Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Southern Exposure: SEC Baseball Tournament

As the Tigers' final Big 12 season winds down, it's time to start learning a little about our future baseball rivals in the SEC.  Toward that goal, we're going to follow the SEC during the NCAA Post-Season, beginning with the SEC Tournament.  Given the SEC's tendency to still be playing all the way to the end of the College World Series, following them in the post-season should take us almost all the way up to July 1st, the official day MU joins the SEC.

Tournaments Flirtations (SEBaseball.com)
South Carolina may or may not be a National seed entering the week but a poor showing in Hoover, paired with good weeks from teams like Stanford, Texas A&M, or Rice could push them out.

Kentucky has plummeted from National seed hopeful to a club that might be in danger of a road trip next week. The Wildcats' SEC record is strong but they have faded late and don't have a strong non-conference mark to rely on. If they falter and someone like Cal State Fullerton, Arizona, Miami, or maybe even conference mates Arkansas or Mississippi State make a run, the Cats might not hear their name called next Sunday as a host.

If Georgia exits Hoover quickly, they may have played their last game. Definitely a bubble team entering Tuesday's game against Vanderbilt.

Auburn, the 10 seed in Hoover, likely needs at least two wins to get back in the discussion. They face Florida Tuesday and if they win would play LSU. Win those two and suddenly we view them differently.
SEC hoping more the merrier mentality carries over to postseason (Clarion Ledger)
“People are going to say the SEC is not as good,” Cohen said. “I’m going to say, no, no, no, it’s the other way. It is that good.”

Why? Because SEC teams, in recent years, have battled back and forth, finished with similar conference records (seven teams finished with 16 wins or more this season) and advanced deep into the postseason. At least one SEC team has reached the College World Series in each of the last 19 years — including multiple teams in 12 of those years.

With an expanded SEC Tournament, the assumption is that door is wide open for the SEC.

“There’s going to be years where that 10th team is going to get to Omaha,” Cohen said. “One year that’s going to happen because they’re going to have an incredible RPI and they’re just going to happen to finish one game back of the fifth or sixth spot. It’s going to happen. Our league is just that good.”

2012 SEC Baseball Tournament Bracket Clear After Last Day of Regular Season (Team Speed Kills)
After a crazy conclusion to the race for the SEC regular-season championship and the late ending of a game between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt that decided where almost everyone in the jumbled middle of the conference ended up, we have the details for the first round of the SEC baseball tournament, such as they are. The first pitches will be Tuesday.

The SEC has made an art in recent years of making a bracket almost impossible to draw (if you really want to see one without names, it's here and will probably be updated shortly), but we can look at how the first-round games play out.
Baffled by SEC baseball bracket? You're not alone (Gainesville Sun)
Now that the grueling regular season is behind the SEC's baseball teams, they will head to Hoover for the SEC Tournament, also known as the Big Hieroglyphic.

Have you seen the bracket? I'd explain Florida's path to a second straight tournament championship, but it would be easier to install a garbage disposal. Apparently, it was the bracket the coaches liked the best, perhaps because this way they could hide coded signals to their families back home between the seed lines.
. ..
If you are an SEC fan, just understand the bracket is like staring at the sun. You want to turn away, but you just can't. And it gives you a headache.
With some help, LSU claims SEC title (Shreveport Times)
The Tigers (42-14) did their share at Carolina Stadium, then got to celebrate all over again on the trip back to campus after losses by Kentucky and Florida gave them their first outright crown since 2003. LSU shared the SEC championship in 2009 with Ole Miss.
. . .
Losses by Florida at Auburn and Kentucky at Mississippi State gave the Gamecocks the SEC Eastern Division top spot and the bye in next week’s conference tournament that goes with it.
. . .
The Gamecocks have proved capable of rebounding in the biggest way possible. They won their first College World Series crown five weeks after losing the league title to the Gators.

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said there’s plenty of baseball left before his players should think about a similar run this spring. Still, he told the Gamecocks he was proud of how they fought back from a 1-5 SEC start to gain a shot at the top spot at the end.

“We’ve come a long way since Lexington, Kentucky,” where South Carolina lost all three games to the Wildcats to open SEC play, Tanner said.
Flaw in SEC baseball scheduling: Not enough LSU vs. South Carolina (The Post & Courier)
There were so many loud moments over three wonderful games, including an Adam Matthews double Friday night that almost everyone at Carolina Stadium thought was a homer.

As the crowd was alternately cheering and booing, LSU second baseman JaCoby Jones sidled up to Matthews.

“It gets loud in here,” Jones said.

Matthews, standing on the bag, nodded.

“Yeah, man,” the Gamecocks' senior outfielder said. “It's a lot of fun to play here.”
. . .
LSU ranks first nationally in average home attendance, South Carolina fourth.

