Week 7 in the SEC did little to help the postseason picture. Here’s how it all went down.
Alabama at South Carolina
South Carolina stayed true to recent form as they completed a sweep of the Crimson Tide.
Thursday’s game was suspended in the top of the eighth inning with neither team able to push across a single run. The Alabama pitching staff, in fact, took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth when the game resumed the following day. It came apart for the Tide in that inning, though, when Gamecocks outfielder Adam Matthews connected for a solo homerun. It would be the only hit South Carolina batters could manage against Alabama’s staff, but it would be enough to win the game as Carolina defeated the Tide 1-0. Spencer Turnbull threw seven innings without allowing a hit and striking out five while giving up four walks for the Tide. His counterpart for the Gamecocks threw seven innings as well allowing no runs on four hits.
In a complete reversal of the first game, the second game of the series was an offensive showcase as the two teams combined for 23 runs on 27 hits and six errors with the Columbians pulling out the victory 12-11.
After three innings, Alabama held the lead at 7-5. The Tide erupted for a four-run first inning, tacking on two in the second and one more in the third. The Gamecocks answered with a four-run inning of their own in the fourth to take the lead 9-7. Alabama would retake the lead and take an 11-9 advantage into the bottom of the ninth inning. South Carolina was paced at the plate by first baseman Christian Walker who accounted for six of the Gamecocks’ runs scoring four and driving in two more. With one out in the ninth, Walker doubled to left-center. Grayson Greiner singled him home and was advanced to third by pinch hitter T. J. Costen’s double. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Sean Sullivan took Jake Hubbard’s first pitch into left-center for a Texas Leaguer. Tide outfielder Hunter Gregory erred on the play and left the ball on the ground allowing Costen to score the winning run.
The final game of the series produced far less drama than the first two games as South Carolina jumped on Alabama pitching, scoring runs in each of the first five innings on their way to a 9-1 victory.
Arkansas at Florida
Arkansas got a much needed series win against #2 Florida. The Razorbacks dropped the first game of a tightly contested series before rebounding to take the final two games.
Florida was the recipient of a quality start by Friday night starter Hudson Randall who occupied that role for the first time in a month. Randall went six innings allowing two runs on six hits. Arkansas was able to take a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning before the Gators found some offense. Arkansas’s ace Ryne Stanek had not given up a hit before Preston Tucker’s lead-off single in the sixth. Stanek would rebound to record back-to-back outs on a fly out and a fielder’s choice. Daniel Pigott would then single to place runners at the corners before Casey Turgeon laced a two-RBI double to right-center. Turgeon would steal second and was singled home by Austin Maddox securing the win for the Gators by a final of 3-2.
Arkansas’s pitching and defense proved the key to victory for the Hogs as they yielded only one unearned run on nine hits. After allowing the Gators to tie the game in the third inning at 1-1, the Razorback bats would settle the decision with four runs in the visitor’s side of the fifth inning. Tim Carver opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on a grounder by Jacob Mahan. Dominic Ficociello followed with a single, and the Gators’ left fielder allowed Carver to score on an error. Matt Reynolds picked up an RBI with a base hit to score Ficociello. Reynolds was driven in from third on an infield hit by pinch hitter Jimmy Bosco. Michael Gunn closed out the scoring for Arkansas with an RBI single to score Bo Bigham, and the Razorbacks would go on to win the game 5-1.
The rubber match on Sunday saw both teams clawing for the series victory. Arkansas produced a run in the top of the first inning that would stand as the only scoring until the eighth inning. Hogs starter D. J. Baxendale went 7.1 innings before giving up a run that tied the game in the home half of the eighth. Baxendale allowed only five hits, all of them singles, with no walks and six of the seven Arkansas staff’s strikeouts. The game would need extra innings as the series came at a key juncture in the season for both the Hogs and the Gators. In the top of the 10th inning, Arkansas would put together two hits for two runs against Florida reliever Johnny Magliozi to run the final tally to 3-1 and series victory for the Hogs.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Coming off a huge series win against Western Division-leading LSU last weekend, Kentucky could not maintain their form as they lost their first weekend series of the year to Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats looked poised to continue their winning ways, defeating the Commodores 5-2 on Friday night. Kentucky vaulted out to a four run lead after scoring two in both the first and second innings. It would be all the scoring necessary though they added an insurance run in the fifth. The Cats were led by Austin Cousino who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored, including a two-run homerun in the second.
