SEC Tournament produces close first round
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
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
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.