Oxford Regional Capsule

Oxford Regional Capsule
Swayze Field, Oxford, Miss.

No. 1 Mississippi (37-23)
13th appearance, at-large, Southeastern

No. 2 Southern Mississippi (38-21)
Eighth appearance, at-large, Conference USA

No. 3 Troy (34-25)
Fourth appearance, at-large, Sun Belt

No. 4 Sam Houston State (38-22)
Fourth appearance, automatic, won Southland tournament

Mississippi hosts its fourth straight regional and seeks its third consecutive super-regional appearance. Pitching is the Rebels’ hallmark, as righthanders Will Kline and Lance Lynn are an imposing one-two punch atop the rotation who both recorded double-digit strikeout performances in Ole Miss’ two SEC tournament victories. Closer Cody Satterwhite (4-4, 2.75) runs his fastball into the high 90s, and Scott Bittle (2-5, 2.35, seven saves) has thrived in whatever role the Rebels have put him in, closing games when Satterwhite was hurt early and even throwing seven strong innings in the SEC tournament against Vanderbilt. But despite Mississippi’s strong bullpen, the Rebels are just 8-13 in one-run games this year. Preseason All-American shortstop Zack Cozart and the brothers Henry (gritty second baseman Justin and speedy outfielder Jordan) lead a solid Rebels offense.

Southern Mississippi recovered from a six-game losing streak in late March to finish third in CUSA. The Golden Eagles took a hit in their first game of the conference tournament when their best player, first baseman Trey Sutton (.368/.459/.569 with eight homers) dislocated his kneecap and missed the rest of the weekend. After losing Sutton, USM quietly dropped its next two tournament games. Sutton is penciled in as a DH this weekend, but his status remains cloudy. Pitching will have to carry the Golden Eagles through the regional–righthanders Ryan Belanger and Barry Bowden both pitched well down the stretch, and closer Patrick Ezell (1.33 ERA, eight saves) is a major weapon in the late innings.

There is no shortage of quality closers in this regional, and Troy has another. With a funky, deceptive arm action, a low-90s fastball and a quality slider, Josh Dew (7-2, 2.56, 10 saves) has been a workhorse out of the bullpen, amassing 63 innings. A two-way threat, Dew also contributed nine home runs for a Troy team that averaged 1.25 long balls per game, ninth-best in the nation. Hulking first baseman Clint Robinson (.359, 17 homers, 69 RBIs) led that onslaught, but Edgar Ramirez and Kevin Weidlich contributed 11 homers apiece, making Troy’s heart of the order very dangerous. Starting pitching has been a problem, as none of Troy’s top four starters posted an ERA below 5.18.

All of these closers have great numbers, but only Sam Houston State has the national saves leader. Senior righthander Luke Prihoda has 17 of them to go along with a miniscule 1.21 ERA and a 63-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 67 innings. Prihoda attacks hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball and a slider, and he has come up huge when the Bearkats have needed him most. He threw six scoreless innings over three appearances in Sam Houston’s surprising run through the Southland Conference tournament as a No. 4 seed. The Bearkats can hit too–their .318 batting average led the Southland and ranked 24th in the nation.