Ole Miss headed to Tucson, MSU hosts Notre Dame

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Just as they did in 2019, both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University will play in the NCAA super regional round this weekend with a spot at Omaha and the College World Series on the line.

The Rebels (44-20) will be on the road as they take on the University of Arizona in Tucson. Arizona (43-15) swept through their opening regional at home with a win over Grand Canyon University and two wins over UC-Santa Barbara.

Things were a little more dramatic in Oxford as Ole Miss needed a winner-take-all game Monday against Southern Miss to decide the region championship.

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USM forced the deciding game by winning 10-7 when the teams met on Sunday.

Ole Miss led 9-0 Monday before the Golden Eagles came roaring back in the fifth behind three home runs to cut the score to 10-7.

Neither team left anything in the tank as Ole Miss used its top two starting pitcher, Doug Nikhazy and Derek Diamond, in relief roles Monday.

Senior captain Tim Elko was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional for Ole Miss. Elko has had a season that’s generated national headlines after playing through a torn ACL.

When Elko suffered the injury, one could assume his year was over. Surgery was postponed though as Elko came back with a brace on his knee to first pinch hit and then serve as the team’s designated hitter.

Since the injury on April 5, Elko is batting .302 with seven home runs. Monday, he hit two against Southern Miss including a grand slam.

Ole Miss and Arizona open their series Friday, June 11, at 8 p.m. Game two will be played Saturday at 9 p.m. If a game three is needed, it will be played Sunday at 8 p.m.

Southern Miss finishes with a 40-21 record as the Golden Eagles hit six home runs in the Monday loss. The USM bats definitely woke up after losing 5-2 to Florida State in their region opener.

In their first elimination game USM beat Southeast Missouri State 21-0. They then got a measure of revenge by sending FSU back to Tallahassee with a 7-4 win.

The Eagles had an inside track on hosting a regional themselves at one point, but they lost a pair of heartbreakers (11-10 in 10 innings, 6-5 in game two) to Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA Tournament.

LA Tech received the honor of hosting a regional in Ruston but were bested by NC State in the championship game.

Other super regional matchups include NC State (33-17) traveling to Arkansas (49-11), East Carolina (44-15) heading to Vanderbilt (43-15), Texas Tech (45-15) hosting Stanford (36-15) and the University of Texas (45-15) hosting South Florida (31-28). Dallas Baptist (40-16) will meet the University of Virginia (32-24) in a regional played in Columbia, South Carolina. It will be the SEC versus the SEC in Knoxville as the University of Tennessee (48-16) hosts LSU (38-23).

Mississippi State (43-15) was fairly efficient in the way they rolled through their regional competition. The Bulldogs beat Sanford 8-4 in their opener, VCU 16-4 in a winner’s bracket game and Campbell 6-5 in the championship matchup.

Notre Dame (33-11) comes to Dudy Noble after also going 3-0 in their home region. The Irish beat Central Michigan 10-0, the University of Connecticut 28-3 and Central Michigan again in the title game by a 14-2 margin.

Game one in Starkville will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. The second game of the series starts at 5 p.m. Sunday. If a third game is needed it will be played Monday at 6 p.m.

MSU sophomore Kamren James was named Most Outstanding Player of the Starkville regional. In the win over Campbell, he drove in three runs and hit his 11th home run of the season.

It’s a fifth straight super regional appearance for Mississippi State and tenth overall since the format was adopted.

James along with Rowdey Jordan and Tanner Allen power the Bulldog offense while pitchers Will Bednar and Houston Harding are the marquee arms available to MSU coach Chris Lemonis.

Notre Dame was seeded No. 10 ahead of the tournament beginning while MSU was slotted at the No. 7 seed.