The longest game in SEC Baseball Tournament history ended in the wee hours of the morning Thursday when LSU pushed across a couple of runs in the top of the 14th inning to take a 5-3 win over the Florida Gators. With the win, LSU (41-17) advanced to tonight’s winner’s bracket against #1 seed Mississippi State (41-14-1) while the Gators (44-12) will play Alabama in an elimination game sometime around noon.
The game should have never gone into extra innings. A blown call at the plate in the top of the 8th inning by umpire Jeff Head allowed LSU to tie the game at 2-2. On an infield bouncer in which Jake Fraley took off on contact, Head called Fraley safe, a call that would have been easily reversed on replay. Head was in perfect position to make the right call, but, as television replay showed, Fraley never touched the plate with his foot, which was blocked by UF catcher Mike Rivera. Rivera applied the tag before any part of Fraley’s body touched the plate. Had Head made the right call, UF would have held a 2-1 lead with two out and a runner on first.
Florida tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a call that was reviewable (foul balls and home runs). Buddy Reed’s opposite field pop fly to left field was initially ruled foul, but once reviewed the umpires awarded Reed a double. After a sacrifice by Rivera and a strikeout, Deacon Liput singled to right field to tie the game at 3-3 and send the game to extra innings.
Florida had chances to win in extra innings, but the Gators couldn’t push a run across in the 11th when they loaded the bases with nobody out or in the 12th and 13th when they put two on.
For 7 innings, the Gators were in command. UF jumped on Alex Lange for two first inning runs on an RBI double by J.J. Schwarz and an RBI triple by Buddy Reed, but they left the bases loaded and were held scoreless until the 9th. Lange went 7 full innings, gave up 5 hits and struck out 11 to get the win.
Florida got 7 strong innings out of starter A.J. Puk, who shut down the LSU bats until the top of the 8th when he gave out of gas. It was the longest outing of the season for Puk, who gave up 6 hits and struck out 7.
Other SEC Tournament action: Vanderbilt (43-15) got a pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth by Walker Grisanti to propel the 6th-seeded Commodores to a 6-5 win over 3rd-seeded Texas A&M (41-14). The home run snapped a streak of 31-1/3 scoreless innings for Aggie reliever Mark Ecker and ended a streak of 34 games in which the Aggies won when leading after 7 innings. Vanderbilt advances in the winner’s bracket to face Ole Miss (42-16), a 10-4 winner over 2nd-seeded South Carolina (42-14). South Carolina and Texas A&M will square off in a Thursday morning elimination game … Ole Miss got 5-2/3 innings of 5-hit pitching from starter David Parkinson and 4 hits and 4 RBI from catcher H Lartigue, who hit a 3-run homer in the top of the 8th to seal the win for the Rebels … Top seed Mississippi State (41-14-1) moved on in the winner’s bracket with a 4-1 win over Alabama (32-25) behind 8-1/3 innings of 4-hit pitching from Zach Houston backed up by Gavin Collins’ 4-4 performance at the plate which included a 4th-inning solo homer.
GATORS OPEN NCAA SUPER REGIONAL TONIGHT
The Gainesville NCAA Super Regional that begins tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2) at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium could be billed as the immovable object meets the irresistible force. The immovable object is a Florida (56-5) pitching staff that sports an NCAA-best 0.86 ERA backed up by the #1 defense in the country (.984 fielding percentage, only 25 errors all season). The irresistible force is a Georgia offense that leads the SEC in hitting (.352; ranks #4 nationally), features two .400+ hitters in Sydney Emanuel (.466) and Cortni Emanuel (.439, 32-33 stolen bases) and one of the nation’s most feared sluggers in Tina Iosefa (23 homers, 86 RBI).
Florida coach Tim Walton can counter Georgia’s prolific offense with a pitching staff that features National Player of the Year finalist Alex Ocasio (22.1, 0.65 ERA), who leads the nation in ERA; lefty Delanie Gourley (19-3, 0.70 ERA, 219 strikeouts), #2 nationally in ERA; and National Freshman of the Year finalist Kelly Barnhill (15-1, 1.36 ERA), #11 nationally in ERA. Florida pitchers have given up only 62 runs, 16 home runs and just 126 walks all season. Opponents have a .153 batting average.
When opponents can’t score, it doesn’t take much to win. The Gators feature a .400 hitter of their own in Amanda Lorenz (.406, 8 homers, 47 RBI), who, along with Barnhill, is a finalist for National Freshman of the Year. While Florida can’t match Georgia’s lofty batting average (Gators hit .317) and don’t have anyone with Iosefa’s power numbers, the overall differential in scoring (402-376) and home runs (62-58) is marginal.
