Day One of the SEC baseball tournament is in the books, and if there's one thing it taught us, it's that momentum is important. Both Mississippi State and Vanderbilt coasted to relatively easy wins against their opponents, while Georgia continued a late-season slump that might be endangering its NCAA stock and David Perno's job.
Vanderbilt 4, Georgia 1
The most impressive effort of the night might have come from Brian Miller, who came in with one man on and one out in the sixth inning and pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. Three Vanderbilt players each got two hits while none of the other players even managed a single single -- or any other kind of hit. The three were Tony Kemp, Anthony Gomez and Spencer Navin. Alex Wood started strong for Georgia but ended up putting five men on base with two walks and three hit batsmen -- in 4.2 innings.
Florida 6, Auburn 1
Florida has now outscored Auburn 26-7 in the two teams' four games this season. The Gators moved to 3-1 in those meetings with a game that might even have been less competitive than the final score. Florida outhit Auburn 10-3. Jonathon Crawford struck out a career-high nine in 5.2 innings. The only good news for the Tigers in this game is that they don't have to face Florida for a couple of games -- if they get that far.
Mississippi State 9, Arkansas 1
If it weren't for Vanderbilt, you would have to call the Western Division Bulldogs the most dangerous team in the tournament -- and they might be in any case. The Dogs turned a close game into a rout in a six-run ninth inning that three Arkansas pitchers tried to bring to an end, with varying but mostly small degrees of success. The game was not necessarily a thing of beauty -- the teams combined for four errors -- but four Mississippi State pitchers managed to make sure that seven hits didn't cause many problems. Now the ball goes to Chris Stratton for a huge game against LSU.
Kentucky 2, Ole Miss 0
A.J. Reed was really the only player Kentucky needed in this game -- he hit a solo home run and pitched 5.2 scoreless innings to halt what had looked like a season-ending collapse by the Wildcats. The Rebel Black Bears have now lost five straight and will try to avoid an elimination loss on the tournament's second day.
DAY TWO PREVIEW
(9) Ole Miss vs. (6) Arkansas, 10:30 a.m. ET, SportSouth
Ole Miss is the slightly better offensive team in this game (.750 OPS in SEC games as opposed to Arkansas' .740), while Arkansas holds teams to about a half an earned run less per game than the Rebel Black Bears. The Razorbacks probably also haven't forgotten how to win, which is one of those annoying sportscaster-talk phrases that might ring true about Ole Miss in this case. The team from Oxford will become the first to go home.
(7) Mississippi State vs. (1) LSU, 30 minutes after Ole Miss-Arkansas, SportSouth
Both these teams ended the season with a series win against a strong SEC East team. And that's just one of the reasons that this is one of the most intriguing games of the tournament so far. Chris Stratton, who struck out a jaw-dropping 17 batters the last time he faced LSU -- and lost -- returns to the mound for the Western Division Bulldogs. (A meltdown by reliever Caleb Reed in the 10th cost Mississippi State that game.) LSU sends to the mound Aaron Nola, who got knocked around by the Dogs the last time he faced them. Mississippi State pulls the shocker.
(10) Auburn vs. (8) Georgia, 5:30 p.m. ET, CSS
Neither of these teams have anything approaching momentum on their side. We've noted the Tigers' woes against Florida, and Georgia lost two out of three to a woeful Alabama team in its final series of the season. Auburn has the better offense statistically and the teams are about even on pitching and momentum, so give the Tigers a close win in a game that the Dawgs and Perno might really need to save his job.
(5) Vanderbilt vs. (2) South Carolina, 30 minutes after Auburn-Georgia, CSS
South Carolina won its first SEC series of the season when it beat Vanderbilt two games out of three in Nashville from March 30-April 1. This Vanderbilt team is not that Vanderbilt team -- and you can argue that this South Carolina team is also not that South Carolina team. As a South Carolina fan, this game is perhaps the one I can see on the horizon, besides an LSU rematch, that most concerns me. But the analyst in me gives South Carolina a slim win against the Commodores.