'New' Baseball Home Opens Today

The day many have awaited for a long time is here. Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field isn't what it once was. It's now arguably the nicest college baseball stadium in the country.

From roughly 3,000 seats to 6,000 in the grandstand, box, and club seating areas, to the outfield terraces that can accommodate an estimated 4,000 or more, the "new" baseball palace is ready to host a game and has room for more than 10,000 fans.

There is some finishing up still to do. The entire project won't likely be completely done until the start of Southeastern Conference play March 20 when Alabama comes to Oxford.

For openers, Ole Miss hosts Central Arkansas at 3 p.m. today. The Rebels and Bears get together again Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The stadium enters its third decade of play with today's game. Opened in 1989, it was a nice as any college baseball stadium in the country back then. It has to be seen as a positive that Ole Miss, in conjunction with the city of Oxford, has kept up with the changing times of the game and moved forward on a project of monumental proportions.

Season ticket sales have topped the 5,000 mark for the first time. Fans are excited about the new stadium and about Ole Miss baseball.

The Rebels, coming off a 1-2 first weekend with a win over Liberty and losses to Mercer and South Alabama, will look to get back on track against a team the Rebs lost to last season. In a game in Oxford, the Bears won 4-3. It's the only meeting in baseball between UM and UCA.

Until today, that is. The Bears arrive with a 2-1 record, having won a series against Tennessee-Martin. Ironically, Central Arkansas opened a new stadium last weekend against the Skyhawks.

UCA lost 10 seniors from last year's squad. The pitching staff lost two starters from last year but returns three quality starters in senior Jeremy Cloud, junior Bobby Pritchett and sophomore Reece Cross. The bullpen is also full of experience, including seniors Matt Humphrey (3 saves) and Eric Everson and juniors Jeremy Brewer and Michael Wild, the team leader in appearances (21).

Offensively, the Bears have to replace a group that hit 35 of UCA's 50 home runs and combined for nearly 200 RBI. The top returning offensive threats include senior second baseman Josh Huffman of Carrollton, Texas, who hit .366 and was named second-team All-Southland Conference. Junior outfielder Tye Throneberry of White Hall, who hit .303 with two home runs, junior catcher Eric Tennyson of Harrison (.312, 2 home runs), senior designated hitter Richey Irvin of Conway (.301, 2 home runs) and senior third baseman Jonathan Yerby of Winnfield, La. (.255, 4 home runs) will also be counted on to pick up the slack at the plate.

Since all three starting outfielders a year ago were seniors, the Bears have new faces there.

On Tuesday, Ole Miss will send junior LHP Nathan Baker to the mound for his first start and first appearance of 2009.

On Wednesday, senior LHP Brett Bukvich will get the starting nod for the Rebels. Bukvich pitched in relief last Saturday in the Rebels' 13-11 loss to Mercer.

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