SEC Baseball Tournament 2012: South Carolina, LSU Lose Openers as Arkansas, Georgia Eliminated

Aroundthebases2010_medium

The second day of the SEC tournament brought us a slate of close games -- one of the closest rounds in the history of the event -- that still had its share of surprises. Both of the top seeds went down and two teams, as scheduled, went home. We've got one more day of four straight games, and one with plenty of subplots running through it. A rematch of one of the pivotal series of the regular season is on tap, as is a collision of one of the SEC East front-runners and a resurgent would-be contender. It might be close, but the tournament in Hoover is rarely boring.

DAY TWO

Ole Miss 2, Arkansas 0
With apologies to the batters for the Rebel Black Bears, this game was all about the pitching. Mike Mayers and Brett Huber teamed up to scatter six hits across nine shutout innings while striking out 12. Arkansas was already unlikely to host a regional, and losing two straight against the teams from the state due east won't help any. Meanwhile, Ole Miss also gets to boost its stock by sticking around Hoover, but the Rebels are fighting for seeding at this point; there's not going to be any more baseball in Oxford this year.

Mississippi State 3, LSU 2
Starting Chris Stratton in this game ending up being a stroke of genius by John Cohen. He got through six solid innings that were good enough for him to leave with the lead, having struck out eight and allowed five hits. Meanwhile, LSU used seven pitchers in -- I don't know, an effort to burn out their entire bullpen for Thursday's elimination game. Actually, this was a plan. Because the first game in a double-elimination tournament is just like a usually meaningless midweek game during the regular season. The Western Division Bulldogs remain white hot.

Auburn 3, Georgia 2
This game likely capsized the Dawgs' hopes of making the NCAA tournament and just might -- might -- give the Tigers a bit of hope of making it to the field. Georgia made the game close with a two-run eighth inning before Justin Bryant came in and put out the fire, pitching the last 1.1 innings to keep Auburn around for another day. Michael Palazzone allowed six hits and three walks in 4.1 innings of work, and the only run support that Georgia's pitching staff got was too little, too late. Barring a surprise appearance in and run through the NCAA tournament, David Perno might be in trouble.

Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 2
Both T.J. Pecoraro and Jordan Montgomery had short but effective outings in this game. Outside of a three-hit, two-run second inning, Pecoraro allowed just two hits to the Gamecocks in five innings. Montgomery countered by allowing just one run in his five innings of work with two hits -- period -- before handing things over to Tyler Webb. You can't really say that Webb pitched all that poorly; he allowed just three hits in four innings. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a leadoff double in the eighth inning to Vince Conde, who moved to third on a bunt and then scored on a well-executed squeeze to give Vanderbilt the lead. That was the second run Webb gave up, but it was enough to put the defending national champions in the losers' bracket.

DAY THREE PREVIEW

(1) LSU vs. (9) Ole Miss, 10:30 a.m. ET, SportSouth
Barring another -- original -- deployment of his pitching staff, the main question for Paul Mainieri's Tigers is whether they can bounce back from the first-game loss. They beat the Rebel Black Bears two games to one in the regular-season series, though it was a pretty even series (narrow LSU win, solid Ole Miss victory, LSU blowout). The two teams are fairly evenly matched on offense but the Bayou Bengals have an edge in the pitching department. LSU stays around for another day or two, at least.

(7) Mississippi State vs. (4) Kentucky, 30 minutes after LSU-Ole Miss, SportSouth
Kentucky might want to be careful here -- teams coming off of a bye are currently 0-2 in the tournament, and the Wildcats got to take the day off Wednesday. If you're the kind of person who believes in intangibles, there's no way to break down this game. It's revenge vs. momentum -- Mississippi State put the exclamation point on its late-season rally by sweeping the Wildcats and ending Kentucky's SEC and SEC East title hopes. Mississippi State runs the record against Kentucky to 4-0.

(2) South Carolina vs. (10) Auburn, 5:30 p.m. ET, CSS
We could see one of the higher-scoring games in the tournament here, not that it would take a lot to accomplish that this year. Auburn and South Carolina are ranked first and second, respectively, in OPS for SEC games (.770, .754). But South Carolina is sending Michael Roth to the mound to keep the Gamecocks alive, and they emerge from the losers' bracket to face a division foe.

(5) Vanderbilt vs. (3) Florida, 30 minutes after South Carolina-Auburn, CSS
It seems like, just about every year, some low-seeded team gets a bit of momentum going in Hoover and can't be stopped. it looks a lot like that team is going to be Vanderbilt this year. The Commodores started out as a young team but have learned a lot in a little bit of time. On the other hand, Vanderbilt faces a very good Florida team coming off a bye. It doesn't matter. The Dores win a bye of their own with an upset of Florida.

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