BASEBALL: Rebels host regional; Southern Miss to Atlanta

OXFORD – For the fifth time in six years the Rebels will play host to an NCAA Regional as No. 9 Ole Miss (40-17) welcomes Missouri, Western Kentucky and Monmouth to Oxford for the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Baseball Championships.

Ole Miss will face fourth-seeded Monmouth on Friday at 7 p.m. at Oxford-University Stadium, while second-seeded Missouri and third-seeded Western Kentucky will play at 3 p.m. on Friday.

“We are really excited to be hosting again for the fifth time in the last six seasons,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We’re proud for our players to have this honor and it’s neat to get to play at home in a regional. We’re also very excited for our fans to get to see us play another weekend and for us to get to play in an atmosphere that we feel is as good as any in college baseball.”

Ole Miss enters the regional after claiming the Southeastern Conference regular season championship – the program’s seventh all-time and first under Bianco. The Rebels are led by a trio of All-SEC selections in outfielder Jordan Henry, and pitchers Scott Bittle and Drew Pomeranz.

Henry led the Southeastern Conference in steals (34) and walks (50) this season while posting an on base percentage of .477 and scoring 65 runs. Pomeranz anchored the weekend rotation on Friday night with a 6-4 record and a team-leading 88 strikeouts. Bittle, who moved to the starting role against No. 2 LSU, posted a 4-0 mark as a starter in SEC play with a 1.29 ERA before being sidelined with injury. His status is day-to-day heading into the Regional.

As a team, the Rebels are hitting .315 on the season and have nine regular starters who bat .300 or above – including six batting above the .330 mark on the year.

Missouri, the second-seeded team in the regional, is coming off an appearance in the Big 12 Championship game last weekend where the Tigers fell to Texas 12-7. Missouri has posted a 34-25 record on the season and is led by Kyle Gibson on the mound. Gibson, who faced the Rebels last season in the NCAA Regional at Miami, has posted a 10-3 record this season with a 3.47 ERA and 123 strikeouts on the year.

Western Kentucky comes into the regional as a the three-seed and holds a 39-18 record and a 21-8 record in Sun Belt play. Matt Rice is the top hitter for the Hilltoppers, batting at a .393 clip on the year with 66 RBI on the season.

Monmouth enters the weekend as the fourth-seed and hold a 32-23 record on the year. The Hawks claimed the Northeast Conference Tournament Championship over the weekend to claim the league’s automatic berth to the tournament. Monmouth is led at the plate by Chris Callozo who hits .385 on the year with 46 RBI.

Southern Miss going to Atlanta: After a solid performance in last week’s Conference USA tournament, Southern Miss played their way into their seventh consecutive NCAA Regional, the team learned their fate this morning.

The NCAA Selection committee has sent the Golden Eagles, as the three seed, to the Atlanta Regional facing Elon University (40-16), who received the two seed as at large bid out of the Southern Conference. Also in the Atlanta regional will be host Georgia Tech (one seed) and Georgia State (four seed).

“I am really think that we played the best we have all year over the last week to get an at large bid,” head coach Corky Palmer said. “This team has come on a lot lately and I could not be prouder of this team right now.”

The Golden Eagles have faced Elon four previous times, 1978 in Hattiesburg as the Phoenix took three games with Southern Miss winning one. The team has not ever met Georgia Tech or Georgia State.

The 2009 Atlanta Regional will be the Golden Eagles tenth overall regional and seventh consecutive NCAA appearance.

Click here for ticket information to the Ole Miss regional.

Click here for more on Ole Miss baseball at Parrish Alford’s blog.

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