May 22, 2003


CBI Live
SEC Tournament produces close first round games

By Mike Martin

Mike Martin is in Birmingham for the start of the SEC Tournament. Mike hosts a weekly radio show on college baseball on AM 560 WNSR in Nashville. College Baseball Today can be heard from 9-10 a.m. every Saturday during the season.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It was worth the wait for the start of the SEC Tournament.

After all of Wednesday's action was rained out, Auburn and Vanderbilt set the tone for what turned out to be a day of close games Thursday.

In the opener, three Auburn pitchers combined for a five-hitter to lead the third-seeded Tigers to a 3-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Commodores. Auburn got the lead in the fifth after Chuck Jeroloman scored on a fielder's choice. Jeroloman led off the inning with a double of Vanderbilt starter Jeremy Sowers. He advanced to third on Josh Todd's bunt single and later scored.

With the score knotted at 1-1 in the seventh, deja vu struck Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Jeroloman again led off the inning with a double, and Todd followed with another bunt single. The Tigers scored two that inning and went on for the victory. Sowers (7-5) had his streak of seven straight wins snapped with the loss. Cory Dueitt picked up the victory in relief for the Tigers, who will face Alabama today in the second round.

Seventh-seeded Alabama held on to defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks 9-7.

In the sixth inning, Alabama first baseman Zac Welch delivered a two-run double and later scored to cap a five-run inning. Trailing 9-7 in the ninth, the second-seeded Gamecocks loaded the bases with one out, but Crimson Tide reliever Brian Reed got a strikeout and a groundout to end the game and registered his 12th save.

South Carolina will play Vanderbilt at 10 a.m. this morning in the first elimination game of the tournament.

The third game of the day could turn out to be the game of the tournament.

Mississippi State second baseman Thomas Berkery hit a two-out, game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to lead the fourth-seeded Bulldogs past in-state rival Ole Miss. Fifth-seeded Ole Miss took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but a Craig Tatum RBI double tied the score at 4 and gave the fans free baseball.

Editor's note: Mike could not stick around for the final game of the day. Here is a recap of that contest:

Top-seeded LSU built a 4-0 lead after four innings and held on for a 5-4 win over eighth-seeded Arkansas. The Tigers (38-18-1) will meet Mississippi State at 8 p.m., and the Razorbacks (34-19) will face Ole Miss in an elimination game at 1. Scott Hode’s two-run single in the fifth pulled Arkansas to within two at 4-2. Aaron Hill had an RBI single in the seventh to push LSU’s lead to three. Nick Pitts had an RBI triple and scored in the top of the eighth to make it 5-4. Billy Sadler closed the door in the eighth and survived a final Arkansas rally in the ninth for his fourth save.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive presented the SEC regular-season championship trophy to LSU coach Smoke Laval before the game. Before the first pitch, a moment of silence was observed in memory of the late Wally Pontiff, LSU’s two-time all-SEC third baseman who died July 24, 2002, of a heart abnormality. He was the SEC Tournament MVP as a freshman in 2000, as his grand slam sent the Tigers past Florida in the title game.