Ole Miss, Mizzou Feature Top Pitchers

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Two of college baseball's top strikeout weapons will be in opposing dugouts Friday when three-seed Ole Miss meets second-seeded Missouri (38-19) in the first round of the Coral Gables Regional at 11 a.m. (CST).

The Rebels' Scott Bittle is fifth in NCAA Division I with 118 strikeouts, while Tiger ace Aaron Crow in one behind in sixth place with 117 punchouts of his own. The pair may be separated by just one K, but Bittle's dominant numbers are the more impressive due to the junior throwing 32 fewer innings than Crow.

The Ole Miss closer leads the country and averages 16 strikeouts per nine innings of work. Crow is 20th on that list at just under 11.

While the Mizzou junior trails Bittle in that key stat, Crow has plenty of numbers to back up his ability.

The right-hander is 12-0 and ran up a 43-inning scoreless streak earlier this season. Crow has started 14 games and along with his 12 wins, the Tigers were leading when he left his other two starts. Crow won his first nine games before Texas A&M rallied late to give Missouri's top arm a no-decision.

"He (Crow) starts Friday nights for us in a tough league," Tigers' head coach Tim Jamieson said. "He is extremely durable and consistent and thrives under pressure. Crow can take over a game. Even at his worst, he gives us a chance to win."

Bittle wasn't aware of the strikeouts similarities, but he feels confident about winning the two-man race.

"I didn't know we were that close, but it is what it is," Bittle said. "After this week, I get to move on, and he doesn't. That will help."

Seems Like Old Times

Lack of familiarity won't be an issue in most of the matchups this weekend as recent history involves the four teams.

Ole Miss (37-24) dropped the 2006 Oxford Super Regional to Miami (47-8) in three games but bested Bethune Cookman (36-20) in the opener of the 2006 Oxford Regional a week earlier. Against the Wildcats, the Rebels needed a late home run to upend BCC, 3-2. In the Super Regional round, the Hurricanes fought off two elimination games to end Ole Miss' year.

Miami participated in the Columbia, Missouri Regional last season but never faced the host Tigers. The ‘Canes lost to Louisville, defeated Kent State and lost to Louisville again to be eliminated. Miami took two midweek games from Bethune Cookman this season (10-5, 7-6).

"Not only do you face the No 1 team in the country, but you also have to face arguably the top starter in the country in Aaron Crow," Mike Bianco said. "And a four seed in Bethune Cookman that came to our regional a couple years ago. What a great program they have and look at their record.

"What an unbelievable regional with teams that are used to postseason pressure. When you look at Miami's lineup, half their players where there in 2006 – (Jemile) Weeks, (Yonder) Alonso, (Blake) Tekotte and (Dennis) Raben. Man they played well. It is amazing that you have all these kids still there. But although everyone wants to talk about Miami, you have to get past Missouri first, and that is a huge challenge in itself."

Extra Innings

The entire Coral Gables Regional will be televised by ESPNU with Dave Cohen providing play-by-play and former MLB player Brian Jordan handling color commentary…Ole Miss is 3-4 all-time versus Missouri. The Tigers won the last meeting in 1987…The Rebels have won nine straight regional games since losing to Washington in 2004...Missouri, Ole Miss and Miami are three of 16 teams that have appeared in at least six straight regionals. Other teams are Texas, Florida State, Arkansas, Rice, South Carolina, Cal-State Fullerton, Arizona State, Wichita State, N.C. State, Southern Miss, North Carolina, Oral Roberts and Pepperdine.

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