Dudy Noble Field Hosts Starkville Regional

NCAA Regional baseball is returning to Dudy Noble Field this weekend. And not a minute too soon for the Diamond Dogs.

The NCAA announced Sunday evening Mississippi State will host one of their 16 first-round events. The Starkville Regional has been assigned dates of May 31-June 2 to contest the four-team, double-elimination event. Game times are currently set for 2:00 and 7:00 all three days with an if-necessary Monday gametime of 7:00. All times are subject to network TV adjustment.

Other information will await NCAA announcement of the full 64-team field which includes who is assigned to which Regional; and how the Regionals are pre-paired for the next week.

These Diamond Dogs can wait on the rest of the news. Hearing their season-long goal of bringing a post-season play back to campus is reality was good enough word for the players. They were comfortably optimistic after finishing SEC Tournament play in the semifinal round Saturday that a hosting assignment was coming.

They are equally confident what they can do here on the home field, too. "I feel pretty good about it," said SS Adam Frazier. "I know nobody has played that many games against the top-RPI 50, and I feel this schedule has prepared us for the post-season."

Fans have certainly had a long time to prepare. 2003 was the last year they were able to sit in their own stadium at Regional tourney time.

Cohen understands better than most anyone what home-field Regionals are like. He was part of four-straight Diamond Dog teams that hosted NCAA play, as a 1987 redshirt transfer and an outfielder in 188-89-90. He felt the numbing shock of defeat in 1989 when one of State's best-ever ballclubs was upset in the finals; and the unalloyed thrill of victory when the 1990 team battled through the losers bracket to win on Monday and earn a College World Series trip.

He's also directed the last two State squads to post-season play, with a 2011 Atlanta Regional win no less. Now Cohen and club are at home, at last. And with a packed house expected.

"Our fans have consistently made Dudy Noble Field the premier college baseball destination in the country," Cohen said Sunday. "And it's great to bring a NCAA Regional back to them. The kids on this team have fought all year and this is a great opportunity to start a new season, in front of the nation's best college baseball fans."

An all-tournament ticket is $90 for reserved seating and $50 for general admission. Single-game sales begin at noon Friday. Reserved tickets are $15 per game and general admission $10. Other ticket information for those holding season seats can be found, and orders placed, at HailState.com/tickets.

The winners of all 16 first-round Regionals will advance to next weekend's super-regional round, with best-of-three playoffs. Sites are determined by the first-round outcomes, biased to the higher-seeded winners of those pre-paired Regionals. There are rare exceptions if an upset winner at one has not bid on hosting already, of if their stadium is not available or up to prescribed standards.

In fact, Mississippi State's last post-season event came about in 2007 because both the Bulldogs and Clemson were #2 seeds and pulled off upsets at Tallahassee and Charleston, respectively. Starkville was awarded the super regional based on State's slightly higher #2 status. Those Bulldogs used the home field to excellent advantage, beating the Tigers in two games and earning the program's most recent trip to the College World Series.

2007 was also the only time State has hosted a super regional so far, and those two games set NCAA post-season attendance records for campus venues. Of course Dudy Noble Field has held the NCAA regular-season crowd record since 1989, at 14,991. Gates for NCAA events have to be carefully counted, even under-counted a bit, to assure that receipts square.

Dudy Noble Field has entertained Regional play eleven times, between 1979 and 2003, which hasn't always produced the winning edge. State came out first on the home field just five of those years, though they also have won road regionals five times. Most recently in 2011 when Cohen's third team scored a three-day run at Atlanta, and then were three innings from upsetting host Florida at the Gainesville super Regional.

Since the program's first appearance in a NCAA Regional, in 1978, Bulldog teams are 68-44. They were 9-11 in the previous ‘district' playoffs format with the 1971 team making State's first trip to the College World Series. Seven successors have won through the Regional (through 1998) or ensuing super regional formats to make it to Omaha.

Now the 2013 Bulldog edition gets to begin a run at Omaha at home.

"I really like our club heading into NCAA play," Cohen said after the team's week in Hoover ended. "You're 3-1 this tournament and feel that our club is playing well, that's a positive." State has won seven of the last nine games and is 43-17 now, the most wins by a Bulldog bunch since 1997. Which was also a home-field Regional year, coincidentally.

Super Regionals are June 7-10 depending on starting day; and the College World Series runs June 15-27.

The 16 host sites are Baton Rouge LA; Blacksburg VA; Bloomington IN; Chapel Hill N.C.; Charlottesville VA; Columbia S.C; Corvallis OR; Eugene OR; Fullerton CA; Los Angeles CA; Louisville KY; Manhattan KS; Nashville TN; Raleigh N.C.; Starkville MS; Tallahassee FL.

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