The Gators are 14-1 all-time in Super Regionals at KSP and they’ve advanced to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City every time they’ve hosted.
ATHLON MAGAZINE IS OUT
Athlon Sports SEC 2016 Preview magazine hit the news stands Tuesday. Here are a few highlights in case you haven’t bought the magazine yet.
SEC East Predicted Finish With Bowl Projections
1. Tennessee #7 nationally (10-3, 6-2 SEC): Sugar Bowl
2. Georgia #17 nationally (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Outback Bowl
3. FLORIDA #21 nationally (8-4, 5-3 SEC): Taxslayer
4. Kentucky #56 nationally (6-6, 3-5 SEC): Birmingham Bowl
5. Vanderbilt #57 nationally (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
6. Missouri #62 nationally (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
7. South Carolina #63 nationally (4-8, 1-7 SEC)
My Thoughts: From an experience standpoint, it’s hard not to pick Tennessee but until they beat the Gators (haven’t done that since 2004) color me skeptical … Georgia is over-hyped – as usual – and has a schedule conducive for 4-5 losses. I predict a whole lot of self-doubt creeping in if they lose to North Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee and it’s only October 2 … I like Florida’s chances. A lot … The rest of the East is really weak.
SEC West Predicted Order of Finish
1. Alabama #1 nationally (12-1, 7-1 SEC): Peach Bowl for CFB semifinals
2. LSU #9 nationally (10-2, 6-2 SEC): Cotton Bowl
3. Ole Miss #10 nationally (9-3, 6-2 SEC): Citrus Bowl
4. Arkansas #26 nationally (8-4, 5-3 SEC): Belk Bowl
5. Texas A&M #28 nationally (7-5, 3-5 SEC): Texas Bowl
6. Auburn #35 nationally (6-6, 3-5 SEC): Music City Bowl
7. Mississippi State #41 nationally (6-6, 2-6 SEC): Liberty Bowl
My Thoughts: There are a lot of questions about Alabama’s offense now that Cam Robinson’s status is in limbo and stud juco tackle Charles Baldwin has been dismissed. Alabama’s defense will be stout … If the reports that Brandon Harris has significantly improved at QB are true, LSU could win the West. The Tigers do have Leonard Fournette, after all … Lest we forget, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama in Oxford and Tuscaloosa the last two years … It’s easy to pick Mississippi State last. My guess is the Bulldogs win 8-9 games and finish somewhere other than last.
Rating the SEC Quarterback Position by Units
1. Ole Miss
8. Texas A&M
10. South Carolina
14. Mississippi State
My Thoughts: Georgia at #4? Somebody has been drinking Kool-Aid … And Florida only slightly ahead of South Carolina which will start a freshman? Oh please … LSU will be good, Florida will be better than predicted and Mississippi State has three quarterbacks who could start at a lot of places in the SEC. How Vandy could be rated anywhere but 14th is one of life’s great mysteries ... Lane Kiffin will turn one of the Alabama QBs into a winner and that will open the door for him to be somebody’s head coach next year.
Offensive Player of the Year: Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
Defensive Player of the Year: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Gators on Athlon Preseason All-SEC
First Team: Jalen Tabor, CB
Second Team: Jarrad Davis, LB; Marcus Maye, S; Johnny Townsend, P; Antonio Callaway, PR
Third Team: Cece Jefferson, DL
My Thoughts: It’s an absolute joke that Marcus Maye isn’t first team All-SEC … No love for Caleb Brantley? That’s another mystery.
Gators on Athlon Preseason All-America
Second Team: Jalen Tabor, CB
Third Team: Marcus Maye, S; Antonio Callaway, PR
SPORTING NEWS COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAGAZINE PREDICTIONS
Here are some highlights from Sporting News College Football Magazine, which hit the stands on Tuesday.
SEC East Predicted Order of Finish With Bowl Projections
1. Tennessee #13 nationally: Orange Bowl
2. Georgia #19 nationally: Citrus Bowl
3. FLORIDA: Liberty Bowl
6. South Carolina
My Thoughts: Tennessee hasn’t beaten the Gators since 2004 and Georgia has lost to UF the last two. I like Florida’s chances. A lot … Missouri #4? There are two chances that happens – no way and no how … If Kentucky doesn’t get to a bowl, forget Mark Stoops coaching in Lexington in 2017.
