The 2015 SEC baseball tournament started on Tuesday with a quartet of play-in games. The second round on Wednesday marks the beginning of the double-elimination phase with a conference champion eventually being crowned on Sunday.
LSU, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Florida are the event's top four seeds. They all received byes in the opening round and will play their first games today. The Tigers are the top overall seed after going 21-8 during the regular season.
Texas A&M and Alabama are already underway in the day's first game. Let's check out the remaining schedule and make predictions for the next three contests. That's followed by a closer look at the top game of the second round.
Wednesday Schedule and Predictions
|2015 SEC Baseball Tournament: Wednesday Details|
|2 p.m.||No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 7 Missouri||SEC Network||VANDY|
|5:30 p.m.||No. 1 LSU vs. No. 9 Auburn||SEC Network||LSU|
|9 p.m.||No. 4 Florida vs. No. 5 Arkansas||SEC Network||ARK|
|Schedule via SECSports.com|
Game to Watch: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 5 Arkansas
Arkansas scored an exciting walk-off victory over Tennessee on Tuesday night. The Razorbacks hope the momentum from that game carries over for an even more difficult test against a Florida squad that ranks inside the nation's top 10.
The Hogs were locked in a scoreless tie with the Volunteers until the seventh. That's when Rick Nomura gave them a lead with an RBI groundout but Tennessee struck back to tie it in the eighth.
It opened the door for Michael Bernal to play the role of hero. Nomura singled with two outs in the bottom of the night and Bernal smacked a double to left to bring home the winning run.
One of two things tend to happen after a game like that: It provides a boost and the team catches fire, or the emotional drain leads to a quick loss. That's especially true given the Razorbacks' victory came in the nightcap after a long day of SEC baseball.
Arnold Feliciano of the Gainesville Sun passed along the pitching matchup for the day's final game, which favors the No. 5 seed:
Keaton McKinney was Arkansas' go-to pitcher during the regular season. He started the most games (14) and led the team in both ERA (2.83) and batting average against (.224). So the Hogs have the right starter on the mound to continue building on the positive mojo.
One other key is getting a better performance from Andrew Benintendi. He came into the tournament hitting .415 with 21 stolen bases and 17 home runs. Luckily, other hitters were able to pick up the slack as he went 0-for-5 in the opener.
Florida doesn't feature a singular star like Benintendi to headline its offense, but it has a more well-rounded attack. JJ Schwarz and Harrison Bader provide the pop, Richie Martin and Buddy Reed provide the speed and everybody else falls into place.
The Gators also sport a strong bullpen. So if Dane Dunning can give them six solid innings, they should be in good shape to close it down late.
Ross Dellenger of the Advocate highlights what lies ahead for the winning squad:
Ultimately, this is a tossup game. Arkansas holds the edge on the mound to start and has the most dangerous player in Benintendi. Florida has a more complete lineup and a bullpen capable of halting any rallies the Hogs may mount.
In those type of situations, it's usually best to back the team with the better starting pitcher. So based on this season's numbers, the slight edge goes to the Razorbacks.