Mike Bianco (Josh McCoy)

Ole Miss baseball opens tournament play in Houston, Texas, on Friday

The Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic this weekend could be a preview of at least some of the field in the College World Series in Omaha later this year. After all, every team involved is capable of advancing to baseball’s version of the Elite Eight.

Months ago it was announced that Ole Miss would be in the field, along with LSU and Texas A&M from the SEC and Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU from the Big 12. If college baseball is your thing, Houston is the place to be, or at least keep an eye on, this weekend.

The Rebels and the Bears start things off at Noon Friday. Ole Miss begins the day’s activities again on Saturday with a game against Texas Tech. On Sunday, Ole Miss and TCU play at 1:30 p.m.

Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, seats 41,000, and while they won’t all be filled, these six programs attract a lot of national attention and in Houston local interest. Ole Miss last played TCU and Texas Tech in the College World Series in 2014 and leads the series with both – 9-8 vs. the Horned Frogs and 1-0 against the Red Raiders.  Ole Miss and Baylor last played during the 2000 season, just a few months before Mike Bianco because the head coach of the Rebels. The Bears are 4-1 up on Ole Miss through five meetings.

Spirit’s Take

Ole Miss jumped out to a sparkling 7-0 record to start the season. Then came Memphis. The Tigers faced a Rebel team that was experiencing some illness, including flu, and played like it. Miscues dominated the effort and some plain ole sloppy play prevented Ole Miss from taking a perfect 8-0 record to Texas for the weekend and allowed a scrappy Tiger team to win 9-6.

Losses to neighborhood non-conference regulars, like Memphis, Southern Mississippi, and Arkansas State, don’t sit well with the home fans, nor does it with players and coaches. But the Rebels have that one in their rearview mirror and are hopefully healthier than earlier this week.

Grae Kessinger (Josh McCoy)

The collective record of the three teams Ole Miss will face is 25-2, with only Baylor perfect at 9-0. Texas Tech is 9-1 and TCU is 7-1.   

Certainly the level of competition is the best Ole Miss has faced this season, although East Carolina and North Carolina-Wilmington were either highly ranked or likely NCAA tourney teams. The Rebels get a chance to bounce back from their first loss in a highly-competitive situation. Though they might not win all their games in Houston, there’s no reason to believe they can’t. There won’t be a better collection of college baseball programs in one place this regular season anywhere in the country.

Quotable

Junior second baseman Tate Blackman

On getting back on the field in a game after losing to Memphis: “We’re going to bounce back from this loss and just keep moving on.” On the big tournament in Houston at the MLB ballpark: “It’s going to be a true test for our team. We play three good opponents, and the team that plays best will win. We have to make sure we’re on our ‘A’ game. It’s going to be awesome to play in a big league park in that atmosphere against those teams.”

True freshman shortstop Grae Kessinger

On playing at Houston in this tourney: “It’s going to be incredible. We’re really excited for it. We get to play some good competition and really be able to see what we’re made of.” On bouncing back after losing to Memphis: “Anytime you lose it’s not fun. We’re going to learn from it, flush it, and get after it this weekend.”

True freshman pitcher Houston Roth

On pitching for the Ole Miss Rebels after pitching for Oxford High: “I thought about it when I was in the dugout that first game, that ‘This is pretty cool, I’m down here on the field.’ To be out there and stand on the mound and pitch in front of everybody in the Ole Miss uniform, honestly it was a dream come true.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

On the trip to Houston for the youth on the team that hasn’t experienced a weekend like this in college: “You do the best you can to prepare them, and I think they’re excited about it. We’ll see. It’s a big challenge for us. Every weekend has been that. We’ve been able to handle them to this point. I think the guys are excited and ready for it.”

Mike Bianco (Associated Press)

Here’s the complete schedule for the tournament:

Friday, March 3

#8 Ole Miss vs. Baylor    12 p.m. 

#10 Texas Tech vs. #11 Texas A&M    3:30 p.m.

#1 TCU vs. #2 LSU        7 p.m.

Saturday, March 4

#10 Texas Tech vs. #8 Ole Miss    12 p.m.

Baylor vs. #2 LSU        3:30 p.m.

#11 Texas A&M vs. #1 TCU    7 p.m.

Sunday, March 5

#2 LSU vs. #10 Texas Tech    10 a.m. 

#1 TCU vs. #8 Ole Miss    1:30 p.m.

#11 Texas A&M vs. Baylor    5 p.m.

Here’s how to catch the Ole Miss games:

On radio, the Ole Miss IMG network will carry all three games. Also all three of the Rebels' games will be carried regionally on select FOX Sports Regional Networks and streamed on Fox Sports GO. Fans are asked to check local listings for more information. Games on FOX Sports GO can be streamed live on FOXSportsGO.com or on the FOX Sports GO app, which can be downloaded from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Windows Store. Streaming on FOX Sports GO is now available on several connected devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android TV and Fire TV.


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