STARKVILLE, Miss. --- No. 11 Mississippi State welcomes three familiar foes to Dudy Noble Field this week for the 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (43-17) take on No. 4 seed Central Arkansas (39-20) at 7 p.m. Friday after No. 2 seed and 24th-ranked South Alabama (42-18) squares off against No. 3 seed Mercer (43-16) in the 2 p.m. regional opener. ESPN commentator Ben McDonald and Baseball America’s Aaron Fitts tabbed the Starkville Regional as the toughest of the 16 regional tournament fields. The 64-team tournament field was announced by the NCAA Monday.
ESPN3 will carry the telecast of all Starkville Regional games.
“Obviously we’re excited about the opportunity to host," said Coach John Cohen. "Just putting a quick pen to it, I think if you add up the four teams' RPI together you have the most difficult regional in the country. And we played the most difficult Southeastern Conference schedule. So our kids are used to these opportunities to prove themselves.”
“I think it’s a great field. If you look at the nature of this regional, you’re looking at some very good offensive clubs," he continued. "These clubs that have some power. You look at their numbers offensively and that’s kind of a common thread.”
The winner of the Starkville Regional advances to meet the winner of the NCAA Charlottesville, Va., Regional hosted by the University of Virginia.
MSU posted a 2-2 mark against two of the three teams in games played at Dudy Noble Field this year. State dropped two games of a three-game set (2-4, 5-7 [10 innings], 3-7) to Southland Conference Tournament champion Central Arkansas March 8-10 and nipped Sun Belt Conference co-champion South Alabama 6-4 in Mobile April 2 in the Diamond Dogs’ first road game of the 2013 campaign.
State holds a 42-24 all-time series lead against South Alabama and a 1-3 mark in games against Central Arkansas. The Bulldogs claimed two of three games (5-3, 1-6, 3-1) against 2013 regular season Atlantic Sun regular-season champion Mercer at Dudy Noble Field last season and hold an 8-7-1 all-time lead in that series.
Practice rounds and media interviews are set for Thursday in advance of Friday’s opening round.
Mississippi State is playing in its third consecutive regional tournament and making its 33rd NCAA postseason advancement. It’s the 12th NCAA Regional tournament hosted by Mississippi State and the first at Dudy Noble Field since 2003.
MSU is among nine teams from the Southeastern Conference included in this year’s 64-team tournament field and one of four selected as regional hosts. State is 19-14 against 11 opponents playing in this year’s NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Tickets for the tournament are on sale through the MSU Athletic Ticket Office (662-325-2600) and online at www.HailState.com/tickets.