SEC West Predicted Order of Finish With Bowl Projections
1. Alabama #1 nationally: Peach Bowl for CFB semifinals
2. Ole Miss #7 nationally: Sugar Bowl
3. LSU #12 nationally: Outback Bowl
4. Arkansas #23 nationally: Music City Bowl
5. Auburn: Belk Bowl
6. Texas A&M: Texas Bowl
7. Mississippi State: Birmingham Bowl
My Thoughts: We’ll know about Alabama early. The Crimson Tide goes to Ole Miss third game of the season. By then we’ll know if the offense has found some tackles … Ole Miss has a QB and plenty of offensive weapons, but the defense isn’t good enough to win the SEC … LSU has the defense and Leonard Fournette. Not enough love for the Tigers … Mississippi State will shock some people and win 8 or 9 games.
Sporting News Most Overrated in the SEC: Tennessee
Sporting News Most Underrated in the SEC: LSU
Gators on Sporting News Preseason All-SEC
First Team: Jalen Tabor, CB; Johnny Townsend, P
Gators on Sporting News Preseason All-America
First Team: Jalen Tabor, CB
BEST I’VE EVER SEEN: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
When I started this series of best I’ve ever seen either in person or on TV in various sports, I limited myself to a top 10. I should have made it top 20, but I’ll stay consistent and keep it at 10. The best player I’ve ever seen is Herschel Walker and the second best is Lee Roy Jordan. Everybody knew Herschel was going to get the football but stopping him was another story. Georgia was 33-3 in his three years with one national title and three SEC championships. As for Lee Roy Jordan, he graded 100% as a blocker playing center and had 30 unassisted tackles against Oklahoma in his last college football game. Bear Bryant always said Lee Roy and John David Crow (Texas A&M) were his two best ever.
Today’s list is the 10 best college football players I’ve ever seen in person or on TV.
1. Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia
2. Lee Roy Jordan, LB/C, Alabama
3. Danny Wuerffel, QB, Florida
4. Tommie Frazier, QB, Nebraska
5. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
6. O.J. Simpson, RB, Southern Cal
7. Randy White, DT, Maryland
8. John Hannah, OL, Alabama
9. Lee Roy Selmon, DT, Oklahoma
10. Hugh Green, LB, Pittsburgh
Special Mention: It’s very difficult to leave Archie Manning off this list. He was a thoroughbred who had to play with a bunch of donkeys. The stats don’t do him justice … There are only 10 spots available, so I had to leave off Derrick Thomas Tony Dorsett, Bo Jackson, Archie Griffin, Charlie Ward, Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Barry Sanders, Wes Sandy Chandler, Randy Gradishar, Jack Ham and Orlando Pace … I have often wondered how good Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Florida wide receiver Wes Chandler would have been if they had played for teams that actually threw the ball instead of ran the wishbone … The best wishbone QB I ever saw was the late Jack Mildren of Oklahoma followed closely by James Street of Texas. The guy who could have been the best wishbone QB of all time never played football in college. That was Allen Iverson. He made the right choice to play basketball since there was no demand for wishbone QBs in the NFL, but basketball was his second best sport.
There are reports that Joakim Noah has told his Chicago teammates that he will not be back with the Bulls next year. There is a really good chance Al Horford will also say good-bye to Atlanta. Could these two best friends reunite in Orlando? There are people who think this is a distinct possibility.
Miami has a goal of a multi-purpose football facility that will combine coaches offices, weight and meeting rooms and an indoor practice field. Of course, such a facility costs money, something that always seems in short supply down at The U where Mark Richt is trying to set the example by donating $1 million of his own money to get the project off the ground. Georgia is going to rue the day they ran Mark Richt off.
Former South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 29-game hitting streak going for the Boston Red Sox after going 2-4 against the Colorado Rockies Wednesday night. If he gets a hit tonight he will move into a tie for 31st on baseball’s all time hit streak list.
The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins are the worst teams in baseball. I’ve got the Braves reaching 100 losses faster than the Twins.
Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe withdrew their names from the NBA Draft. Briscoe will return to Kentucky while Lee plans to transfer to a school in California to be closer to family. Both would have gone undrafted.
There are reports that Malik Newman of Mississippi State will (a) out of the NBA Draft and (b) transfer because he’s unhappy with Ben Howland. Unhappy with Ben? Really? Say it ain’t so! Huge dose of sarcasm there.
The Cleveland Cadavers clobbered the Toronto Ruptures, 116-78, in the fifth game of the Eastern Conference Finals. I can’t imagine the TV execs are even slightly thrilled about the possibility of a Cleveland-Oklahoma City finals.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When you look at SEC football for 2016, who is your most overrated team and who is your most underrated?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Alison Krauss has a rather soothing effect on me. Her voice combined with her Union Station band make for good listening even if bluegrass and country really isn’t your favorite style. There is a reason why she’s won more Grammy Awards than any female artist in history. Today’s music is her concert in Louisville that became her double platinum “Live” album in 2002.