By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The SEC baseball tournament begins Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., and all teams want to pack with optimism.
There are four, though, who will head home with a lot of unworn clothes in suitcases.
It’s a new look for the tournament this season, the first with teams seeded 5-through-12 playing a single elimination contest before they reach the old double-elimination format which begins on Wednesday.
Local teams Mississippi State and Ole Miss are bookends on do-or-die opening day. No. 6 Ole Miss plays the tournament’s first game against No. 11 Kentucky. No. 5 MSU takes on No. 12 Missouri in the late game.
That’s not as scary as in years past. Florida and Texas A&M are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., the first game of Session Two. MSU-Missouri will follow.
“This is different. We haven’t had to think about this before,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
By virtue of its 11-9 win at LSU on the final day of the regular season, Ole Miss finished 15-15, its first season of at least .500 ball in the conference since going 16-14 in 2010.
The Rebels, 36-20 overall with an RPI of 19, figure to be a solid pick for an NCAA at-large bid. SEBaseball.com, a website in the Rivals network devoted to covering baseball in the Southeast, projects eight NCAA teams – Kentucky isn’t one of them – and four regional hosts – MSU is one of them – for the SEC.
The website projects that South Alabama will be the 2 seed in the Starkville Regional and that Bianco will be matched against his former assistant, Dan McDonnell, with Ole Miss as a 2 seed in the Louisville Regional.
SEBaseball.com will update its regional projections on Wednesday.