From 1A to D1: Madison Rayner’s big role in Southern Miss’ turnaround season

The Southern Miss softball team just completed one of its most productive regular seasons in recent program history, winning 30 games for the first time since 2016. The team’s .577 winning percentage was also the highest it had accomplished in over 15 years.

Numerous talented players contributed in helping Coach Wendy Hogue’s team reach this milestone, including several newcomers who helped bring a new energy and intensity to the program. One of those newcomers was Stringer graduate Madison Rayner, whose early contributions as a freshman starter provided a much-needed spark throughout the spring.

Rayner has started in all 52 games played by the Golden Eagles in 2019. In 155 trip to the plate, Rayner posted a .258 batting average with 18 runs, 20 runs batted in and two home runs. One of those home runs happened to be her very first hit as a Golden Eagle. Rayner’s solo shot to right field helped the team secure a win over Tennessee Tech in the Black and Gold Invitational.

On the other side of the plate, Rayner recorded the a .985 fielding percentage—tied for third highest on the team—with only one error committed in her 51 games played. Even more impressive is the fact that she put up those fielding numbers at a position that was unfamiliar to her.

Having played shortstop in high school and second base during summer ball, Rayner did not expect things to be easy right off the bat. The chance to play early on, however, was too good to pass up.

“Year one has definitely been one to remember,” Rayner said. “Coming in and having to play a new position was not what I expected, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to have a starting spot.”

Several elements of the game changed at the next level for Rayner, who says a lot of time and effort went into making adjustments. “I’d say the toughest parts of the transition would be adjusting to the pitching at the D1 level,” said Rayner. “That, and the mental aspect of the game.”

While reflecting on her first season at Southern Miss after the team returned home from competing in Birmingham at the Conference USA Tournament, Rayner said she learned several things over the course of her freshman year that will help elevate her game going forward.

“The biggest things I’ve learned,” said Rayner, “is to always be confident in what you do on the field and put the team before yourself.”

As Southern Miss enters the offseason and take on all the uncertainties that come with it, one thing that’s can be safely assumed is that Rayner and the other young playmakers on the roster will play huge roles in helping the program continue its newfound success over the years to come.

Recommended for you