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June 2, 2010

Starting pitchers the talk of Charlottesville Regional

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Every year when the NCAA baseball bracket is announced, three questions immediately come to mind: Where is the team going? Who is the team playing? What is the pitching rotation?

That final topic has received quite a bit of play since Ole Miss was named the No. 2 seed in the Charlottesville Regional and will face No. 3 seed St. Johns (40-18) Friday at 8 p.m. (EST).

No. 4 seed Virginia Commonwealth (34-24-1) will start ace Seth Cutler-Voltz (8-3, 3.20) against the host and top-seeded Cavaliers (47-11), but that's pretty much where the lack of speculation or second-guessing ends.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco has announced Drew Pomeranz (8-2, 2.21) as the starter in the Rebels' opener, leading to epic amounts of discussion on various message boards. Aaron Barrett would be the other option, allowing Pomeranz to throw against Virginia if the teams won their openers. But instead, Barrett is slated for the second game of the tournament.

"We need to win and move on," Bianco said. "I don't think we're in a position to do other things ... To not start your ace would be a mistake. We have a lot of confidence in Aaron that he can pitch and win," Bianco said. "To have an advantage, you have to win the first two."

The subject of which way to throw Pomeranz and Barrett only heightened after Virginia named Cody Winiarksi (5-0, 4.39) its starting pitcher against the Rams.

Winiarski is UVA's third starter, and the move sets up ace Danny Hultzen in the winner's bracket final Saturday at 6 p.m. - as long as the Cavs avoid the upset.

St. John's isn't immune to some starter uncertainty, either.

Kyle Hansen (8-1, 3.09), the Red Storm's 6-foot-7 freshman right-hander, started two different games last weekend during the BIG EAST Tournament, throwing a combined 14.1 innings, and may not be available Friday.

St. John's was scheduled to evaluate Hansen Wednesday, but RebelGrove.com isn't aware of the decision. If Hansen doesn't start, the Rebels will see senior right-hander Bruce Kern (6-5, 5.91).

Ole Miss has thrown its top pitcher the first game of every regional under Bianco except 2004. That season, Stephen Head lost a hard-luck decision against Western Kentucky, 1-0. Hilltopper hurler Grady Hinchman threw the shutout, and the Rebels were eliminated the next morning by Washington.

"Winning the first and losing the second or losing the first and winning the second is the same thing really," Bianco said. "You have to get them both to get ahead."

BIANCO TALKS LACKLUSTER OFFENSE: During the final month of the season, Ole Miss' offense has declined, statistically speaking, averaging right at three runs per game.

The Rebels ranked last in the SEC in batting average in 2010, and it hasn't been a stellar campaign for first-year hitting coach Matt Mossberg. The former Ole Miss player, already a volunteer assistant with the program, took over for Rob Reinstetle - who resigned in Decemeber - and has only had control of the unit since right before the season.

Bianco doesn't believe the transition is reason for the slump.

"Matt was always with the hitters the last couple years," Bianco said. "To me, it should have been more of a seamless transition. It's easy to look at Matt because we haven't hit as well, but I don't think it all falls on Matt. I think a lot of it falls on me. I should have been more involved throughout the year."

Bianco was asked to evaluate the offense, but he said it wasn't time for that conversation. He reminded those present of Ole Miss' 38-22 record and mentioned that the important thing was finding enough offense to win in Virginia.

"That's something we'll evaluate at the end of the year," Bianco said. "At this point, it's wasted energy. We play in four days. We've got to figure out how to score some runs on Friday.

"It's amazing we're still talking about negative things. And I know you have to ask the questions, and I can appreciate that. But when it's all said and done, we've done pretty well."

FORMER REB FACES SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUE: Alabama junior baseball player David Kindred has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to Alabama.

Kindred, who played at Ole Miss for two seasons (2007-2008), missed two games at the SEC Tournament with shortness of breath and chest pains. Kindred will begin treatment next week, and the treatment is likely to last four-to-six months. According to Alabama, the disease is "caught in the early stages and the odds for a full and complete recovery are very high."

Kindred redshirted in 2007 at Ole Miss and hit .222 in limited action in 2008. He transferred to Shelton State (Ala.) Community College in 2009 and moved on to Alabama this season.

"We are very sad at the news concerning David's health, but we are also very supportive of him and his family at this difficult time," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said in a statement. "David is a very positive person and always has a great attitude.

"I have spoken with him and his family and they are very confident that his treatments will go well and he will have a full recovery. I wish him the best and my thoughts and prayers are with the Kindred family right now."

RebelGrove.com's postseason baseball coverage is sponsored in part by The Rogue and Grenada Nissan.


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