Regional Roundup

It's a roll of the dice, they say, when it comes to naming starting pitchers for Regionals. The Rebels roll Phillip Irwin out there Saturday for a 5 p.m. game against a good hitting Western Kentucky University ballclub.

"It was a tossup," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said, also mentioning Brett Bukvich will start the Rebels' third game of the Regional.

Both have had numerous starts this season and each has been effective most of the way. Scott Bittle would have been in the starting mix, obviously, but with the Rebels senior sensation still sidelined, Irwin and Bukvich are the next two obvious choices.

Irwin, a junior righty, is 7-3 with an ERA of 3.82, appearing in 13 games, starting 12. Bukvich, a senior lefty, is 9-3 with a 4.61 ERA with 16 appearances and 12 starts.

Irwin has 59 strikeouts and 18 walks in 73 innings. Bukvich has pitched 66.1 innings with 65 strikeouts and 16 walks.

Bianco said he would have been fine starting either, but only one of them could obviously start.

"Coach (Carl) Lafferty and I just decided a few minutes ago," Bianco said immediately after the top-seeded Rebels got past fourth-seeded Monmouth. "Watching (WKU) play, they are very offensive. They've got a couple of guys in the middle that can hit with power with anybody. But throughout the lineup, one through nine, they were just very aggressive and very offensive. And very impressive."

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The Hilltoppers, seeded third, beat second-seeded Missouri 11-5 in the tourney's first game.

Missouri and Monmouth play at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. The season is over for the loser of that one.

Western Kentucky scored six runs in the first inning including a three-run homer by Wade Gaynor, his team-high 23rd round-tripper of the season. Matt Rice hit his ninth homer of the year, a solo shot in the eighth against the Tigers.

Oxford native Chad Cregar is second on the WKU team with 17 home runs, while Matt Hightower, older brother of Ole Miss' Taylor Hightower, is third with 11.

As a team, the Hilltoppers hit .331 and have 80 home runs, 118 doubles, 21 triples, with 455 RBI.

WKU is expected to send to the mound Saturday junior RHP Shane Cameron (5-1, 4.61). Coach Chris Finwood referred to Cameron as "our Sunday guy" in the press conference after the Hilltoppers beat Missouri.

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There were some excellent defensive plays for the Rebels vs. the Hawks, especially a couple by shortstop Kevin Mort. The junior transfer continues to impress game after game.

"Fabulous," Bianco said of Mort's play. "There was that high chopper where he picked it and I wasn't even sure....but he had the sense and knew that he had time, he didn't rush the throw to (Evan) Button. That was another inning where it was first and second, and if he doesn't make the play or if he makes a bad throw, a run scores. But he's been like that all year long, just so solid out there and makes all the plays.

"But I thought all of them made the plays," he continued. "We had the one little error that Drew (Pomeranz) handled and pitched out of. But besides that I thought we were very solid in the field."

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In the Irvine Regional, which the Oxford Regional is matched with as far as a Super Regional is concerned, No. 6 national seed and host Cal-Irvine beat fourth-seeded Fresno State 4-2. Second-seeded Virginia defeated third-seeded San Diego State 5-1.

Ole Miss improved to 38-30 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.

Ole Miss improved to 16-14 in NCAA Tournament games under head coach Mike Bianco.

The Rebels' win gave Bianco his 362nd at the school, which moves him past the legendary Tom Swayze's 361 career wins for second place on the Ole Miss coaching chart behind Jake Gibbs (485).

The Rebels have won Game 1 of their NCAA Regional four of the last five times, including each of the last four tries in Oxford.

Ole Miss improved to 2-0 all-time against Monmouth. The previous meeting resulted in a 12-3 Ole Miss win in the 1999 NCAA College Station (Texas A&M) Regional.

All-SEC OF Jordan Henry reached base in 5-of-5 attempts (3 hits, 2 walks) against the Hawks. He has now reached base safely in 55-of-57 games this season. His two runs scored on Friday give him 67 for the season, tied for third-most in a season in school history.

All-SEC LHP Drew Pomeranz struck out 10 batters in 8+ innings of work against the Hawks. He now has 47 strikeouts over his last five starts, reaching double-figure K's in four of the last five. He recorded his first postseason win in his second career postseason start.

Senior OF Logan Power's 2 hits give him 262 for his career, tied for second-most in school history with Kevin Kessinger (1989-92).


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