BLOG: Ole Miss, along with 63 other baseball teams, discovered its NCAA Tournament fate Monday afternoon.
The Rebels are headed to the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional, hosted by N.C. State. Along with N.C. State (44-14 overall), the one-seed, the two-seeded Rebels (37-22) will be joined by three-seed William & Mary (37-22) and four-seed Binghamton (30-23).
First pitch for Ole Miss will be Friday at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN3.
HOW’D THEY GET THERE? The Rebels went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament to close out their season but still had an RPI that hovered around 20. The nod marks Ole Miss’ 18th NCAA Tournament appearance and 11th under current head coach Mike Bianco. The Rebels’ first opponent, William & Mary, is a team some thought should be excluded from the field. The Tribe have an RPI of 44 and were 2-5 vs. RPI top 50 teams. They earned an at-large bid, one of three from the Colonial Conference, and the Tribe’s 37 regular-season wins ties a program-high.
“Obviously, we are really excited to have the chance to continue our season,” first-year head coach Jamie Pinzino said in a release. “I am extremely proud of every player in our program, they deserve this moment as they have bought into the program since day one. This is a great step for William and Mary baseball and hopefully a sign of things to come in Williamsburg for years to come.”
The Tribe hit .296 as a team with a .383 on-base percentage and .378 slugging percentage. They also hit just 17 home runs as a team. On the mound, W&M has a staff ERA of 4.16. W&M started the year by going 1-2 against Clemson. Down the stretch, the Tribe went 2-2 in the CAA Tournament, losing to NCAA Tournament-bound Towson in the title game.
Binghamton earned an automatic spot in the tournament after besting top-seeded Maine in the America East title game.
“We knew whoever we would face would be a good challenge,” 21st-year head coach Tim Sinicki said in a release. “NC State has had a good program for years and they play in one of the premier conferences in the country. They are a host school out of the ACC. … That’s really all you need to know. But we had a great week of baseball and feel good about who we are. This team never gives up and feels it can hang with anyone. The way we battled through the conditions and won the conference tournament. … That can have momentum as we move forward. We’re excited and ready for the challenge.”
Binghamton, with an RPI of 171, did not face an RPI top 50 team this season. The Bearcats hit .265/.356/.352 as a team with 17 home runs. As a staff, the Bearcats posted a 3.75 ERA.
Host N.C. State has been on the nation’s radar all season. With left-handed stud Carlos Rondon anchoring their staff, the Wolfpack were 18-10 against RPI top 50 teams. After besting Clemson and Miami in the ACC Tournament, N.C. State was knocked out of the conference tournament by eventual champion UNC.
Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers has already reported that the Wolfpack plans to hold Rondon for Game 2, meaning if the Rebels and Wolfpack with their opening match ups, the talented sophomore will be facing Ole Miss.
Rondon is 8-2 on the year with a 3.48 ERA. The sophomore has struck out 141 against 40 walks in 101 innings, while also holding opposing batters to a .199 batting average.
Offensively, N.C. State is led by Trea Turner, who is hitting .376/.460/.567. He has also hit six homers and and stolen 24 bases in 30 opportunities. As a team, the Wolfpack hit .280/.365/.389.
PARTING VIEW: Below are video interviews with Tanner Mathis, Wahl and Bianco:
For more on the Rebels’ draw, pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Oxford EAGLE.
(May 27, 2013)