record 41 games, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, and claimed their first ever SEC Tournament win in 2016.
With the guidance of Rietkovich and the staff, the Rebels finished second in the SEC and fifth nationally in fielding percentage (.978), broke the Ole Miss single season hits record (457) and tore up the base paths with 126 on the year, seventh-most in the NCAA by far shattering the former school record of 90 set just a year ago.
Rietkovich came to Ole Miss from Savannah State where she was an assistant under head coach Jose Gonzalez for one year.
Rietkovich made a few stops during her playing career starting at Georgia under head coach Lu Harris-Champer where was a part of the Bulldogs’ third-place finish at the 2010 Women’s College World Series. After her stint at Georgia, she played in the NAIA at both South Carolina-Beaufort and Reinhardt University.
In addition to her WCWS trip, she was a part of trips to two NCAA regionals, two NCAA Super Regionals and an NAIA postseason run. Rietkovich also earned awards for her work in the classroom racking up NAIA scholar-athlete honors; SEC academic honor roll honors while appearing on both the Dean’s and President’s list academically.
The Rietkovichs are an athletic family, as her dad Ty played football at South Carolina in the 80s and her sister is currently a cheerleader for the Gamecocks. Her father, former softball head coach at USC-Beaufort, is the nationwide tournament director for the Softball Factory.
Rietkovich earned a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management from USCB in December of 2014. She completed her Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from Georgia Southern in July 2016.