SEC Baseball Tournament 2021: Friday Schedule and Bracket Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 28, 2021

Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter throws against Mississippi State in an NCAA college baseball game Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Vanderbilt and Ole Miss played a thrilling game on Wednesday night in the 2021 SEC baseball tournament. The Commodores scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure a walk-off win, but the Rebels remained alive, as it was their first loss of the double-elimination part of the tourney.

Now, No. 4 Vandy and No. 5 Ole Miss are already set to face off again Friday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala. Only this time, the stakes are going to be higher.

Either the Commodores or Rebels will be eliminated, as the loser will be knocked out of the tournament while the winner will stay in. The other game on Friday's schedule is also an elimination game, as No. 2 Tennessee and No. 10 Alabama will also have a rematch earlier in the day. (The Crimson Tide beat the Vols 3-2 in 11 innings on Wednesday.)

Here's a look at Friday's slate, followed by predictions for how the action will unfold.


Friday Schedule

No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 10 Alabama, 11 a.m. ET, SEC Network

No. 4 Vanderbilt vs. No. 5 Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network


Bracket Predictions

Two of the most exciting matchups thus far in the SEC tournament are about to happen again. And don't be surprised if it leads to more thrilling action in Hoover on Friday.

First, No. 2 Tennessee will look to avenge its previous loss to No. 10 Alabama. The Vols faced elimination on Thursday, but they stayed in the tournament by beating No. 3 Mississippi State 12-2. Tennessee's bats broke out with 15 hits, as it rallied for four runs in the second inning to take control of the game.

Alabama couldn't carry over the momentum from its win over Tennessee, as it fell 7-2 to No. 6 Florida on Thursday. After opening the tourney with a 9-3 win over No. 7 South Carolina on Tuesday, the Crimson Tide have scored only five runs over their past two games, and they may need more offense if they hope to get past the Vols again.

That will especially be if Tennessee gets another big performance from senior infielder Liam Spence, who was a first-team All-SEC selection this season. Spence broke out with a 3-for-4 showing in the Vols' win over Mississippi State, collecting two runs and two RBI after he had only one hit in his previous six games.

Before Thursday, Tennessee hadn't won a game in the SEC tournament since 2007, as it had a seven-game losing streak in the tourney. Now that the Vols have ended that drought, they could be poised to earn a second straight win in their rematch against Alabama.

Although the Tide's pitching held the Vols to two runs in 11 innings earlier in the week, that's unlikely to happen again. Spence should start swinging a hot bat, leading Tennessee to a win and a spot in the semifinals. Expect the Vols to pound out plenty of hits, resulting in a big offensive day.

In Friday's second contest, Vanderbilt will look to bounce back from a 6-4 loss to top-seeded Arkansas. Although the Commodores sent junior right-hander Kumar Rocker to the mound for that game, they couldn't hold onto an early lead, as Rocker allowed five runs in 3  innings in an uncharacteristic showing.

Now, Vandy will likely turn to its other top hurler while facing elimination, as sophomore right-hander Jack Leiter could be making his SEC tournament debut. Leiter has had a stellar beginning to his college career, as he's 10-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) over the past two seasons.

Ole Miss opened the tournament with a 7-4 win over No. 12 Auburn on Tuesday, then it lost to Vandy on Wednesday. But the Rebels staved off elimination with a 4-0 victory over No. 8 Georgia on Thursday, giving them another opportunity to beat the Commodores on Friday.

Whichever team wins the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss game will advance to play No. 1 Arkansas in the semifinals on Saturday. And after the Commodores lost to the Razorbacks on Thursday, they're going to be hungry to get another chance at taking down the SEC's top team.

Leiter will pitch a gem against Ole Miss, while Vanderbilt will give him enough run support to push it into the tourney semis. Will it then get revenge against Arkansas? The Commodores might, but at the least, don't expect them to go out of this tournament easily.