The start of play for the top four seeds at the 2015 SEC baseball tournament brought a peak in competition for Wednesday's second-round matchups, with all four contests providing gripping action.
In a change from the opening round that saw lopsided games, all four of Wednesday's games were decided by a single run. Take a look below at how the final scores from Day 2 shook out:
|5||No. 3 Texas A&M def. No. 11 Alabama||4-3|
|6||No. 2 Vanderbilt def. No. 7 Missouri||7-6|
|7||No. 1 LSU def. No. 9 Auburn||9-8|
|8||No. 5 Arkansas def. No. 4 Florida||7-6|
While the postseason tournament in Hoover, Alabama, is typically reserved for making new memories, Wednesday's play began with a familiar sight for the Texas A&M Aggies.
The third seed in the tournament began their action in Hoover in style with a 4-3 victory over Alabama, with pitcher Grayson Long leading the way. He fanned 10 Crimson Tide batters in six innings, which followed a 14-strikeout performance against Alabama earlier in the season.
Alabama's hopes of wooing the NCAA tournament selection committee are down to one game, and the same can be said of rivals Auburn, as the ninth-seeded Tigers fell in a crushing defeat to top-seeded LSU.
Auburn was in position to upset the tournament's top seed with an 8-3 lead in the fifth before it all evaporated off a six-run inning for the winning side. One consolation presided in the Tigers' scoring explosion, which marked a historical feat, as the team's Twitter noted:
Auburn turns around for a tough elimination game against a Florida side that marked the only top-four seed to fall Wednesday. The Gators fell victim to a late surge from the Arkansas bats in the nightcap, dropping a 7-6 affair.
Florida held the lead entering the top of the ninth, but a solo shot from SEC Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi eventually led to a two-run homer from Bobby Wernes that pushed the Razorbacks in front for good.
Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com couldn't help but notice how Arkansas is rolling along after two straight ninth-inning victories in Hoover:
Capping off a trend of tight affairs, the Vanderbilt Commodores slipped past the Missouri Tigers in perhaps the day's greatest moment. Rhett Wiseman just barely got enough on a walk-off home run that whisked just inches past the outstretched glove of a Tigers outfielder.
After Wednesday's play, it became apparent that the tournament is already in full force—but the action is only just beginning. The results set up some enticing matchups starting Thursday, so let's go ahead and take a peek at them below.
Day 3 Schedule and Predictions
|9:30 a.m.||No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 11 Alabama (elimination game)||SEC Network||Alabama|
|TBD||No. 9 Auburn vs. No. 4 Florida (elimination game)||SEC Network||Florida|
|4:30 p.m.||No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 3 Texas A&M||SEC Network||Vanderbilt|
|TBD||No. 1 LSU vs. No. 5 Arkansas||SEC Network||Arkansas|
Desperation will be the key trait resonating through Thursday with a couple of teams fighting for their seasons, and that will materialize early on in Day 3.
And by early, I mean early. The opening game at 9:30 a.m. CT will revolve around Alabama's quest to remain in the SEC tournament and continue to give the NCAA selection committee something to think about.
That desperate play couldn't push them through one of the conference's top dogs in Texas A&M, but it will be enough to oust Missouri, as the Crimson Tide should keep their hopes alive for one more day.
Auburn hopes to follow suit in the second of two elimination games, but it will have to face a Florida team that didn't expect to be facing elimination this early. The Gators were the better team for eight-plus innings against Arkansas Wednesday, and they will post a more complete effort with NCAA seeding in the balance.
As for the winners' bracket games, Vanderbilt promises to kick things off in the late afternoon in a thrilling matchup with Texas A&M. The Aggies bats are a force to be reckoned with, but top-caliber pitcher Carson Fulmer should be able to quiet them, as Adam Sparks of the Tennessean reported:
The best matchup is saved for last on Thursday, along with the best chance of an upset, as LSU faces red-hot Arkansas.
It sets up unfavorably for the top seed, who had a much tougher time than expected ousting Auburn the day before. The Razorbacks are fresh off jacking two home runs in an inning and two straight ninth-inning victories, and their momentum will carry on past the Tigers.