The NCAA baseball tournament continued Saturday, with some teams fighting to keep their seasons alive. Nine Southeastern Conference programs were in action, with three facing potential elimination. The Florida Gators, LSU Tigers, and Alabama Crimson Tide were all pitted against their one-loss counterpart, with the loser set to depart the tournament field.
(The winning team is in capital letters and the scores are listed by each team name.)
ARKANSAS 5 vs. Nebraska 1
The Razorbacks, who held the top spot in the sport for weeks on end, began their tournament with a 13-8 over NJIT before drawing a date with the Cornhuskers.
With a late start time in Fayetteville, Arkansas utilized only two pitchers en route to a comfortable 5-1 cruising win. Four different Razorbacks drove in runs Saturday night and look confident going forward.
ALABAMA 3 vs. Rider 1
After falling 8-1 to NC State in their first foray into this year’s tournament, Alabama was attempting to stave off elimination against the Rider Broncos.
In a low-scoring affair, the Crimson Tide were able to best the Broncos, 3-1, on the back of Dylan Smith’s complete game in which he allowed seven hits and one run, while striking out seven.
Tied 1-1 in the seventh inning, Alabama pushed two go-ahead runs across thanks to a William Hamiter two-run home run, a lead the Tide wouldn’t relinquish.
Florida 1 vs. SOUTH ALABAMA 19
Hosting the Gainesville regional, Florida was surprised to be bested its first time out against South Florida on Friday, 5-3. That loss paired them up with the South Alabama Jaguars, who fell to Miami (FL) in game one.
The Jaguars, who’ve lost 21 games this season, only played two big name programs during the regular season, Alabama and LSU (a game against Auburn was postponed). They lost those two games, 11-8 and 11-1, respectively.
On Friday, however, they gave the Hurricanes a run for their money, dropping the contest, 1-0. That setup a situation in which either USA of UF would be eliminated. It didn’t take long for the Jaguars to get the ball rolling. After being shutout the previous day, South Alabama pummeled the Gators into submission.
Ultimately securing a 19-1 win, the Jaguars ended the Gators’ season in convincing fashion, thanks in no small part to a 10-run sixth inning. USA hit three home runs to cap off the slaughter and Florida didn’t score a run after the third inning.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 16 vs. VCU 4
A weather delay prompted a later start time for these two clubs. But the Bulldogs didn’t seem to mind much en route to an easy 16-4 win.
Leading up to the sixth inning, the game was somewhat close, but then Mississippi State exploded for nine runs in the inning, killing any hope the Rams had in pulling out a victory.
The top three batters in the Bulldog order, Rowdey Jordan, Tanner Allen, and Kamren James, all had three hits during the contest. Two players, Allen and Kellum Clark, drove in three runs.
The Bulldogs also connected for three home runs.
Winners of their game one bout against Southeast Missouri State, 6-3, Ole Miss looked to continue their good fortunes. A close and compelling game against Florida State ensued Saturday night.
The Rebels drew first blood in the opening frame, when a series of errors yielded two runs (the Seminoles would commit three errors on the night, all of which proved costly).
Florida State took the lead in the middle innings, however. An Isaiah Perry solo home run and a Logan Lacey two-run shot — both of which came in the fifth inning — gave the Seminoles the edge, 3-2. But in the seventh inning, an FSU throwing error netted the Rebels two more runs, giving them a 4-3 lead, which would hold to the conclusion of the game.
South Carolina 1 vs. OLD DOMINION 2
The Gamecocks beat Virginia in its first day matchup, with the Cavaliers remaining alive after knocking off Jacksonville Saturday. Carolina then turned its attention to a talented Old Dominion Monarchs team, ranked 15th in the coaches’ poll.
In a low-scoring affair, South Carolina struggled to get its offense rolling; Old Dominion wasn’t much better. The Monarchs kicked off the scoring in the second inning with a solo home run, then Carolina countered with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning to tie the game at one. Three complete innings would pass before either team would manage to score again, when a bases loaded walk plated to go-ahead run for Old Dominion, who would go on to win, 2-1.
LSU 6 vs. Central Connecticut State 5
In game one for Central Connecticut State, the Blue Devils gave the Oregon Ducks fits, but ultimately lost, 13-10. On Saturday, CCSU tried to kindle some type of magic to keep their season alive while simultaneously ending the season of a perennial SEC power.
The Tigers, on the other hand, got shutout the previous game by Gonzaga, yielding their possible exit from the bracket.
This game wouldn’t come easily for LSU, as it would take extra innings. The Tigers plated the first two runs of the game in the first inning, but Central Connecticut would storm back in the second, promptly scoring five runs in the following inning, taking a 5-2 lead.
In the third, thanks to a home run and an RBI double, LSU knotted the game at 5-5. Neither would make entrance to the run column again until the 10th inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Giovanni DiGiacomo singled, plating Gavin Dugas, thus extending the Tigers’ season for another gasme.
VANDERBILT 4 vs. Georgia Tech 3
Everybody knew the Commodores would be trouble in this year’s tournament. In their first matchup, Vanderbilt knocked off Presbyterian with ease, 10-0. The following night, Georgia Tech would prove to be more competitive.
With Jack Leiter on the mound, Vandy ultimately beat the Yellow Jackets, 4-3; Leiter struck out 11 in the process. An error and wild pitch ultimately did Tech in, even though they were able to make it a one run game in the ninth inning.
TENNESSEE 9 vs. Liberty 3
It took walkoff drama to avoid defeat and secure victory in game one of the Knoxville Regional for Tennessee. In game two, it looked as though they were determined to avoid a loss.
Tennessee did most of the scoring early, and it came from the long ball. Liam Spence opened up the game with a home run in the first, securing an early 1-0 advantage. The second inning saw four runs come across, one off a Luc Lipcius solo shot, then three more on Spence’s three-run job, his second of the game. Drew Gilbert homered in the third and Lipcius followed it up with his second of the game, staking Tennessee to a 7-0 lead heading into the fourth inning.
Liberty would plate three in the sixth but the game was never really in doubt. Tennessee added two more for good measure in the eighth.
With three clubs facing elimination, only one, Florida, actually fell to its opponent. Everyone else lives to fight another day. When a sport has a dominant conference, it’s always interesting to see how that dominance will play out in the postseason. With one casualty thus far — we’ll see how many are to come tomorrow and next weekend — I’d say the SEC is off to a pretty good start.
Tomorrow’s games begin tomorrow at noon and two SEC clubs are facing elimination: South Carolina, who will do battle with Virginia; and LSU, who takes on Gonzaga. The first time the Gamecocks and Cavaliers met Friday, South Carolina narrowly escaped with a 4-3 victory. LSU dropped game one to Gonzaga in an offensively deficient matchup, 3-0. The fun is just getting started in the 2021 NCAA baseball tournament.