The 2022 SEC baseball tournament first-round clash between the Vanderbilt Commodores and Ole Miss Rebels carries the most meaning of Tuesday's four-game slate in Hoover, Alabama.
Vanderbilt, the No. 8 seed, is in contention to host one of the 16 regionals in the NCAA baseball tournament, while ninth seed Ole Miss is fighting to stay on the right side of the bubble during its trip to Hoover.
Ole Miss is currently viewed as a No. 3 seed at a regional in most projections. A loss could make the Rebels vulnerable to bid stealers and other bubble teams that stay alive longer in their respective conference tournaments.
The third of four games scheduled for Tuesday carries the most importance, but there is some meaning attached to the other three contests.
The Auburn Tigers are trying to solidify one of 16 national seeds, while the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators have a chance to improve their standing with the selection committee.
SEC Tournament Tuesday Schedule
No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 Alabama (10:30 a.m. ET, SEC Network)
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 South Carolina (2 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
No. 8 Vanderbilt vs. No. 9 Ole Miss (5:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 Kentucky (9 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
Vanderbilt Holds Off Ole Miss in Closest Game of the Day
Vanderbilt and Ole Miss will send their best starters to the bump on Tuesday in the hopes of setting up a showdown with the best team in college baseball, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Before either team can think of Tennessee, they need to focus on winning on Tuesday with different goals in mind.
A win over a bubble team behind starter Carter Holton would give Vandy a chance to earn a quality victory over Tennessee or to pick up some solid wins in the losers part of the double-elimination bracket.
Only teams defeated in the quarterfinals teams stick around in Hoover. The first-round losers are done after one contest.
Ole Miss is a No. 3 seed in both tournament projections. It needs a solid outing from ace Dylan DeLucia to overcome Vanderbilt and add a quality win to its resume.
However, a win may be tough to earn for the No. 9 seed if Holton is at his best. He owns seven wins, a 3.42 ERA and 86 strikeouts, and he held opponents to a .193 batting average.
Opposing hitters are .263 against DeLucia, who has three more appearances but six fewer starts this season compared to Holton.
Holton is better rested and in superior form compared to the Ole Miss player. He has an 18-inning scoreless streak in place and was held out of Vanderbilt's final regular-season series.
DeLucia lasted less than two innings in his last start on Thursday, and he will pitch on short rest with Ole Miss' season potentially on the line.
Auburn, Georgia, Florida Cruise into 2nd Round
There should be less uncertainty surrounding the other three games.
Auburn, Georgia and Florida are the clear favorites in their matchups. They will try to finish off games early to save primary arms for the second round and beyond.
Auburn is the No. 5 national seed in the NCAA projection and the No. 10 seed in D1Baseball's latest bracket. It could put a whooping on the Kentucky Wildcats to avoid a bad loss and a potential drop on the national seed line.
Florida just beat South Carolina twice to conclude the regular season and outscored its rivals 23-9 in the series despite putting up just one run on Sunday.
The Gators are 10-2 since May 3, and their only series loss since mid-April came against Tennessee.
Florida should have eyes on a tougher matchup in the second round, as should Georgia, which tied the Gators for second place in the SEC East with a 15-15 conference record.
Georgia should open the SEC tournament with a win over Alabama. The Bulldogs won a low-scoring series against the Crimson Tide from April 22-24, and they have proved effective against lower-ranked teams.
The Bulldogs are 6-3 against teams with an RPI rating between 26-50 and are 25-9 against programs rated below 25th place. Alabama comes into Hoover as the No. 47 team in the RPI standings.
Wins for Auburn, Georgia and Florida would set up a fantastic day of baseball on Wednesday, when most of the SEC's projected NCAA tournament participants will likely go head-to-head.