Ole Miss

Ole Miss' opening opponent, Utah, better than record shows

Mississippi catcher Henri Lartigue catches a foul ball against Texas A&M during the seventh inning of a Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament game at the Hoover Met, Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Mississippi catcher Henri Lartigue catches a foul ball against Texas A&M during the seventh inning of a Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament game at the Hoover Met, Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) AP

OXFORD -- Sometimes things are not what they seem.

No. 4 seed Utah (25-27) has lost more games than it's won and has an RPI of 93.

The Utes, though, have won seven of their last 10 and won the Pac 12 regular season with a 19-11 mark. Friday they will throw the Pac 12's strikeout leader in sophomore right-hander Jayson Rose and could be a tough out for the home team.

No. 1 seed Ole Miss begins its seventh home regional at 7 p.m. No. 2 seed Tulane and No. 3 seed Boston College play at 3 p.m.

The Pac 12 does not have a postseason tournament and awards its automatic bid to the regular season champ.

"You know Utah won the Pac 12. To host your regional, be a No. 1 seed and play the Pac 12 champion out of the gate ... obviously they're really good. Regardless of RPI and record, you don't win that league by chance," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.

In its fifth year in the Pac 12, Utah finished last in the 11-team league in its first four seasons. Pac 12 member Colorado does not play baseball. League coaches picked Utah to finish last this season.

In some ways Utah's championship fits the narrative that says West Coast baseball is not as strong as it's been in recent seasons.

The Pac 12 is No. 4 in conference RPI, ranking ahead of only the Big 10 among the Power Five conferences.

The Big 10 is No. 7 behind Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference, whose regular season champion Tulane is No. 2 seed in the Oxford Regional.

RPI is Part I in a two-part problem with perception, Utah coach Bill Kinneberg said.

"We all beat each other up, and there are not as many schools out there. That's No. 1. I think the RPI needs to be tweaked or done something for some of us. No. 2, the perception out West is if UCLA has a tough year or if Stanford's not in it that the West is down. UCLA and Stanford had below par years, but I wouldn't want to play all the teams that are in right now."

Part of the perception problem has to do with who's No. 1 in the Pac 12, said Rose.

"I think everyone is saying that only because we're at the top, but I think that we finally came to the level of everyone else. I don't think the West is down at all."

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