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Rebels blast OU to reach super regionals

6/5/2005

Oxford Regional

1. Mississippi (44-18) -- at-large berth, tied for third in SEC, No. 5 national seed, 11th NCAA tournament, third consecutive appearance
2. Southern Miss (41-19) -- at-large berth, tied for second in C-USA, Sixth NCAA tournament, third consecutive appearance
3. Oklahoma (33-24) -- at-large berth, fifth in Big 12, 28th NCAA tournament, second consecutive appearance
4. Maine (34-17) -- automatic berth, won America East tournament, 14th NCAA tournament

Oxford Regional schedule
At Swayze Field
Oxford, Miss.
Friday, June 3

Game 1 -- Oklahoma 5, Southern Mississippi 4
Game 2 -- Mississippi 5, Maine 0
Saturday, June 4
Game 3 -- Maine 12, Southern Mississippi, 2, Southern Miss eliminated
Game 4 -- Mississippi 7, Oklahoma 3
Sunday, June 5
Game 5 -- Oklahoma 11, Maine 10, Maine eliminated
Game 6 -- Mississippi 20, Oklahoma 5, Oklahoma eliminated
Mississippi (47-18) advances to super regionals

Player To Watch

Only Tulane's Brian Bogusevic and Micah Owings exert as much two-way influence as Mississippi junior first baseman/left-hander Stephen Head. His 64 RBI ranked fourth in the SEC, while his 18 home runs ranked fifth in the league. Staying with the ordinal numbers, Head ranked sixth in the league with a 2.72 ERA as he started the year in the rotation before moving to the closer's role. He went 7-3 with six saves overall.

The Favorite

What doesn't Mississippi do well? Its 7.4 runs per game and 3.69 ERA rank among the nation's top 40 teams, while its .975 fielding percentage stands 10th. The Rebels are deep, talented and physical with hitters such as Brian Pettway (.400-19-63) and Chris Coughlan (.348, 19 doubles) helping Head, and four SEC-caliber starters in Mark Holliman, Matt Maloney, Eric Fowler and Anthony Cupps. Mississippi took a tough two-and-out at its home regional last year, but has won nine of its last 11 games and might be peaking at the right time.

On The Other Hand

Southern Mississippi's offense racked up 7.7 runs per game, but its pitching staff allowed a 5.08 ERA after injuries to top arms Cliff Russum (out for the entire season) and Mike Cashion (lost in early April to Tommy John surgery). So the Golden Eagles went 7-12 against teams in this tournament field (1-2 in midweek games against Mississippi) by out-slugging them behind the bats of senior catcher Brad Willcutt (.329-18-82) and junior first baseman Marc Maddox (.356-14-58).

Bracket Buster

Larry Cochell's resignation threatened to torpedo the season, but Oklahoma won its last seven regular season games to make the tournament. Now, No. 2 starter Garrett Patterson (3-1, 2.28 in Big 12 games) is academically ineligible for the postseason, and the Sooners need to regroup again. Ace right-hander Daniel McCutchen struck out 63 batters in 55 Big 12 innings while going 2-3, 2.45, and his power repertoire could give Southern Mississippi a tough time in the opener. Junior third baseman Ryan Rohlinger led an average offensive team with .352-10-49 numbers.

Don't Forget About Us

Maine led its conference with a .310 average as seven starters batted between .345 and .310. Senior first baseman Greg Creek leads the way at .345 with a team-best nine homers. Starters Steve Richard (8-1, 2.22) and Greg Norton (9-3, 2.93) pace the staff.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.