It’s never easy for St. Louis University when the Billikens’ baseball team goes to the NCAA tournament, and this time is no exception.
SLU will open the NCAA baseball tournament Friday against Ole Miss, the tournament’s No. 4 seed overall, in Oxford, Miss., in a double-elimination regional that also includes Missouri State.
SLU (38-18) is the No. 4 seed behind top-seeded Ole Miss (46-15), the SEC tournament champion, No. 2 Tennessee Tech (48-9) of the Ohio Valley Conference and No. 3 Missouri State (39-15), which won the Missouri Valley season and tournament titles.
SLU will face Ole Miss on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised on the SEC Network. Ole Miss (46-15) won the SEC tournament.
This is the fourth time SLU has gone to the NCAA tournament since 2006, when the Bills ended a 40-year drought. Facing a nationally ranked team on its home field in the opening round — Cal State Fullerton in 2006, Louisville in 2010 and South Carolina in 2013 — the Billikins failed to win a game in any of those NCAA trips.
“I’m a little surprised we got sent to such a high national seed,” said SLU coach Darin Hendrickson. “I thought we were one of the better four seeds out there. When you play in a one-bid league, you have to know you’re going to play somebody really tough. … We’ll embrace the challenge. We’re not done. We’re not just going down there to show up. We’re going to try our best. We’ve got a heck of a pitching staff. Miller Hogan is going Friday night. He’ll be one of the highest draft picks in SLU history, if not the highest. What more can we do?
“... I’ve been (at Ole Miss) three times as a coach; it is as good an environment as you’re going to find. It’s going to be a rowdy, rowdy, rowdy group.”
“We definitely didn’t think we were going to go to Ole Miss,” said left fielder Parker Sniatynski. “It’s been four years of hard work. My freshman season we won the regular season but couldn’t get it done in the tournament. Last year, we got hot but couldn’t finish it. There’s nothing better than as a senior being able to finish it off and go to the dance.”
Last year’s Atlantic 10 champion, Davidson, was a No. 4 seed but swept through its regional in three games. In 2015, another A-10 team, Virginia Commonwealth, reached the super-regional.
“The A-10 has been dangerous,” Hendrickson said. “We’re going to have to play our best baseball. ... But it was going to be a tough draw wherever we went.”
SLU is playing well, having won nine of its past 10 after winning 15 straight earlier in the season, and has two quality starters in Hogan (10-3, 2.19 ERA) and Drew Reveno (10-2, 1.84). Ole Miss is one of an NCAA-record 10 teams from the SEC to make the tournament. Tennessee Tech had the nation’s longest winning streak this season at 28 games and has a team batting average of .342. Missouri State, which went 18-3 in Valley play, is led by junior catcher Drew Milas (Belleville West), who’s hitting .333 with seven homers and 59 RBIs.