Remember the last time Maine played a game in Mississippi …?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2005


Before Ole Miss faithful start packing their bags for Omaha and the College World Series, please, please look at the Rebels’ first-round opponent in the Oxford Regional – the Maine Black Bears.

Ah, the University of Maine. How many fans got a roaring start to the football season when the Bears came out of their northern hibernation to shock Mississippi State on the football field?

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Even in MSU coach Sylvester Croom’s first season, with a pantry full of holes on his roster, not many gave Maine a chance.

After the 9-7 shocker, the Bulldog faithful will forever remember Maine, with some help from the Oxford contingent.

Now the tables are turned.

In baseball, Maine is a team that played 28 straight road games to open the season, mostly because the annual snowfall in Orono is about 8 feet.

The Bears played five home games before May, and still performed well enough to earn the America East Conference championship.

The Bears certainly will not be in awe of the travel. The team spent the first two weeks of the season bouncing around Florida playing not only schools from the South, but other snowbird schools looking to field baseball teams. Maine needed three wins over Vermont in the AE Tournament to qualify for the regionals.

This is also a team with a rich baseball tradition. The Bears began dodging Caribou on the baseball diamond in 1881 and have recorded more than 1,600 victories. They’ve advanced to the College World Series seven times, although the last trip came in 1986.

Conversely, Ole Miss last reached the College World Series in 1972 and has gone to Omaha four times.

The Rebels have the pedigree of a national championship contender. They were given the No. 5 national seed, meaning all they have to do is advance out of their own regional to earn a home weekend series in the Super Regional. With 44 wins, hitting and pitching, this is coach Mike Bianco’s best chance so far of reaching Omaha.

Oklahoma and Southern Miss – two quality teams in their own rights – will battle in the first game of the Oxford Regional. But it will be Maine those in this state will have their eyes on.

The weather in Oxford should be about 40 degrees warmer and 1,000 times more humid than that in Maine. But the weather differential was the same in September when the Black Bears made Ole Miss fans snicker at their archrivals.

If they are overlooked again, don’t be surprised if Maine pulls off another Magnolia State shocker.

But as sure as you won’t see caribou in the outfield and snow on the ground, Ole Miss will not overlook Maine.