The road to the College World Series is upon us, with the 2022 SEC baseball tournament beginning Tuesday.
There will certainly be plenty of teams from the country's best conference represented when the field of 64 gets announced Monday, but this is the last chance for those programs on the bubble to secure a spot.
Tennessee won the SEC regular-season title for the first time since 1995. The program is seeking its first conference tournament championship in 27 years.
The Vols secured a first-round bye, as did Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU. They will play their first game in the tournament on Wednesday.
The pressure is amplified for the eight teams playing Tuesday and Wednesday. That octet was previously scheduled to play Tuesday, but inclement weather pushed start times back.
The first round of the tournament is only single elimination, with the winners advancing to the double-elimination part of the tournament.
2022 SEC Baseball Tournament Results - Tuesday, May 24
No. 11 Alabama def. No. 6 Georgia, 5-3
No. 7 Florida def. No. 10 South Carolina, 2-1
No. 8 Vanderbilt def. No. 9 Mississippi, 3-1
Wednesday, May 25
No. 12 Kentucky vs. No. 5 Auburn, 10:30 a.m. ET
No. 11 Alabama vs. No. 3 Arkansas, 2 p.m. ET
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 2 Texas A&M, 5:30 p.m. ET
No. 8 Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 Tennessee, 9 p.m. ET
Alabama 5, Georgia 3
Two different rain delays didn't stop Alabama from holding on for a 5-3 victory over Georgia in the first game of the SEC tournament.
The start of the game was delayed by 35 minutes because of rain. There was another delay of more than two hours after the top of the third inning.
Prior to the second weather delay, Alabama stormed out to a 5-0 lead. Andrew Pinckney drove in Caden Rose in the top of the first, and then later that inning, Zane Denton also drove in a run with a two-out RBI single to make it a 3-0 game.
Alabama Baseball @AlabamaBSB
T1 | Zeuz comes through with the huge two-out single to add another! (📺 <a href="https://t.co/S40u44cKjd">https://t.co/S40u44cKjd</a>)<br><br>3-0 Alabama<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RollTide?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RollTide</a> <a href="https://t.co/wL2uuxo8Vj">pic.twitter.com/wL2uuxo8Vj</a>
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the top of the second off Georgia starter Luke Wagner. The left-handed sophomore allowed a season-high five earned runs in just 1.1 innings.
Georgia was able to get a run back in the bottom of the second on Parks Harber's solo homer.
Ben Hess took over for Garrett McMillan on the mound for Alabama after the in-game rain delay. He was excellent with 10 strikeouts and one hit allowed over 4.1 innings.
Alabama Baseball @AlabamaBSB
B6 | Hess retires them in order once again, ending the inning with his season-high tying ninth K of the day ⛽️ (📺 <a href="https://t.co/S40u44cKjd">https://t.co/S40u44cKjd</a>)<br><br>5-1 Alabama<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RollTide?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RollTide</a> <a href="https://t.co/YbR1LIpHGt">pic.twitter.com/YbR1LIpHGt</a>
Brock Guffey took over for Hess in the seventh. He closed out the inning by retiring Fernando Gonzalez and Cory Acton.
The Bulldogs got to Guffey in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run homer by Connor Tate that cut the deficit to 5-3.
Georgia Baseball @BaseballUGA
KISS IT GOODBYE!! <a href="https://twitter.com/ConnorTate9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ConnorTate9</a> puts the barrel on the ball and launches it to center and cuts the Bama lead to two!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoDawgs?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoDawgs</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RunItBack?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RunItBack</a> <a href="https://t.co/tOPYZ51Sxg">pic.twitter.com/tOPYZ51Sxg</a>
Freshman closer Dylan Ray came on to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out Harber and Chaney Rogers for the first two outs. Gonzalez flew out to right field to end the game.
The loss leaves Georgia waiting for Selection Monday to see where it will end up in the NCAA tournament. D1Baseball.com has the the Bulldogs as a No. 2 seed in the Statesboro region in its most recent projections.
Alabama will take on No. 3 Arkansas in the second round of the tournament on Wednesday. The Crimson Tide took two out of three games against the Razorbacks in the final series of the regular season last weekend.
Florida 2, South Carolina 1
The Florida Gators knocked off the South Carolina Gamecocks 2-1 in extra innings in their first game of the SEC tournament.
It was a tightly contested battle between both teams, but the Gators broke through first in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to a throwing error by South Carolina shortstop Michael Braswell.
Florida held that 1-0 lead until the top of the ninth inning when Andrew Eyster drove in a run on a fielder's choice to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Gamecock Baseball @GamecockBasebll
T9 | Eyster brings in a run with a fielder's choice and we are tied!!<br><br>Carolina 1, Florida 1<br><br>📺 <a href="https://t.co/sFhyqMZohi">https://t.co/sFhyqMZohi</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Gamecocks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Gamecocks</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForeverToThee?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForeverToThee</a> <a href="https://t.co/dYxNz01p7b">pic.twitter.com/dYxNz01p7b</a>
The Gators quickly put an end to the game in the bottom of the 10th inning, however, courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Colby Halter to win the game 2-1.
While the Gators didn't score many runs Tuesday, they got an incredible performance on the mound from Brandon Sproat, who allowed just one run on four hits through 8.1 innings. He also struck out seven batters.
Relief pitcher Ryan Slater was just as effective, striking out one batter and not allowing a hit in 1.2 innings.
That said, the Gamecocks also got impressive pitching from starter Will Sanders, who allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings. He also struck out 10 batters. Relief pitcher Cade Austin allowed one run on two hits in 2.2 innings.
Florida will move on to face No. 2 Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Gators have won their last three games against the Aggies, though they haven't met since March 2021.
Vanderbilt 3, Mississippi 1
The final game of Tuesday's slate was a low-scoring affair with Vanderbilt earning the 3-1 victory.
Carter Holton set the tone on the mound with six shutout innings that included six strikeouts and just three hits allowed, and Christian Little slammed the door with a two-inning save. Little struck out four and allowed a single hit while eliminating any chance of a Mississippi comeback.
Vanderbilt Baseball @VandyBoys
Final line for <a href="https://twitter.com/carterholton19?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@carterholton19</a> ⤵️<br><br>6.0 IP<br>3 H<br>0 R<br>6 K<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VandyBoys?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VandyBoys</a> <a href="https://t.co/9oegZwC88q">pic.twitter.com/9oegZwC88q</a>
Vanderbilt broke through on the scoreboard in the third inning when Spencer Jones doubled and Dominic Keegan drove him in with an RBI single.
An RBI groundout from Parker Noland extended the lead to 2-0 in the fifth, and Carter Young scored in the sixth on a Mississippi error.
Young, Keegan and Enrique Bradfield Jr. each had two hits in the winning effort.
Justin Bench's RBI single in the seventh marked the only run for Mississippi, and the bats went quiet as soon as Little entered the game.
The Commodores won the national championship in 2019 and reached the national title game last year. They have some work to do to reach those heights again this season, but their SEC tournament is off to an ideal start thanks to a strong showing from the pitching staff.