May 28, 2009
Mizzou saving ace for possible match-up with UM
Ole Miss faced Missouri's ace during the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional last season, and that experience didn't go so well, as Aaron Crow dropped the Rebels, 7-0.
Saturday night at 5 p.m., the Rebels may get another shot at the Tigers' top pitcher. Crow has moved on, but this season's opposition is similarly daunting.
Mizzou (34-25) will hold All-Big XII right-hander Kyle Gibson for an anticipated match-up versus the host Rebels and start sophomore right-hander Nick Tepesch in the regional opener against No. 3 seed Western Kentucky.
"We're not here to win on Friday," Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson said. "We're here to win the regional
To do that, we have to beat the home team.
"If we play (Ole Miss) Saturday, there's going to be 10,000 people in the stands, and Kyle is our best person to handle that."
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco mulled over the same decision but decided to throw ace Drew Pomeranz in the Rebels' first game against Monmouth.
"The biggest reason is we feel Monmouth is pretty good," Bianco said earlier in the week. "You want to get off on a good foot in your own regional. So, we're going to go with our ace."
Gibson, a 6-foot-6 junior, is 10-3 this season with a 3.47 ERA. He has struck out 123 and walked 18.
Tepesch is 6-4 with a 5.81 ERA.
Gibson surrendered four runs on a Logan Power grand slam during one inning in Ole Miss' 9-6 elimination game win over the Tigers. Gibson struck out two, allowed two hits and walked two before Power's home run.
Rebels focusing on execution
Credentials and stellar statistics are all great and good, but the accolades of the other three teams in this year's Oxford Regional are not at the top of UM coach Mike Bianco's list of concerns.
The Rebels (40-17) play No. 4 seed Monmouth (32-23) - champions of the Northeast Conference - Friday at 7 p.m. before taking the field against two-seed Missouri or three-seed Western Kentucky (39-18) Saturday. And while all four teams have played well and deserve a spot in this year's field of 64, Bianco is mainly worried about his own club.
Bianco's emphasis is on focus and concentration.
"You certainly try to get scouting reports, and sometimes it is easier than others to do so," Bianco said. "But it's all about execution and playing well. You have to play well and if you don't anyone can beat you
but it's more about us. How we pitch and field and hit. It's about how we execute."
Winning the regional is of course about the physical part of the game, but the Rebels' opener against the Hawks also requires some mental toughness. Monmouth was swept by top-25 club East Carolina and dropped a series to Big East member Central Florida. Other than those games, strength of schedule leaves something to be desired.
Nonetheless, Ole Miss is steadfast in saying that the New Jersey school won't be overlooked.
"Of course you can't take anyone lightly," outfielder Jordan Henry said. "Everyone deserves it, and they have a good team. We'll see a good pitcher, and we have to bring our A-game."
Senior Logan Power agreed: "I don't think (overlooking Monmouth) is a possibility at all. We're just ready to get out there. It feels like it's been a month since we've played."
Bittle still on shelf
While Bianco was optimistic that RHP Scott Bittle could be available this weekend, it was announced Thursday that Bittle will not be on the 25-man roster.
The Texarkana, Texas, senior hasn't seen the field since he was scratched prior his scheduled May 3 start at Auburn with arm discomfort. In Bittle's last action, he threw seven innings and allowed one run in a win over then-No. 1 Georgia on April 26.
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