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Sunday a big day for State, UM, USM

By Staff
Scanning the Sports Scene on a Sunday while wondering whatever happened to Ben Garry …
HOOVER, Ala. While thousands of fans will be relaxing in their seats at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium for the final day of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament today, you must forgive the players and coaches if at least some of their attention is elsewhere.
Around mid-afternoon the NCAA will announce the hosts of the 16 Division I Baseball Regionals to be played next weekend. The announcements will be televised on ESPN2 between games of the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament. Estimated air time is between 2:10 and 2:30 p.m.
Most of the media hovering around the Hoover Met pressbox this week has LSU as a lock to be a host, with Auburn and Mississippi State being as close to a sure thing as you can get.
Due to South Carolina's location, the Gamecocks are also a favorite to land one of the four-team, double-elimination events.
After that, it gets shaky.
There is also a lot of talk among the SEC media that regular-season Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi is a strong candidate to host a regional.
If that happens, the feeling is that either Ole Miss or Alabama will be shipped to Hattiesburg as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
The entire bracket will be announced at 11:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
Quite frankly it would be surprising if a regional didn't wind up in Starkville. The Bulldogs have a solid ballclub, a tremendous following and one of the best college baseball atmospheres in the nation.
Going into the 2003 season, Dudy Noble Field, the home of the Bulldogs, was ranked as the second-best facility in the country by baseball sports information directors across the country and was tabbed No. 6 by Baseball America.
In 1997, Sports Illustrated picked Dudy Noble as the No. 1 place to watch a college baseball game.
Plenty of fans agree.
The largest crowd (14,991) to ever watch a baseball game at an on-campus facility poured into Starkville in 1989 to watch the Bulldogs sweep a doubleheader from Florida. A year earlier, 14,378 had filled Dudy Noble to watch LSU and State square off.
On eight occasions an NCAA Regional game hosted by State has drawn a crowd of 9,088 or better. Those are numbers, coupled with MSU's success this season, that will be hard for the NCAA selection committee to ignore.
However, it is not a sure thing that if MSU lands a regional the Bulldogs will be a No. 1 seed.
There is speculation that Miami would be sent to Starkville and it is even possible that if USM does not get a regional, that the Golden Eagles would head to Starkville armed with the No. 1 seed.
All of that is just speculation, but is a lot of fun to churn around in your head.
Another Mississippi school in the hunt for a bid is Ole Miss. The Rebels posted 17 regular-season SEC wins, which has to be impressive in the eyes of the NCAA.
However, it is unlikely that Starkville, Hattiesburg and Oxford will all be selected as tournament sites.
If Mississippi only gets one, look for it to be in Starkville and USM to be in the field. If the state gets two, then Hattiesburg should have the edge.
But, you never can tell with the NCAA.
If Ole Miss doesn't host and doesn't go to Hattiesburg, then look for the Rebels to pack their bags for Atlanta or Tallahassee.
It is not likely that the NCAA will send two SEC teams to the same regional, so that means if seven teams are selected then somebody has to travel somewhere.
The interest, and nervousness for some, will continue into Monday when the entire field is selected.
LSU, State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Auburn and Alabama appear to be sure things out of the SEC and most feel Arkansas will also be chosen.
The seedings will also be set, which will help decide where the eight Super Regionals will be held the weekend after the regionals. All of those are two-out-of-three with the winners heading for the College World Series in Omaha.

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