OXFORD — After a successful Southeastern Conference tournament run, national No. 12-seeded Ole Miss will vie for a Super Regional bid by securing three wins this weekend as the Oxford Regional host, the 10th regional the Rebels have hosted in program history.
Of course, in-state school Southern Miss, along with Florida State and Southeastern Missouri State, figures to have a say before all is said and done.
In the double-elimination tournament, the Golden Eagles and Seminoles, the two and three seeds in the regional, will clash at 2 p.m. Friday to kick things off before No. 1 Ole Miss faces No. 4 Southeast Missouri State at 7 p.m. at Swayze Field.
Here’s a quick breakdown of both matchups:
No. 1 Ole Miss (41-19, 18-12 SEC) vs. No. 4 Southeast Missouri State (30-20, 17-10 OVC)
SEMO may be the lowest seed in the regional, but Ole Miss will have to contend with Redhawks’ left-handed ace and MLB prospect Dylan Dodd on Friday. Dodd (9-1 record) has a 2.78 ERA in 90.2 innings with 113 strikeouts to only 14 walks and held his own against top national seed Arkansas, allowing two runs in six innings earlier this season.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco will not go with top pitching option Doug Nikhazy (9-2, 2.18 ERA) Friday, opting to save his better arm for Saturday instead. Derek Diamond (3-4, 5.43 ERA) will get the nod instead.
Offensively for SEMO, the Redhawks’ lineup has two hitters with batting averages north of .300, including Tyler Wilber (.389) and Jevon Mason (.371). At .299, Andrew Keck also finished one point below .300. None has hit for much power, with Wilber hitting six home runs, Keck five and Mason two. The power threat in SEMO’s lineup comes from Wade Stauss, who has slugged 14 home runs this season albeit while hitting .241.
Ole Miss was the second-best hitting team in the SEC with a .289 batting average and had the league’s highest team on-base percentage (.380). The Rebels also led the conference in hits (304). The lineup remains stacked, which still somehow includes the presence of Tim Elko, a .331 hitter, who is continuing to play for the Rebels despite tearing his ACL earlier in the season. Ole Miss’ home run leaders include Kevin Graham (14, .339 average), Elko (13, .331 average) and Jacob Gonzalez (10, .354 average).
No. 2 Southern Miss (37-9, 22-9 C-USA) v. No. 3 Florida State (30-22, 20-16 ACC)
Call this one the battle of the aces. Both schools will throw their top starting pitchers, with Southern Miss opting to start Hunter Stanley while Florida State will counter with Parker Messick.
Stanley (6-3 record) has pitched to a 2.42 ERA in 93 innings of work this season with 119 strikeouts while only allowing 16 walks.
Meanwhile, Messick (7-2 record) has accumulated a 3.32 ERA in 84 innings with 121 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed.
Florida State may boast the best hitter in the regional, as catcher Matheu Nelson has a national-best 22 home runs to go along with a .332 batting average and 64 RBIs. Beyond that, the Seminoles are hitting .245 as a club.
Southern Miss has four hitters over the .300 batting average mark entering play, including Charlie Fisher (.338), Gabe Montenegro (.330), Reed Trimble (.319) and Danny Lynch (.306). Trimble leads the team in home runs with 14, while Dickerson has hit 10 out of the park this season.
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.
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