At one time, it seemed like as many as four baseball teams from our state might end up in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. That’s not how things worked out in the end.
Mississippi Valley State University failed to make the SWAC Baseball Tournament, and their year ended after the regular season. Both Jackson State University and Alcorn State University made the tournament but couldn’t win the title and the conference’s lone bid.
The University of Mississippi made the SEC Baseball Tournament but lost a single-elimination game to Auburn University. That ended up holding the Rebels, who were seeded ninth, back from the NCAA Tournament since the Tigers were seeded eighth, and the top eight seeds from the SEC made the NCAA Tournament.
It is possible that the Rebels might have been in the field if they beaten Auburn. Upsets, such as Rice University winning the Conference USA Tournament and Brigham Young University winning the West Coast Conference Tournament, didn’t help UM’s chances, though.
The Rebels are missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Late Sunday, May 28, the NCAA announced that the University of Southern Mississippi would be one of the 16 regional host sites. That assured the Golden Eagles that they were in the tournament and hosting a regional for the first time since 2003.
USM scored a school-record 48 wins so far this season and won the C-USA regular-season title. In the conference tournament, Southern Miss made the championship game but came up short against Rice. The Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the regional.
On Monday, May 29, the NCAA announced the full 64-team field, with Mississippi State University also playing in the Hattiesburg Regional. The Bulldogs are making their 36th NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance.
MSU is the No. 2 seed in the regional and received an at-large bid into the tournament. The Bulldogs will open the regional against the No. 3-seed University of South Alabama, which earned an automatic bid by winning the Sun Belt Tournament.
South Alabama lost two of three games to MSU during the regular season but won the last meeting 5-2. This is the second meeting between the teams in a NCAA regional; the Bulldogs got the win in the only other meeting.
Meanwhile, USM will open regional play against the No. 4-seed University of Illinois-Chicago. The Golden Eagles didn’t meet the Flames in the regular season. UIC earned an automatic bid into the tournament by winning the Horizon League Tournament.
The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles clashed in the regular season at Trustmark Park, with USM coming out on top 7-5. The two schools played once in a 2011 regional, which the Bulldogs won 3-0.
MSU hasn’t faced UCI in program history. USM defeated South Alabama twice in the regular season this year and won both contests, but South Alabama eliminated the Golden Eagles in last year’s tournament.
The regional is double elimination, with Southern Miss playing UIC at 1 p.m. and MSU playing South Alabama at 6 p.m., both on Friday, June 2. The losers between those matchups will play each other on Saturday, June 3, in an elimination game, and the winners will play each other after that.
Sunday, June 4, will begin with the winner of the elimination game playing the loser of Saturday’s final game. The winner of that game will then face the winner of Saturday’s late game for the regional title.
If a team isn’t eliminated in the final game on Sunday, they will play a winner-take-all game on Monday, June 5. ESPN3 will broadcast all the games in the Hattiesburg Regional.