Southern Miss to Oxford; Miss. State to Florida State in regionals

Published 2:53 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Southern Miss won’t have far to travel to play in this weekend’s NCAA regional.

The second-seeded Golden Eagles will play at Mississippi in Oxford, drawing third-seed Troy in a first-round matchup. The top-seeded Rebels will open with Sam Houston State.

Mississippi State will face a longer trip and a steeper challenge. The second-seeded Bulldogs will play Stetson in the first round of the regional hosted by Florida State, one of a handful of teams ranked No. 1 this season.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State (33-20) were among just five Southeastern Conference schools invited to the 64-team tournament. More SEC schools were expected to advance to the postseason.

But the chairman of the selection committee, Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton, said on ESPN that the resumes of the teams left out were flawed.

“I think this was a unique year for our conference,” Templeton said.

Templeton listed reasons for the exclusion of several teams. Florida didn’t have enough victories to qualify and Auburn started 0-8 in conference and finished 10-20. Others were left out because of weak nonconference schedules.

Meanwhile, Troy and Memphis both benefited from a stacked nonconference schedule.

“It played big in those teams’ (choice),” Templeton said.

Southern Miss (38-21) has made four straight postseason appearances and has been assigned to play in Oxford two out of the last three years, but has not advanced to a super regional.

Troy (34-25) is a familiar opponent for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles and pitcher Ryan Belanger lost twice to the Trojans in the Alabama regional last season.

Ole Miss (37-23) is hosting its fourth straight regional and making its fifth-straight postseason appearance. The Rebels have advanced to a super regional in each of the last two seasons, but fell to Miami and Texas.

Sam Houston State (38-22) earned a tournament bid by winning the Southland Conference.

Mississippi State (33-20) will be making its fifth straight appearance in a regional and the 11th in the last 12 years when it takes on Stetson (41-19).

Coach Ron Polk said he will be in familiar company when he travels to Tallahassee. He is close friends with FSU coach Mike Martin and Stetson’s Pete Dunn was a graduate assistant on his Georgia Southern staff in 1972.

The Bulldogs finished the season losing eight of their last 10. The teams they face in the regional combined for 121 wins this season.

“It’s a tough field, and we’re looking forward to that challenge,” Polk said.