Good pitching beats good hitting. While that's a tired cliche, its truth is undeniable.
The 2014 SEC baseball tournament will likely reinforce that old axiom.
While plenty of heavy hitters feature among the top seeds, there is no shortage of talented pitching on show in Hoover, Alabama, over the next week.
Here's a look at the full schedule for Wednesday's tournament action:
|Time (ET)||Teams||TV Info|
|9:30 a.m.||No. 3 LSU||No. 6 Vanderbilt||SportSouth|
|TBD||No. 2 Ole Miss||No. 7 South Carolina||SportSouth|
|4:30 p.m.||No. 1 Florida||No. 9 Kentucky||CSS Sports|
|TBD||No. 4 South Carolina||CSS Sports|
Note: All games are available to live stream on ESPN3.
Below is a brief breakdown for each of the four games and an explanation of how pitching will likely decide the outcome.
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt
In a rematch of last season's championship, LSU will take on Vanderbilt, fresh off a win over rival Tennessee.
According to Ross Dellenger of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Jared Poche will take the mound for the Tigers and Jared Miller will get the start for the Commodores.
Although Poche lost in his first start against Vandy back in March, he finished the season with an 8-3 record and a 2.29 earned run average. He's moved beyond the freshman jitters that looked to have affected his earlier starts in SEC play.
Miller did go 6-1 during the regular season, but his 3.88 ERA is less than impressive.
The Tigers would seem to get the edge in pitching, and they have a lot riding on the result of this game, per Dellenger:
This game looms large for LSU's NCAA postseason positioning and is a rematch of last year's SEC tournament championship game, which LSU won. The two programs are in the mix to host an NCAA regional. Most have Vanderbilt (41-16) hosting. The Dores have a No.6 RPI. LSU (40-14-1), 16 in the RPI, seems to be on the fringe.
LSU should get the critical victory.
Winner: LSU, 3-0
No. 2 Ole Miss vs. No. 7 Arkansas
Ole Miss has one of the best offenses in the SEC, but it could run into trouble against Arkansas, which boasts a talented pitching staff from top to bottom. The Razorbacks rank 11th in ERA and third in hits allowed per game.
According to Arkansas' official website, Chris Oliver will toe the rubber for the Razorbacks on Wednesday. Statistically, he was the worst of the team's three starters, posting the highest ERA (2.63), the fewest strikeouts (54) and the most walks (28).
Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA thinks the game could be a great draft showcase for the junior hurler:
Opposing Oliver will be Rebels ace Chris Ellis. He was a perfect 9-0 during the regular season, and his 2.12 ERA was the best on Ole Miss.
This one could turn into a pitchers' duel, and if that happens, you'd favor Ellis and the Rebels, who also have the motivation of playing for a national seed in the College World Series.
"I’d hate to think that this week means more than any other week," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said, per Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. "I don’t think that’s fair to anybody. But the more success you have there, the more it helps you."
With so much on the line and their best pitcher on the mound, the Rebels should prevail.
Winner: Ole Miss, 2-1
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 9 Kentucky
Florida is the No.1 seed in the SEC for a reason. The Gators compiled a 21-9 conference record and sit second in the RPI.
The one thing that could actually hurt Florida is its regular-season success. No matter what happens in Hoover, the Gators will be a national seed in the College World Series. With that kind of security, they could take their foot off a gas a little bit.
That could be a problem, as Kentucky boasts high-quality player A.J. Reed. The junior star hit 23 home runs and drove in 70 runs during the regular season. He possesses the kind of power that can almost single-handedly win Kentucky the game.
Reed did pitch on Tuesday night, though, and the Wildcats don't have a strong rotation outside of their ace.
The balance of Florida will be too much to overcome for Kentucky.
Winner: Florida, 6-1
No. 4 South Carolina vs. No. 5 Mississippi State
South Carolina enters Hoover on a torrid run. The Gamecocks have gone 14-4 in their last 18 games after enduring a five-game losing streak in April.
Like Ole Miss, USC is playing for a national seed. Sitting eighth in RPI, it will need at least a win or two to lock down a top seed. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt wagers that the Gamecocks should be in ahead of the Rebels:
The Gamecocks are 8-7 against the top 25, while the Rebels are 5-7. South Carolina’s better high-end series wins (at Vandy, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Alabama) trump Mississippi’s one-game edge in the standings. The Rebels’ best series wins are at Kentucky, at Texas A&M, at Mississippi State and vs. Arkansas—all quality series wins, but no elite series wins. So we’ll go with South Carolina, but there isn’t a large gap between these teams, so how they perform in Hoover could play a significant role.
Momentum is always nice heading into a postseason tournament, but if you want a more quantifiable reason to back South Carolina on Wednesday, look no further than the pitching staff. The Gamecocks posted a team ERA of 1.99, second in the nation, and their team WHIP was sixth (1.08).
According to South Carolina's official website, Jordan Montgomery will get the start on Wednesday. That's somewhat good news for Mississippi State, as Montgomery's 7-4 record and 3.26 ERA aren't otherworldly. The junior lefty did strike out 85 batters during the regular season, so when his stuff is working, he can be unhittable.
Montgomery should be at his best given the stakes, and he should shut down the Bulldogs offense.
Winner: South Carolina, 5-0