Baseball opens today at home

The Rebels begin the 56-game regular season hosting Arkansas State at 3 p.m. today

From Rick Stupak of UM athletics media relations:

No. 15 (Sports Weekly/ESPN) Ole Miss will open its 2005 season Tuesday afternoon against Arkansas State. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m., at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, and the game can be heard locally in Oxford on WTNM Supertalk Mississippi 105.5 FM with Richard Cross.

Tuesday's season opener will mark the Rebels' fifth year under coach Mike Bianco. Bianco has compiled a 150-90-1 record at Ole Miss and has guided the Rebels to three NCAA Regional berths in his first four seasons. Ole Miss is coming off a 39-21 season, including setting a school record with 18 Southeastern Conference wins and hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history.

"We're excited that the 2005 season is finally here," Bianco said. "We have a very exciting ball club, with a very strong nucleus of returning players from last year's team. We're hoping to have a big crowd on hand for the season opener, especially after setting a school record for season ticket sales."

Junior RHP Anthony Cupps is scheduled to be the Rebels' opening day starter on the mound. Last season, Cupps made a team-high 20 appearances, including five starts, posting a 3-4 mark with a 3.41 ERA.

Ole Miss returns five position starters from last year's squad, including junior All-America 1B Stephen Head. Head hit .346 with 13 HRs and 53 RBI last season in earning SEC Co-Player of the Year honors and was a finalist for the 2004 Golden Spikes Award, amateur baseball's most prestigious award.

Also returning in the infield are senior C Barry Gunther (.323, 2 HRs, 28 RBI), who was drafted in the 17th round of last June's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins, senior 2B Cooper Osteen (.293, 2, 27) and sophomore 3B Chris Coghlan (.302, 2, 24). Sophomore Alex Presley (.311, 6, 32) is the lone returning starter in the outfield.

Both Coghlan and Presley earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2004, and Presley was a second team Freshman All-America selection by Baseball America.

Junior Brian Pettway (.305, 6, 31) also returns after appearing in 54 games last season, playing both corner positions in the infield and handling DH duties. Pettway is slated to see time in the outfield this spring.

Arkansas State (3-0) opened its season with a three-game sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff this past weekend in Jonesboro, Ark. The Indians outscored the Golden Lions 42-7 and hit .426 in the series. Sophomore LF Hudson Smart paced the Indians at the plate, going 7x11 (.636) with four RBI.

Junior RHP Tyler Goodwin (1-0, 4.50 ERA) is expected to start on the mound for Arkansas State. Goodwin allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits and walked two in four innings in his start against UAPB this past Friday.

The Indians went 29-28 last season, including 8-15 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Arkansas State took 2-of-3 from the Rebels last season, winning 11-7 in Oxford on March 10 and picking up a 7-6 win on April 21 in Jonesboro, in a game that was shortened to seven innings due to rain. The Rebels knocked off the Indians 9-8 in Oxford on April 14.

All-time, Ole Miss leads the series 61-20, including holding a 45-9 advantage in Oxford.

Following Tuesday's game, Ole Miss will travel to Houston, Texas for the Coca Cola Classic, hosted by Rice University. The Rebels will open the three-day event with a 1 p.m., game Friday afternoon against Lamar. Ole Miss will then play Rice Saturday at 1 p.m., and Southwest Missouri State Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

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