Eight teams enter, four teams leave.
Such is the nature of the SEC Baseball Tournament. The new format has single elimination four the first four games, and double elimination thereafter, so it was win or go home for many of these clubs today.
In the early morning opener, Ole Miss took the lead early against UK and ever gave it up, as the Rebels defeated the Wildcats 4-1. Kentucky, who looked so good early in the season, has lost six of their last seven SEC series, and an early exit from Hoover does nothing to help their postseason chances. They are most likely done for the year.
The second game of the day pitted Alabama against hated rival Auburn. The Tigers were the hottest team coming into the Tournament, and they looked it Tuesday. But a 3-run 8th broke a 3-3 tie, and the Tide beat the Tigers 6-3. Auburn is a bubble team, and they will have to wait until Selection Sunday to hear of their fate.
The Aggies of Texas A&M made their SEC Tournament debut against the Florida Gators in the first game of the afternoon session. A&M pitcher Daniel Megden pitched a five-hit complete game en route to a 6-3 Aggie victory. Although Florida has a respectable RPI and is #1 in Strength of Schedule, back-to-back series losses against Auburn and Georgia do not help their argument for postseason play. Ironically enough, this new single-elimination format may have helped the Gators. If the old double-elimination format were in place and the Gators went 0-2 in Hoover, they would have ended the season 29-29 and been ineligible for postseason play. However, since they were one-and-done they ended the year 29-28, and could still make the NCAA tourney. If they do make the postseason, it will be just barely.
And, saving the best for last, the Tigers of Mizzou and the Bulldogs of Mississippi State clashed in a 17-inning thriller that was played well into the Alabama morning, ending on a Mitch Slauter RBI single and a 2-1 Mississippi State victory. But Missouri has nothing to be ashamed of, as they battled a tough Bulldog team for almost two full games. They could have gone down quietly and no one would have thought anything of it, but they came to Hoover with something to prove, and, although they didn’t emerge victorious, they still put on one hell of a performance.
Now the grounds crew at Hoover has less than 9 hours to fix up the field, as we begin again at 9:30 CDT tomorrow. Those games are:
Ole Miss vs. Arkansas (9:30 AM) – the Rebels took the season series 2-1, but that was back in March, and much has changed since then, as Ole Miss has dropped series to Kentucky, Auburn, and LSU in recent weeks.
Alabama vs. LSU (30 minutes after game 1) – LSU took the season series 2-1, but Alabama fought hard and two of those games went into extra innings. LSU is assured of a national seed and is looking to add another College World Series trip to their outstanding history.
Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt (4:30 CT) – the Aggies and the Dores did not play in the regular season. Vanderbilt is the #1 team in the country, is also assured of a national seed, and set a new record of 27 SEC victories. They will be a tough team to beat.
Mississippi State vs. South Carolina (30 minutes after Game 3) – these two teams finished the 2013 regular season by playing their final series against one another, with Mississippi State emerging victorious in 2 of them, and South Carolina needing extras to win their one game of the series. However, the Bulldog pen will be exhausted after their 17 inning marathon against Mizzou, and that leaves the Gamecocks and opening.
Here’s the update bracket after Day 1 action:
The tournament is double-elimination from here on out, so if a team loses tomorrow, they aren’t out of it yet.
Onto Day 2.