The SEC gets credit for being the best football conference in the land, but it may actually be more dominant on the baseball diamond than the gridiron.
The SEC tournament kicked off play Tuesday with single-elimination contests. The event, which takes place in Hoover, Alabama, features 12 of the league’s 14 teams and eight squads ranked in the NCAA’s top 30. No. 8 LSU, No. 9 South Carolina and No. 10 Vanderbilt are all in the top 10, but it was actually No. 14 Florida that earned the top seed for the conference tourney.
The top four seeds (Florida, Ole Miss, LSU and South Carolina) all received byes into the double-elimination portion Wednesday, but the rest of the teams had to play in do-or-die situations Tuesday. Here is a look at some of the early results.
Vanderbilt 3, Tennessee 2
If fans arrived late to this in-state battle between Vanderbilt and Tennessee, they missed the majority of the action.
The Commodores scored two runs in the first inning, but the Volunteers bounced back with two of their own in the second. Vanderbilt tacked on its third run in the bottom of the second, and it appeared as if a high-scoring affair was on tap. The pitchers had something else in mind.
Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler was absolutely brilliant after allowing those two early runs. He didn’t allow another runner to cross the plate through his eight innings of work and retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced. The win moved him to a dominant 10-2 on the season, and he commented on the performance afterward, via Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network:
I wouldn’t say I was working through the second inning. Tennessee hit some swings on some good balls up the middle where we don’t have any guys. They’re a good offensive team, with some good left-handed bats. Some righties are a little more difficult sometimes but we did a good job. We’re thankful to have gotten through the rest of the game.
Xavier Turner chipped in with three hits of his own for the Commodores, but it was his critical, game-saving play in the field during the final inning that caught the attention of the team’s Twitter page:
UNREAL PLAY FROM TURNER. He grabs a one-hopper and tags Senzel at 3rd before he can get back to the bag. BIG PLAY!— VandyBaseball (@VandyBaseball) May 20, 2014
Vanderbilt will play the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers Wednesday.
Arkansas 4, Texas A&M 0
Fans were treated to more excellent pitching in Tuesday’s second game between Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Trey Killian and Zach Jackson dominated the Aggies in a combined effort on the mound. Killian got the starting nod and pitched six nearly flawless innings in which he only allowed four hits, while Johnson finished the final three innings in scoreless fashion as well.
Eric Fisher turned some heads on the offensive side with an impressive home run to get the Razorbacks going. It was all the more notable because of how difficult it is to hit the ball out of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, given the spacious dimensions.
Arkansas moves on to play Ole Miss Wednesday, and fans will be in for a treat, as Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA pointed out:
With MLB candidate Chris Oliver on the hill against the strong Ole Miss squad, expect another low-scoring affair. The stadium in Hoover is quite large as it is, and Oliver should be able to keep hitters in the ballpark.
Whichever team plays better defense behind its pitcher will likely get the crucial win to start off the double-elimination format.
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