South Carolina 7 - Vanderbilt 4 (11 Innings)
In the longest SEC tournament opener since 1986, South Carolina broke a 5 year losing streak in Hoover to keep their season alive for another day. The Gamecocks started right off the bat with a 2 run HR by Carlos Cortez in the 1st and another home run by Jonah Bride in the 2nd. Vandy would swing back in the bottom of the 2nd with a 3 run double by Will Toffey that was inches away from being a grand slam. South Carolina took the lead back immediately with another homer, this time by Justin Row. USC would hold the slim lead until the bottom of the 7th when Vandy’s Connor Kaiser hit a solo shot for the 4th home run of the game. The stale mate continued until the Top of the 11th when Vandy’s pitching blinked first. Riley Hogan notched a bases loaded walk and Alex Destino followed him with a 2 RBI double.
The big plot point from the game was South Carolina’s use of their closer Tyler Johnson through the final 4.1 IP of the game. He picked up his first win of the year to go with his 9 saves on the season, but the outing was much longer than the less than 2 innings per appearance he averaged throughout the season and he was visibly gassed in post game interviews. USC did what it had to do to keep their season alive, no doubt, but it likely cost them their closer until Saturday at the earliest, if the Gamecocks make it that far.
Vandy finishes the year 33-22-1 and in a state that would cause most of our fan base to call for Tim Corbin’s head. Luckily the 2014 NCAA champion has fans with more level heads and there’s nothing Vandy excels at better than a challenging post season. The Commodores are likely still a nightmare two seed at some regional in the south. USC’s season will continue one more day, but I really think they need to make it to the weekend if they want to spend part of their summer in a more exotic locale than Hoover, Alabama.
Mizzou 12 - Texas A&M 7
Mizzou had spent the last two weeks preparing their team for a long stay in Hoover this week, and all their preparation was nearly wiped out by Mother Nature. The Tigers had known for a few weeks that a good run in the SEC Tournament would be needed to push their resume onto the strong side of the bubble, so much so that staff ace Tanner Houck was rested entirely last weekend during Mizzou’s regular season finale at Tennessee, just so that he would be available to pitch in today’s single elimination round. What they didn’t plan on was all the wind and rain.
The front moving through Hoover Tuesday afternoon played havoc on both pitching staffs in this game, resulting in one of the highest scoring tournament games I’ve ever seen. Whether it was the rain affecting his command, or the wind giving Aggie hits an extra push, Houck didn’t look anything like the high draft pick he’s expected to be later this summer. A&M tagged him for 7 runs, 6 earned, on 6 hits in just 4.1 IP and he was puled an inning before the long lightning delay in the 6th. Luckily for Mizzou, the wind got behind the Tigers too. Home runs in the 2nd, 4th, and 5th innings, including Robbie Glendinning’s 4th inning Grand Slam, meant that Mizzou had a 3 run lead when Houck was relieved. A&M’s strategy of throwing multiple bullpen arms on very short stints did not pay off as Mizzou kept inching farther away through the entire game for the 12-7 final score.
Mizzou will get LSU....sometime on Wednesday and will be trusting Freshman LHP T.J. Sikkema, Mizzou’s wins leader for 2017 who’s only had two career starts, but is fresh off a road complete-game shutout of Tennessee last Friday. Mizzou is certainly still angling to make it to Saturday to get themselves off the bubble. A&M finishes the year 36-21 and will have to hope their name is called on Monday, though many projections still see them in Lubbock as a 3 seed.
Auburn 5 - Ole Miss 4
After the 10 hours it took to complete the first session at the SEC Tournament, it was decided that Auburn - Ole Miss would be the night cap, and a good thing too, as Tuesday’s game 4 would otherwise have to have started around midnight. The unexpected late start gave Auburn the advantage both Bama teams enjoy on the early days of the tournament as it gave time for local fans to get out to the park for a decent crowd. Too bad that those fans were soon drenched as the storms that had delayed the earlier game continued, though without any delay caused.
Auburn used a non-traditional pitching strategy of having both of their weekend starters Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize throw today in what was probably meant to be short stints, but ended up being much longer for Mize, who relieved Thompson after 3 and pitched the final 6. The Rebels struck first with an RBI double in the first and an RBI single in the 2nd. Auburn would battle back with an RBI double and a 2 out, 2 RBI triple by Jonah Todd to take a 3-2 lead. In the 6th, Ole Miss’ Will Golsan would score from 3rd on a wild pitch during a bunt attempt to tie the game. Auburn again answered right back with a solo homer by Blake Logan in the bottom of the 6th to get the lead back. Auburn entered the bottom of the 9th with a 5-3 lead. Ole Miss’ Ryan Olenek would tag a single shot home run to make it interesting, but that was all the Rebels could muster as Auburn advanced with the 5-4 win.
Auburn gets Florida as the late game on Wednesday. They are solidly in the field of 64 right now, but another win wouldn’t hurt anybody. Ole Miss, on the other hand, is in deep trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if Monday results in O. M. A. H. A. once again for the Rebels.
Here are the new plans for the tournament with Tuesday’s game 4 being pushed to Wednesday morning
Wednesday, May 24 Schedule
Session 1 - SEC Network, Sirius 137 / XM 190
9:30 a.m. – Mississippi State vs. Georgia
TBD – Kentucky vs. South Carolina
Session 2 - SEC Network, Sirius/XM 84
4:30 p.m. – LSU vs. Missouri
TBD – Florida vs. Auburn
As always, all games can be seen live on SEC Network and the WatchESPN app. Also, the great neutral SEC Radio Network feed is live for the entire tournament on satellite radio, Westwood One affiliates nationwide, and the Tunein streaming service.
We’ll be posting a separate gamethread before LSU/Mizzou starts.