NCAA Oxford Regional Primer: Breaking down FSU Baseball's opponents
The Florida State baseball team is hitting the road for Oxford, Miss., this week to begin play in NCAA Regional action. The No. 3 seed Seminoles and No. 2 seed Southern Miss Golden Eagles will get things started Friday at 3 p.m. ET.
This will be the Seminoles’ 43rd straight postseason appearance, but they’ll have to navigate what some are calling the strongest regional grouping in the field.
Here’s a closer look at Florida State’s three potential opponents – their season in review, key players, and how they are trending lately – heading into the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
No. 1 seed Ole Miss Rebels
Head Coach: Mike Bianco (808-459-1 career record, 21st season at Ole Miss)
Record: 41-19 overall, 18-12 Southeastern Conference
Key hitters: Senior designated hitter Tim Elko (.331 BA, 13 HR, 44 RBI), freshman shortstop Jacob Gonzalez (.354 BA, 10 HR, 51 RBI), junior left fielder Kevin Graham (.339 BA, 14 HR, 52 RBI).
Top pitchers: Junior left-hander Doug Nikhazy (9-2, 2.18 ERA, 114 Ks), senior right-hander Taylor Broadway (13 saves, 2.85 ERA, 55 Ks).
Season in review: Ole Miss played well at home (27-9) and spent the majority of the year ranked as a top-15 team in the nation. Incredibly, Elko tore his ACL in early April but returned May 1. The Rebels went just 9-8 in April but returned to their winning ways once Elko rejoined the lineup. The senior is among several key Ole Miss players that are from the state of Florida. Bianco is the Rebels' all-time winningest coach. Ole Miss was eliminated in the SEC Tournament semifinals, 3-2, by top-ranked Arkansas.
Trending: Graham has delivered power numbers expected out of the cleanup spot in the lineup, knocking in 8 RBI and 3 home runs in his last 10 games. Nikhazy has been strong all season, but particularly as of late; he has only allowed only three earned runs in his last three starts, to go along with 30 strikeouts. Ole Miss went 6-4 in its final 10 games.
Ole Miss-FSU series history: Eight all-time meetings occurred between the years 1949 to 1995. The Seminoles are 7-1 versus the Rebels. The programs have met twice in the NCAA Tournament, including once in the CWS in 1995.
No. 2 seed Southern Mississippi Eagles
Head Coach: Scott Berry (432-234-1 career record, 12th season at Southern Miss)
Record: 37-19 overall, 22-9 Conference USA
Key hitters: Sophomore designated hitter Charlie Fischer (.338 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBI), freshman center fielder Reed Trimble (.319, 14 HR, 58 RBI), sophomore first baseman Christopher Sargent (.224, 13 HR, 50 RBI).
Top pitchers: Senior Stanley Hunter (6-3, 2.42 ERA, 119 Ks), senior Walker Powell (9-2, 2.53 ERA, 79 Ks), freshman Ben Ethridge (6-1, 2.65 ERA, 81 Ks).
Season in review: FSU likely will tangle with not one, but two, programs led by veteran head coaches. Berry has guided the Eagles to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, and nothing but an upward trajectory since his hiring. Southern Miss is in the midst of arguably the best five-year run in program history. The Eagles recovered from a slow 4-5 start to 2021 to finish third in the conference. Southern Miss boasts plenty of capable bats outside of the top three in its lineup, including two other starters hitting well over .300 on the year. Sophomore reliever Ryan Och (1.42 ERA) had one of the best seasons of any bullpen arm in the country. The Eagles suffered a tough 6-5 loss to Louisiana Tech in the C-USA Championship Game, which was a double-header that followed an 11-10 defeat in extra innings to the Bulldogs earlier that day.
Trending: A machine with runners in scoring position, Trimble is responsible for a whopping 17 RBI in the past 10 games. Junior outfielder Gabe Montenegro is batting 16-for-41 (.390) in the past 10 games. Southern Miss went 6-4 in the final 10 games.
Southern Miss-FSU series history: There have been 50 all-time meetings between the years 1982 to 2016, with the Seminoles boasting a 38-12 mark versus the Eagles. The programs met six times in Metro Conference Tournament play and once in NCAA Regionals (2016).
No. 4 seed Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
Head Coach: Andy Sawyers (118-116 career record, 5th season with Southeast Missouri State)
Record: 30-20 overall, 17-10 Ohio Valley
Key hitters: Redshirt junior shortstop Tyler Wilber (.389 BA, 6 HR, 49 RBI), sophomore outfielder Jevon Mason (.371 BA, 2 HR, 22 RBI), redshirt sophomore catcher Wade Stauss (.241 BA, 14 HR, 36 RBI).
Top pitchers: Senior left-hander Dylan Dodd (9-1, 2.78 ERA, 113 Ks), freshman right-hander Kyle Miller (5 saves, 3.26 ERA, 50 Ks).
Season in review: This will be the Redhawks' third NCAA Tournament appearance, with the other two coming in 2002 and 2016. They finished first in the Ohio Valley standings during the regular season, and they took full advantage of their top seed and bye in the conference tournament. After falling to No. 2 seed Murray State by a score of 10-1 on Saturday, the Redhawk’s turned the tables on the Racers in the title game Sunday with a 10-1 clinching victory.
Trending: Southeast Missouri State comes in having won seven of its last 10 games and fresh off its second-ever conference tournament title.
SE Missouri State-FSU series history: N/A. A matchup between the Redhawks and Seminoles would be their first meeting.