Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
The SEC tournament is upon us, folks, and the stakes are huge on Tuesday, as the first four games are all elimination contests.
On the docket is No. 6 Ole Miss facing No. 11 Kentucky; No. 7 Alabama taking on hated rival, No. 10 Auburn; No. 8 Florida facing No. 9 Texas A&M; and No. 5 Mississippi State taking on No. 12 Missouri.
Let's review the day's action.
Mississippi State beats Missouri, 2-1 (17)
When all was said and done over a grueling 17 innings, Mississippi State emerged victorious over Missouri on Tuesday, 2-1.
Catcher Matt Slauter was the hero.
Both teams were held scoreless in the first two innings, but Missouri was able to get on the board in the top of the third inning.
Brannon Champagne starting things off with a one-out single up the middle. He then advanced to second and third on wild pitches before second baseman Josh Lester singled him home.
The Tigers were leading, 1-0.
But Mississippi State responded in the fifth inning.
Derrick Armstrong started the rally with a one-out single up the middle. Shortstop Adam Frazier then singled up the middle as Armstrong advanced to second base. After third baseman Alex Detz flied out to left field, right fielder Hunter Renfroe tied things up with a single up the middle.
After five innings, it was all tied up, 1-1.
With two men on in the bottom of the ninth inning, Frazier had an opportunity to send Mississippi State home happy, but he ultimately grounded out to the pitcher.
The Bulldogs had another chance in the bottom of the 10th inning with two men on, but center fielder C.T. Bradford flied out to left field.
In the bottom of the 13th, left fielder Jacob Robson walked with one out, then stole second base. But Robson was stranded in scoring position after consecutive flyouts.
In the 16th inning, it was more of the same. After Slauter struck out and Daryl Norris grounded out, Frazier, third baseman Sam Frost and Renfroe all singled to load the bases. But second baseman Brett Pirtle ultimately grounded out to end the rally.
But Slauter, and the Bulldogs, bounced back in the 17th inning.
First baseman Wes Rea started things off with a walk. Pinch runner Kyle Hann advanced to second after Bradford grounded out. After Robson struck out, it was up to Slauter to save the day.
Slauter delivered with a two-out single up the middle to win the game.
Mississippi State goes on to face No. 4 seed South Carolina.
Texas A&M beats Florida, 6-3
In a game that was not always pretty, Texas A&M did enough to get the win and move on to the next round of the SEC tournament.
Florida got off to an early lead thanks mostly to defensive mistakes in the second inning. An error, a balk and another error allowed Justin Shafer to reach third base before coming home on a ground out from Vickash Ramjit.
The Gators then got a second run in the inning when Zack Powers scored on an RBI single from Cody Dent.
However, the tone of the game completely changed in the top of the fourth when Texas A&M turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead with one swing. Hunter Melton took the Johnny Magliozzi fastball and hammered over the left centerfield wall for a three-run home run.
There was some controversy in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on third and two outs. Daniel Mengden threw a ball in the dirt that could have been the third strike on Casey Turgeon. However, the umpire ruled that he did not swing and the runner was able to score on the wild pitch to tie the game 3-3.
Texas A&M regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning when Melton got his fourth RBI of the game on a single to center. The Aggies then got a second run when Florida failed to complete an inning-ending double play.
The lead was extended to 6-3 in the ninth inning, but that was more than enough for Mengden, who was outstanding on the day. He pitched a complete game and only gave up one earned run. He also sent down the final 13 batters of the game while getting seven of the final eight outs via strikeout.
In total, Mengden also had an incredible 11 strikeouts and only one walk. While the offense was solid, the pitcher was clearly the most valuable player on the day.
Florida is now in a tough position on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. However, the odds are in the school's favor to reach the postseason.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M moves on to the semifinals in hope of winning the conference tournament in its first year in the SEC.
Alabama beats Auburn, 6-3
Behind some sparkling defense, a strong showing from the bullpen (six scoreless innings between Jay Shaw and Ray Castillo) and a three-run rally in the eighth inning, Alabama knocked hated rival Auburn out of the SEC tournament, winning 6-3.
The Crimson Tide would strike first. Kenny Roberts walked to lead off the bottom of the first and moved to third on a throwing error and fielder's choice before scoring on Ben Moore's groundout to shortstop.
But Auburn struck back in a big way in the top of the third. After back-to-back walks to Cullen Wacker and Garrett Cooper, a Patrick Savage double scored Wacker. Dan Glevenyak's sacrifice fly then plated Cooper and a Jordan Ebert single knocked home Cooper for the third run in the inning.
But Alabama trimmed the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth after Brett Booth singled home Moore, and struck again in the bottom of the sixth. After back-to-back singles by Moore and Mikey White to open the inning, an Austen Smith double tied the game at three apiece.
The rally continued, as Andrew Miller was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. But Reid Carter did a masterful job in relief of starter Conner Kendrick, getting all three outs in the inning including the final two with the bases loaded, ending the Crimson Tide threat.
Alabama put things away in the eighth behind an RBI single from Chance Vincent, a sacrifice fly from Roberts and a Terrance Dedrick wild pitch that scored Miller and gave the Crimson Tide a 6-3 lead.
The loss leaves Auburn sitting rather precariously on the bubble for postseason play, while Alabama's prize for beating their rival is a Wednesday game against powerhouse LSU.
Ole Miss beats Kentucky, 4-1
Behind Mike Mayers (6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 SO) and Austin Anderson (2-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI), Ole Miss advanced to the double-elimination portion of the SEC tournament with a 4-1 victory over Kentucky.
Ole Miss would waste little time in this game, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After back-to-back singles by Austin Anderson and Stuart Turner, Andrew Mistone would drive in Anderson on a sacrifice fly.
The Rebels would strike again in the third inning. After Tanner Mathis doubled and was sacrificed over to third base, Anderson ripped a double into right field to give Ole Miss a 2-0 lead.
Kentucky would cut the lead in half in the fourth.
Zac Zellers doubled and moved to third on a fielder's choice. Austin Cousino then walked and attempted to steal second but no one covered the bag. The throw from Ole Miss catcher Stuart Turner sailed into the outfield, allowing Zellers to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Ole Miss would stretch the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth. After Andrew Mistone doubled, Auston Bousfield knocked him home with an RBI single. An Austin Knight single moved Bousfield to second and Will Allen then singled him home.
Kentucky made things interesting in the top of the seventh. They loaded the bases with one out on three singles, but Michael Thomas popped out to second and Kyle Barrett grounded out to second, ending Kentucky's last major threat on the game.
For a team that started the season 22-6, this result will be wildly disappointing for Kentucky, who is now 8-19 in their last 27 games. Kentucky's postseason hopes took a major hit with this result.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss will face Arkansas on Wednesday as the double-elimination portion of the tournament gets underway.