By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Auburn Week 10 Review
Auburn’s regular season concluded with a 5-4 victory in 11 innings over LSU in Baton Rouge, but the visiting Tigers lost the series overall. LSU won the opener at 7-1 and won the second game at 5-1 as the Auburn offense struggled to produce on the road. Auburn earned a No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament, entering the postseason 32-23 record overall and 14-16 in conference play.
Alabama Week 10 Review
For the third straight season, Alabama missed the SEC Tournament. Brad Bohannon is in his second year as the Tide’s head coach and is rebuilding the program. Alabama made positive strides this year in finishing the season with a 30-26 overall record. UA won only seven games in the SEC, but that speaks to the strength of the conference overall. Georgia swept Alabama in the regular season series finale, with every game decided by at least five runs. Despite not making the postseason, the program is heading in the right direction under Bohannon.
SEC baseball rankings
1. Vanderbilt (46-10, 23-7)
2. MSU (46-11, 20-10)
3. Arkansas (41-15, 20-10)
4. Georgia (43-14, 21-9)
5. Ole Miss (34-24, 16-14)
6. Texas A&M (37-20-1, 16-13-1)
7. LSU (35-23, 17-13)
8. Auburn (33-24, 14-16)
9. Tennessee (38-19, 14-16)
10. Missouri (34-22-1, 13-16-1)
11. Florida (33-24, 13-17)
12. South Carolina (28-28, 8-22)
13. Kentucky (26-29, 7-23)
14. Alabama (30-26, 7-23)
Of the 12 teams that made the SEC tournament in Hoover, 10 are projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The league is the strongest in college baseball with several national title contenders in the conference. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Georgia all will likely host a regional and potentially a super-regional, and each of those teams has a good chance of making it to Omaha for the College World Series.
The first round of the tournament is single elimination, and there were four teams eliminated on Tuesday. Texas A&M defeated Florida, 8-7, and Ole Miss knocked off Missouri 2-1. Auburn beat Tennessee, 5-3, while LSU defeated South Carolina, 8-6.
The remaining eight teams play a double elimination tournament to determine the champion. On Wednesday, Georgia beat Texas A&M, 2-0, on a two-run walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Bulldogs did not even register a hit until the eighth inning. No. 2 seed Arkansas defeated Ole Miss, 5-3, later in the afternoon.
In the nightcap, Vanderbilt blasted Auburn, 11-1, in eight innings to send the Tigers to the losers’ bracket. Later in the evening, Mississippi State and LSU played the longest game in SEC tournament history. The game lasted 17 innings and just under seven hours. The Bulldogs won, 6-5, on a walk-off single from Gunner Halter. LSU held Mississippi State without a run for 13 innings.
The last four schools to win the SEC Tournament are Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M and Florida. The Gators are already eliminated and the other three teams dropped to the losers’ bracket, so the champion likely will be a team that has not won the conference title in several years. Vanderbilt won the national title in 2014 and finished the runner-up in 2015. However, the Commodores struggled in the SEC Tournament. They last won the tournament in 2007, and this group has the potential to win it again.
LSU has the most conference tournament championships with 12, followed by Mississippi State, Alabama and Florida with seven each. Ole Miss, Tennessee and Auburn have three apiece, and Vanderbilt has won two. South Carolina and Texas A&M have each won one conference tournament title.
Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri have never won the title, though the Bulldogs and Razorbacks could potentially accomplish that feat this season.
SEC Tournament Championship Prediction: Vanderbilt over Arkansas