“For many years, LSU did set the standard,” Tanner said. “You tried to get to that point. I'm not saying our program is as good as LSU's or anything like that, but the environment is. I don't think it gets any better. The two programs, we have tremendous respect for each other.”

Mainieri talked as if related to Tanner.

“Let me tell you something,” he said. “I can't say this enough: I just think if Ray Tanner is not the very best coach in college baseball, it's a small crowd.”
Mississippi State finishes sweep of UK to end hopes of SEC regular season title (kyforward.com)
A series of defensive miscues allowed Mississippi State to plate eight runs over the fourth and fifth innings for an 11-3 win over No. 4 UK baseball to sweep the series and end the Wildcats hopes at winning the Southeastern Conference regular season championship.
. . .
Despite falling in the three-game series, the Wildcats have finished the 2012 regular season with the second-most regular-season wins in program history, just behind the 42 wins the 2006 UK team took into the postseason.
. . .
UK will return to action in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., at Regions Park on Tuesday as the No. 4 seed versus No. 9 seed Mississippi at 9:30 a.m.
Diamond Hog Update: What Went Wrong, and a Glimmer of Hope (Arkansas Expats)
Between grad school (not for the faint of heart, btw), Bobby Petrino's unfortunate exit from Fayetteville, something about 3 high-profile players going Full Retard (NSFW language), and the somber news that our fearless leaders are officially hanging up their blogging shoes (blogging shoes? Is that a real thing? It is now), Razorback baseball has kind of taken a back seat. When we last left off, the Diamond Hogs were sitting at a tidy 22-3 (5-1 SEC), with a top 5 ranking in every major poll. If the title of the post hasn't given it away already... things went south, fast.
. . .
The Razorbacks have had hitting issues, pretty much all season. And yet, that characterization isn't quite fair. The hitting numbers have been sufficient to win more games than this team has, but there's been a lack of timely hitting. Of the Hogs' 14 SEC losses, 7 have been by 1 run. As far as our collective batting averages and pitching stats go, losing that many 1-run games is a fairly glaring statistical anomaly. A few more timely hits, and this could have been an entirely different season.
. . .
The team had a lot expected of them, and some bold claims were made by your's truly earlier in the season. First things first, the SEC West crown has been out of reach for some time now; that honor goes to LSU, who also won the overall regular season title. Same for a National Seed (and the right to host a Super Regional). Even hosting a regional is somewhat in question; a strong showing in the SEC Tourney could earn them the right... or an early exit could result in the Hogs been shipped off as a #2 in someone else's regional. The only thing that I was right about is that the Hogs would have a better conference record than last season... but apparently only by 1 game. The Hogs now stand at 39-17 (16-14 SEC), which is completely acceptable, but definitely a disappointment given the expectations. On the bright side, the Hogs seem be getting hot just in time for the post season.
Alabama goes out a winner (Tuscaloosa News)
For the first time since 2001, the University of Alabama baseball team finished its season with a win. That isn’t exactly what a baseball program wants to do, unless it’s in Omaha, but Saturday’s 6-4 victory over Georgia did give UA some slight consolation after a difficult year.

The come-from-behind win allowed Alabama to finish out of the Southeastern Conference cellar this season, and also kept the Crimson Tide (21-34) from tying the school record for losses set in 1994.

UA went 9-21 in SEC play, a game ahead of last-place Tennessee.

Baseball Vols wrap up season (Chattanooga Times Free PRess)
Midway through the SEC baseball season, Tennessee was one game under .500 in league play and right in the middle of the standings.

The Volunteers had wins over then-unbeaten Kentucky, national powers South Carolina and Florida and a sweep of Alabama.

After a difficult sweep at Mississippi State that featured two extra-inning losses, though, the bottom fell out, and UT won just once more in SEC play and lost 16 of their final 18 games after a season-ending sweep from Arkansas in Knoxville this weekend.

"I don't know if I have ever felt this empty honestly," said first-year coach Dave Serrano, who's taken Cal State Fullerton and California-Irvine to the College World Series in his coaching career.

♦ From 1st-year Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano on Twitter:
Vol fans thank you for everything. I'm sorry we couldn't get it done for you this year. Our future together will be bright! Go Vols
Gary Henderson named SEC Coach of the Year (SEBaseball.com)
The Kentucky Wildcats baseball team had a remarkable turnaround during the 2012 season.

The Wildcats opened the season with a school-record 22-game winning streak and were the last Division I team to suffer a loss. When SEC play began, the Wildcats swept two-time defending national champion South Carolina on the opening weekend and reeled off six straight series wins. The Wildcats finished the season with an 18-12 SEC record and went into the final day of the regular season seeking a share of the school's second SEC baseball championship.

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