Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Pearl River County could be considered tournament central for The 2014 NCAA Baseball championships.
Three local products will be involved in the event, when regional play begins later this week. Picayune’s Matt Riser, the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana University, led his Lions into the NCAA Tournament in his first year as head coach. Braxton Lee, the starting left fielder and lead off hitter for Ole Miss, and his Rebels will host a regional while Poplarville’s Zac Houston and his Mississippi State Bulldogs are in the tourney as well.
A fourth player with local ties, former Hancock High and Pearl River Community College pitcher Christian Talley who plays for Southern Mississippi, came up just short of an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Riser and his Lions won the Southland Conference Tourn-ament, defeating Central Arkansas, 9-4, for the Lions’ first Southland Conference Baseball Tournament championship.
Making its first NCAA postseason appearance since 1994, Southeastern Louisiana will face the No. 8 national seed, LSU, Friday at 2 p.m. in the first round at Alex Box Stadium.
Southeastern (37-23) is the No. 4 seed in the Baton Rouge regional and will face the host, top-seeded LSU (44-14-1), in the opening contest. Completing the regional is No. 2 seed Houston (44-15) and No. 3 seed Bryant (42-14).
The Lions, who earned the Southland Conference’s automatic bid after defeating Central Arkansas, 9-4, in the tournament championship game this past Saturday, return to the site of their last regional appearance.
The NCAA selection committee set the entire 64-team bracket through both the super regionals and the first round of the Men’s College World Series, and will not reseed the field after play begins.
There are 31 Division I conferences that received an automatic berth in the field of 64, along with 33 at-large selections.
Mississippi State will begin the NCAA baseball tournament in a regional at Lafayette, Louisiana.
The Bulldogs (37-22) are the No. 2 seed in the Lafayette regional, which also includes Louisiana-Lafayette, San Diego State and Jackson State.
MSU, last year’s national runner-up, begins tournament play against San Diego State at 2 p.m. Friday, while SWAC champion Jackson State (31-22) takes on ULL at 6 p.m.
Ole Miss (41-18) was selected Sunday to host a four-team regional. The Oxford regional also includes Jacksonville State, Georgia Tech and Washington.
The Rebels take on No. 4 seed Jacksonville State at 7 p.m. Friday. Georgia Tech and Washington meet in the other first-round game in Oxford at 3 p.m. Friday.
“We’re excited to be playing at home in June,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said.
“It’s certainly a great reward, but one that we feel is very deserved by this team that has played so well and consistently over the course of the season. It’s great to have baseball in Oxford in June again to reward the Rebel Nation for the support they has shown us and the role they play in our success.”
Regionals are double-elimination, and run through Monday.
Southern Miss was left out of the tournament for the third straight year. The Golden Eagles (35-25) reached the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament before losing to Texas-San Antonio.
The 68th Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 14, at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.