The Commodores enjoyed a 3-0 lead after seven innings, but the Wildcats staged a comeback in the top of the eighth scoring three runs to tie the contest after Vanderbilt turned to their bullpen. Vanderbilt would inch ahead in the bottom half of the inning as Conrad Gregor reached on a single. Gregor scored what would end up being the winning run on when Spencer Navin tripled to right field, giving Vanderbilt a series-tying 4-3 victory.
The Wildcats seemed in good position to stave off losing their first series of the year when they tied the game at one apiece in the eighth inning. Luke Maile reached base on a lead-off single, and eventually scored on an RBI by J. T. Riddle.
The Dores answered in the bottom of the inning with five runs. Connor Harrell delivered the knock-out punch with a grand slam after Kentucky reliever Trevor Gott hit Spencer Navin with the bases loaded allowing the go-ahead run to score. The grand slam by Harrell ran the final score to 6-1 in favor of Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss at Mississippi State
The battle for Mississippi went to the team from Starkville this year as the Bulldogs seem to have finally found their stride. After having won only one series through the first five weekends of conference play, MSU has now earned back-to-back SEC victories.
The Bulldogs blanked their rivals Friday night by a final score of 4-0. Chris Stratton pitched a complete game giving up no runs on five hits. He recorded seven strikeouts with only one walk in a masterful performance that left the Rebel hitters hopeless all night. Mitch Slauter, Daryl Norris, and pinch hitter Brent Brownlee all tallied a single RBI for the Bulldog offense.
Ole Miss was able to even the series Saturday as they scored two runs in each of the first, seventh, and ninth innings. The Rebels took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The score would remain that way until the Bulldogs pushed across two of their own in the sixth. The Rebels responded with two runs in their next at bat, and added two more insurance runs in the ninth for the 6-2 victory.
With Mississippi State trying desperately to elevate itself from the bottom of the standings in the Western Division, the stage was set for a rubber match with their in-state rivals. The Bulldogs would score four runs in the first inning before recording an out, and that would be all they would need to secure the series against the Rebels. Mississippi State was able to chase Ole Miss starter Tanner Bailey before he had the chance to record an out. All four runs were charged to Bailey who gave up four hits, two walks, and hit batsman during his short stint on the mound. Ole Miss tried to rally late, plating one in the eighth and another in the ninth, but it would be in vain. The Rebels fell 4-2, and Mississippi State looks poised to make a move up the standings in the SEC.
Tennessee at Auburn
Tennessee suffered its second sweep in as many weeks at the hands of Auburn as Dave Serrano continues to build his ballclub. Auburn had no trouble with the Vols notching victories of 12-5, 12-3, and 11-4 over the three game series.
The opening game of the series was something of a streaky affair. Auburn launched the opening salvos scoring five runs through three innings. Tennessee responded by evening the score with three runs in the fourth, and one each in the fifth and sixth. Tennessee would prove unable to contain the hot bats of the Tigers as Auburn sealed the game with seven runs in the eighth. Auburn’s Zach Alvord provided the offensive benchmark going 3-for-5 with two doubles and five RBIs.
The Tigers hung another dozen runs on the Vols on Saturday with the big blow coming in the fourth inning. Auburn plated six runs in their half of the inning effectively squashing any comeback attempt by Tennessee. The Tigers had another singular offensive performance this time by Cullen Wacker. Wacker went a perfect 4-for-4 with one walk and four runs scored.
The trend continued Sunday as Auburn yet again blasted double digit runs against the Vols. This time, though, the Vols enjoyed a lead – at least for a little while. Tennessee scored three runs in the second and one in the third to take a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning. The Auburn offense, though, was too much to handle for the Vols. The Tigers scored three in the fifth to take the lead for good before adding one in the seventh and four more in the eighth. Auburn’s offense was paced by a third different Tiger as Blake Austin went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a two-run homerun.
With Kentucky’s first series loss of the season, the race for the East is heating up as the Wildcats are tied with South Carolina for the lead with Florida sitting only one game back. The Gators and Wildcats face each other next weekend with the winner of the series having the inside track to the top spot in the division as both teams have already faced South Carolina.
Tennessee looked to be on its way to a decent year in the first year of Dave Serrano’s tenure, but back-to-back sweeps have put the Vols on the outside looking in as the SEC Tournament approaches.
Arkansas’s victory over Florida has kept alive their hopes of catching LSU in the West. The Razorbacks are only three games back of the Tigers. Arkansas hosts the resurgent South Carolina Gamecocks and will need a big series win if they continue to eye one of the top two seeds in the Tournament.
Alabama continues to struggle, and things won’t get any easier for the Tide as they face Mississippi State and Kentucky over the next two weekends.
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