There are a bunch of different factors that can make for a dynamic non-conference series. The most obvious one is that the series is between two successful programs, making for a well-played, competitive weekend of baseball. Another is that the series is between teams from the same general region, meaning that some of the players might have played against each other at some point prior to their college careers. It also helps if the series is taking place in an atmosphere fitting of a big-time non-conference series, and for that matter, it’s a benefit if the series involves a road team with a rabid fan base that will turn out in big numbers.
When it comes to the non-conference series between the East Carolina Pirates and Mississippi Rebels, it has all of those things, making it one of the very best series in the country prior to conference play.
For one, both teams have clearly been successful of late. Mississippi is a consistent participant in regionals, and they got to the College World Series as recently as 2014. ECU, meanwhile, has made regionals in each of head coach Cliff Godwin’s first two seasons, came one clutch hit in the Lubbock Super Regional away from getting to Omaha in 2016, and heading into 2017, have very real Omaha aspirations.
It’s also teams that make for an interesting combination geographically. The schools are located far enough apart that there is a feeling of rarity with this matchup, but they are close enough and competitive enough recruiting-wise that it’s easy to see them going head-to-head for some of the same players down the road, particularly as ECU continues to get rolling under Godwin.
The atmosphere shouldn’t be a problem. Swayze Field provides one of the best home-field advantages in all of college baseball and the place will undoubtedly be packed. Those fans pack the place for just about any opponent, so the crowds should be on another level with a top-flight opponent like the Pirates in town.
And finally, ECU fans are among the most rabid in all of college baseball as well. They turn out in big numbers at their own place, and for a big series like this, you know they’ll travel well.
Suffice it to say that this is going to be one heck of a weekend in Oxford.