The Rebels had won the SEC Western Division outright and had finished second only to Florida in the overall SEC race. It had been a very good season so far, and the Rebels were primed to be rewarded for their efforts.
You know the rest of the story. Ole Miss won its own Regional in Oxford, then claimed a Super Regional in Lafayette, La., to move on to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., where a third-place finish was achieved.
To match that run this season, the Rebels found out Monday they are headed away from Oxford to the west coast, and will face the committee’s No. 1 national seed UCLA at the Bruins' home park – Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Obviously Ole Miss wanted to do better this season than its 30-26 overall record and 15-14 SEC regular season mark. The Rebels wanted to win enough games to host a NCAA Regional and play before its home fans.
The season’s resume’ was powerful, its strength of schedule at No. 1 nationally much of the season, its RPI hovering around in the 20s for the most part, and major wins against teams that were or had been ranked No. 1 in the country at some points.
When Ole Miss played LSU, Vanderbilt, and Florida, those teams were No. 1. Texas A&M had fallen from a No. 1 ranking by the time Ole Miss played the Aggies. But collectively against the four SEC teams, the Rebels were 6-5.
They battled all season and made a push at the end of the regular season, winning six of their last seven games, prior to a loss in the SEC Tournament to Alabama, to make certain of a finish above .500 to qualify for NCAA Tournament consideration.
Memorial Day Monday they found out they are the second seeded team in the Los Angeles Regional and face third-seeded Maryland Friday at 6 p.m. central time. Host UCLA plays fourth-seeded California State Bakersfield on Friday.
“We’re excited,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We’re relieved to find out where we’re going, and now we can get scouting reports and travel plans together.”
Bianco said while he didn’t know anything about the Rebels’ first opponent, Maryland, he was looking forward to finding out.
“I know they have an ace on Team USA with an ERA in the mid ones,” Bianco said. “They’ve got a good one (in him), and that will be a tough draw for us in that respect.”
That pitcher is sophomore right-hander Mike Shawaryn, a 6-foot-3 ace that has pitched 103.1 innings with a 1.65 ERA in 15 starts with a 12-2 record this season.
The Terrapins are 39-21 overall and had a 14-10 Big Ten record, their first season in that league after being a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for decades.
The team’s batting average is .265 and they have two batters who hit more than .300 this season that played in more than 40 games – sophomore infielder Brandon Lowe at .342 and junior catcher Kevin Matir at .330.
John Scefz is in his third year at Maryland as head coach. Previously an assistant at Louisiana-Lafayette, among other stops, he has led Maryland to new heights in baseball.
Last season the Terps went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 43 seasons and won the NCAA Regional at Columbia, S.C., to eliminate homestanding South Carolina and advance to a Super Regional. But they fell at Virginia, winning game one but losing games two and three.
The Big Ten has five teams in the NCAA field, a record for that league, in its first year with 14 teams. Illinois, with a No. 6 national seed, joins Iowa, Indiana, and Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan as the other Big Ten entrants.
Maryland lost to Michigan 4-3 in the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship game in Minneapolis last weekend.
UCLA, host from the Pacific-12, won the national championship two years ago in Omaha with a series victory over Mississippi State. This marks the first time in program history that the Bruins have been selected as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We are excited,” said UCLA head coach John Savage of the top-seed selection. “It’s truly a compliment to the hard work put in by our players and coaches throughout the season.”
UCLA (42-14) will open postseason play against the No. 4 seed Cal State Bakersfield (36-22-1), on Friday.
Rebels Talk about The Regional
* Errol Robinson -
On the selection to the tournament: “Now that we know, it’s just about going and playing baseball and getting it going. We want to get down there and get a feel for that stadium. We want to get to know our opponents and win.”
On Maryland, his home state team: “I know they have a bunch of good players, but I haven’t seen a scouting report on them. Based on the guys I know (that play for the Terps), I know they’re talented."
* Scott Weathersby –
On the Rebs having played only one game in two weeks when they play Maryland: “We are rested, which is good. I talked to Brady (Bramlett) and he says he’s feeling really good. I know it was good for (Christian) Trent to get to rest. Of course, we always want to win when we go to the SEC Tournament. But looking back to give Trent and Brady those extra days of rest it was really big for us and I think it’s going to be key as we move forward.”
On how the team feels heading into the NCAA Tournament: “I think we are really confident. We have been swinging the bat really well. One game last Tuesday doesn’t determine who we are and what we’ve accomplished over the last three or four weeks. I think we’re really confident and really looking forward to being back in the postseason, especially for the older guys, where we have so many memories."
* Sikes Orvis –
On Maryland: “I know they are a good team and were in a Super Regional last year. They’re solid and almost won 40 games this year, which is always really good in college baseball. It will be a tough Regional. But every Regional I’ve ever been a part of has been tough here.”
On the talk of ‘west coast baseball’ and what that means facing UCLA: “It’s basically the opposite of SEC baseball. A lot of small ball, hit and run, bunting. That’s how they play the game out there. They take pride on pitching and defense, but we can pitch and play defense as well. So it’s going to be an interesting matchup, different styles of baseball, and it should be fun.”
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