Two of the three major division one programs in the state were selected for a regional in the NCAA Baseball tournament on Monday. The NCAA tournament selection committee has also decided they will both face each other in their opening matchups.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles (39-16) will square off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (34-23) on Friday at 2 pm to open play in the Atlanta regional. The Golden Eagles enter the contest the number 2 seed, while the Bulldogs earned a 3rd seed in the regional. The Bulldogs earned the win in the team’s matchup earlier this season at Trustmark Park in Pearl, by the score of 5-4.
The NCAA tournament is composed of 16 different, four-team regionals, each hosted by a team deemed worthy by the selection committee. There are eight national seeds, each of which hosts a regional. Each regional is run in a double elimination format, as the teams continue to play each other until three of the teams have lost twice, leaving the winner of the regional. The winner of each regional will advance to the super-regionals where they will face another regional winner in a best of 3 series, with the winner advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Golden Eagles were sent to the Atlanta regional in 2009 as well, the same year they made a run all the way to the College World Series. Southern Miss fell short of another World Series appearance last season in the regional against Clemson.
The Bulldogs last tournament appearance came in 2007, when they made a run to Omaha, Nebraska as one of the final eight teams. This will be Mississippi State’s 29th NCAA tournament appearance and first under 3rd year coach John Cohen.
Southern Miss was expected to be a host site for a regional late in the season, until dropping their final two series against Houston and Rice and suffering an early exit from the Conference USA post-season tournament.
The winner of the Southern Miss vs. Mississippi State matchup will take on the winner of the top seeded Georgia Tech vs. fourth seed Austin Peay matchup, while the losers will fight for survival in the double elimination regional.
Golden Eagle infielder Travis Creel is an Ocean Springs native, while pitcher Boomer Scarborough and shortstop BA Volmuth are also Gulf Coast natives, from Bay St. Louis and Biloxi respectively. Creel was a member of the 2008 Ocean Springs baseball team that won the state championship.
The Ole Miss Rebels (29-25) were left out of the field of 64, ending their run of eight straight regional appearances. The Louisiana State Tigers (36-20) were also left out of the tournament for only the third time in twenty-six years. The Rebels and Tigers were bubble teams going into selection day, and were left out of the tournament in favor of at-large teams such as St. Johns and Dallas Baptist. This marks the first year since 1995 that Ole Miss has failed to reach a bowl game, the NCAA Basketball tournament, or an NCAA Baseball regional.