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franklin county times

Magnolia teams clash on first day

By By Austin Bishop / EMG regional sports director
May 20, 2003
HOOVER, Ala. Unfinished business? Perhaps.
But Ole Miss head baseball coach Mike Bianco says who his 33-23 Rebels are playing in Wednesday's opening day of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament is really not a major issue.
Ole Miss and MSU (38-16-1) square off at 5 p.m. in the third of four games scheduled for Wednesday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium just outside of Birmingham.
Earlier this season MSU swept a three-game SEC series in Oxford, before dropping the Mayor's Cup game in Jackson to the Rebels just three days later.
But, it's not those losses that may have the Rebels seeking a little revenge.
At the end of last season, State swept a regular-season ending three-game series from the Rebels to sneak into the SEC Tournament, while Ole Miss was left on the outside looking in.
State won just one of its three games in the SEC tourney last year and when the NCAA bids were sent out, both the Bulldogs and Rebels were not among the invited guests.
Bianco said he thought his Rebels had enough quality wins to earn a bid to the 2003 NCAA Tournament, but also pointed out that an invitation was never a sure thing.
Wednesday's other first-round games have No. 3 seed Auburn (38-17) playing No. 6 Vanderbilt at 10 a.m., followed by No. 7 seed Alabama (33-22) and No. 2 South Carolina (38-18) at 1 p.m.
Following Ole Miss and MSU will be No. 1 seed LSU (37-18-1) and No. 8 Arkansas (34-18) at 8 p.m. Those four teams are all a part of Bracket Two, while Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina are in Bracket One. Each bracket holds its own double-elimination tournament with the winners meeting in a one-game showdown on Sunday at 3 p.m.
All of the games will be televised either on Comcast Sports Southeast or SEC-TV.
While MSU head coach Ron Polk agrees that just being in the SEC Tournament is the biggest thing, the veteran State baseball boss says his Bulldogs have deeper concerns on their minds, like winning enough games to assure themselves of hosting an NCAA Regional at the friendly confines of Dudy Noble Field next week.
LSU, Ole Miss and State are among those who have put in bids to host.
Six of the eight teams in the tournament are Western Division squads, with all four of the squads in Ole Miss and State's bracket being from the West.
The first arm taking the mound for MSU will be Alan Johnson, a sophomore right-hander from Pleasant Grove, Ala. He goes into the tournament with a 5-3 record and a 4.08 ERA.
The starting pitcher for Ole Miss will likely be T.J. Beam. He is 8-1 with a 2.46 ERA and 77 strikeouts and just 75 hits in 84 innings. If he doesn't start, then freshman left-hander Stephen Head (3-1, 1.06) will. Head has started just two collegiate games previously, but one was a shutout.

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