With years of tradition at Hoover, Alabama, and a conference at its all-time best, the biggest SEC baseball tournament yet began its 2015 edition Tuesday by sending four teams packing.
No. 11 Alabama, No. 7 Missouri, No. 9 Auburn and No. 5 Arkansas made it through the single-elimination wreckage of Day 1 action and will turn around Wednesday to face the SEC's top four seeds who enjoyed a first-round bye. Take a look at how all four games unfolded in Tuesday's opening round of action in Hoover:
|Game||Result, Score||Winning Pitcher|
|1||No. 11 Alabama def. No. 6 Ole Miss, 6-1||Geoffrey Bramblett (9 IP, 9 H, 1 ER)|
|2||No. 7 Missouri def. No. 10 South Carolina, 5-1||Reggie McClain (7 IP, 6 H)|
|3||No. 9 Auburn def. No. 8 Kentucky, 6-3||Cole Lipscomb (7.2 IP, 2 ER)|
|4||No. 5 Arkansas def. No. 12 Tennessee, 2-1||Zach Jackson (1.1 IP)|
Grogginess could have been in order in the tourney opener with the first pitch at 9:30 a.m. ET, but those feelings didn't resonate with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Needing a run in Hoover to enter the NCAA tournament conversation, No. 11 Alabama stomped sixth-seeded Ole Miss 6-1.
Hot pitching paved the way in a do-or-die game for the Crimson Tide, with Geoffrey Bramblett posting a complete-game effort and allowing just one run on nine hits. Four Rebels finished with multiple hits in the losing effort, but better days are ahead, as D1Baseball.com's Kendall Rogers noted:
The trend of shutdown pitching seemed to continue throughout the day, taking shape again in Game 2. Missouri outshone South Carolina 5-1 in the Nos. 7 and 10 matchup, taking a second-inning lead and riding seven strong innings from Reggie McClain.
Other than South Carolina leadoff hitter Gene Cone, who went 3-for-4, the rest of the Gamecocks combined for just three hits on their 29 at-bats. Shockingly enough, the defeat means the 10th-seeded Gamecocks—who have won two national championships since 2010—are almost certainly missing the postseason for the first time since 1999.
That's only where the lows of South Carolina's season start, as Daren Stoltzfus of WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina, noted:
As for NCAA hopefuls that didn't help themselves Tuesday, eighth-seeded Kentucky joined the mix by falling 6-3 to Auburn in game No. 3. The Tigers rattled off four runs in a three-inning span to take control in the middle of the game and didn't look back.
Cole Lipscomb kept Kentucky's bats at bay with two earned runs on 7.2 innings of work, while Justin Camp closed the door to give Auburn a boost as it looks to lock down a NCAA tournament spot.
The night cap fittingly produced the most gripping action, as fifth-seeded Arkansas overcame No. 12 Tennessee with a walk-off 2-1 victory. The Vols tied things up in the eighth and threatened to send things into extra innings, before Michael Bernal cranked a game-winning double to send Tennessee home.
Tuesday's results set up a thrilling Round 2 with the top four seeds finally hitting the diamond against the four worthy squads who advanced past Tuesday's elimination contests. Let's go ahead and take a glance into every matchup.
Day 2 Schedule and Predictions
|Wednesday, May 20 Schedule|
|9:30 a.m.||No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Alabama||SEC Network||Texas A&M, 3-1|
|TBD||No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 7 Missouri||SEC Network||Vanderbilt, 5-2|
|4:30 p.m.||No. 1 LSU vs. No. 9 Auburn||SEC Network||LSU, 6-2|
|TBD||No. 4 Florida vs. No. 5 Arkansas||SEC Network||Florida, 2-1|
Wednesday will start with arguably the only team left standing that is still fighting for an NCAA tournament spot—the 11th-seeded Crimson Tide, fresh off of an upset of Ole Miss. But they aren't the only ones in the Day 2 opener with something to play for.
The third-seeded Texas A&M Aggies also have plenty of motivation stemming from a hopeful top-eight national seed, which guarantees a home regional. They still have to separate themselves from the likes of Vanderbilt and Florida and prove they are closer to the level of LSU.
On top of that, the Aggies will come in fresher and with ace Grayson Long ready to shut the door on Alabama, as TexAgs.com noted:
Questions will be asked as well of the Missouri Tigers, who bounce back from their opening win over South Carolina to face a second-seeded Vanderbilt team they have had little to no success against since joining the SEC.
Not only have the Tigers have never topped the Commodores in conference play, but they also have struggled to even remain competitive in those contests, as Dave Matter of St. Louis Post-Dispatch mentioned:
Game 3 of Wednesday's slate is another tough task for the underdog, as Auburn will emerge from its elimination victory over Kentucky to face the top-seeded LSU Tigers. The SEC's darling only lost nine games throughout the regular season and took two of three against Auburn earlier in the season.
It's hard to see Auburn coming back from a taxing Tuesday game to seriously contend with the regular-season champions.
The night cap should produce the most hotly contested game of Wednesday's schedule, between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds of Florida and Arkansas, respectively. The Razorbacks are coming off a win over Tennessee to face one of the only SEC teams they didn't face during the season.
Between two ranked and evenly matched squads, superior pitching should take the cake. That will go the Gators' way, as they can strut out their ace after Arkansas threw its No. 1 pitcher out Tuesday.