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Southern Miss and MSU set for regionals

The Hattiesburg Regional will feature three teams that are very familiar with each other and one, the University of Illinois at Chicago, that will be making the long trip south into hostile territory.

Southern Mississippi (48-14) was announced as one of the 16 regional hosts for the 2017 NCAA baseball tournament Sunday. They will be joined by Mississippi State (36-24), South Alabama (39-19) and UIC (39-15).

This will be Southern Miss’s first time hosting a regional in 14 years after they made the trip to Tallahassee, Fla. for regionals last year.

Senior Dylan Burdeaux and freshman Matt Wallner have led Southern Miss on offense this season. Burdeaux has hit .348 on the season with 11 homeruns, 24 doubles and 68 RBIs. Wallner has a .345 average, 19 homeruns, 14 doubles and 61 RBIs.

On the mound they are led by starter Kirk McCarthy (10-2) who has a 2.96 ERA with 96 strikeouts to only 16 walks in 15 starts on the season. The Golden Eagles also have received a strong season from top reliever Nick Sandlin who has struck out 72 batters in 50 innings.

Southern Miss defeated region opponent Mississippi State 7-5 in March and won both match-ups with South Alabama.

No. 2 seed MSU is participating in the NCAA tournament for the 36th time, but will have to hit the road a year after earning a national seed and hosting a regional.

The Bulldogs have been led all season by SEC player of the year and Golden Spikes Semifinalist Brent Rooker. He enters the tournament with a .404 batting average, 21 homeruns, 29 doubles and 76 RBIs. He is the only player on the team with more than 10 homeruns or 40-plus RBIs on the year.

They have been led on the mound by Konnor Pilkington (7-5). He has a 3.13 ERA on the season and has struck out 98 batters while walking 41 in 95 innings.

Friday’s game will be the fourth of the season between the Bulldogs and South Alabama. Mississippi State won the first two games in March and the Jaguars came out ahead in the team’s third meeting in April.

The No. 3 seed South Alabama Jaguars won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship to earn an automatic bid to the tournament.

The Jaguars are led on offense by Travis Swaggerty who has a .361 batting average with 10 homeruns, 11 doubles and 56 RBIs. The team’s leader in homeruns is Jared Barnes with 13.

On the mound, the Jaguars are led by Randy Bell (6-3). He has a 3.75 ERA in 15 starts and has struck out 93 batters against only 19 walks in 98.1 innings.

UIC enters the tournament as a 4-seed after winning the Horizon League Tournament. This will be the Flames’ first trip to the tournament since 2008.

The Flames have one of the best pitching staffs in the country and rank second in staff ERA behind only No.1 ranked Oregon State.

Their top starter is Jake Dahlberg (10-2). He has a  2.09 ERA in 15 starts and has struck out 75 batters while walking 29. In the bullpen, they have Horizon League Reliever of the yearAlex Padilla.He has a .49 ERA on the year and earned a team high 10 saves in 27 appearances.

At the plate, the Flames are led by Rob Calabrese with a .357 batting average, seven homeruns, 23 doubles and 48 RBIs.

Their leading homerun hitter is Ricardo Ramirez with nine. UIC has never played MSU and last played South Alabama in 1967.

Regional play starts Friday. Game one will begin at 1 p.m. and game two will follow at 6 p.m.