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SEC Tournament - Day 1 Thoughts

Posted: 5/21/2013 11:45 PM

SEC Tournament - Day 1 Thoughts 

HOOVER, Ala. — After a full day of baseball at Hoover Met, I wanted to throw up some thoughts from the opening day of action. As I'm writing this, Vandy and State are still squarely in their marathon of a first-round contest. I left the stadium in the sixth inning, and am very pleased with that decision. My hotel bed is much more comfortable than the press box. 

---Speaking of that Mizzou/State game, you have to give loads of credit to Missouri today. They came to Hoover playing like they had nothing to lose, because they have nothing to lose. A phenomenal nine-inning outing by their starter Zystysnxy (spell check…) kept them in this one, and juuust enough timely hitting has this one in extras. They aren't lighting the world on fire, but it's good to see them not get blown out.

---As for Mississippi State, this opener is about as bad as you could imagine it. Mississippi State seemingly played themselves into a Regional host after taking the series from S. Carolina last week, but this performance isn't doing much to make that a sure thing. Not sure how this game might change things in the committee's eyes, but even if they do pull it out, a 14+ inning game is the last thing you want heading into a second-round game tomorrow evening.

---From the early game, that was a pretty fitting ending for Kentucky. Once ranked No. 7 in the country heading into that LSU series, the Cats just weren't the same after that. Talking to people in Lexington, they said UK just lost their confidence after that series, and the offense never got it going again. That was evident this morning, as it was the bats that really held them back. Has to be disappointing for Kentucky to fall so far after starting so high, but they'll be on the outside once the tournament field is decided.

---Strong win for Ole Miss against Kentucky. They didn't need much offense, but they got more than enough. The Rebs had runners in scoring position all day, and Mike Mayers was great on the mound. The bullpen pieced the rest together, and they seem set up nicely for their Round 2 matchup with Arkansas. Sounds like Ole Miss will go with Sam Smith tomorrow, which leads you to believe Bobby Wahl is going to get the nod in Game 3. If that opponent ends up being LSU, you obviously never want to see an ace in the tournament, but after what the LSU B team did last weekend to Wahl, you'd expect the Tigers to be pretty confident going into that one.

---I really enjoyed the atmosphere for that Auburn/Alabama game. The stadium was full, and with the amount of hitting and phenomenal defensive plays, it was really fun to watch. The Tide's defense was incredible in that win, and if you haven't seen it already, do yourself a favor and look up that diving, glove-flip double play. It was incredible. Alabama will need all the help it can get tomorrow against LSU, but if their defense plays like that again, that will surely be a much-needed weapon and possibly something that can help set them apart from the Tigers. LSU's strong on defense, but they've shown they're not immune to costly errors. Things like that make the difference in these tournaments.

---Auburn's going to be real tense once Selection Monday comes around. The WDEs are having a season very similar to LSU's in 2011. Auburn started slow but really picked things up toward the end of the year, particularly that series win against Arkansas last weekend. I figured they'd get in before, but losing the tournament opener obviously didn't do them any favors. The committee will have some doubts, but perhaps they learned a lesson from 2011, and will realize that even a mid-tier SEC team is probably a better at-large option than a team from another conference.

---As for another team that will be sweating for the next week, Florida didn't do much to impress the committee today. Sure the Gators played the toughest schedule in the country, and their RPI is near the top-25, but Florida lost a lot of games this year. They finished one game over .500 after the loss to A&M, and it's going to be a close call if they want to return to the NCAA Tournament. I still think they get in based on the numbers and the program's reputation, but I honestly wouldn't fault the committee if they leave out the Gators.

---Another note from that Florida game, how good is Daniel Mengden? We were introduced to him in College Station when he befuddled the LSU bats. He followed that up with a complete game against Tennessee last weekend, and he tossed another CG gem today against Florida. He started slow but got better as the game went on, retiring the final 13 batters he faced, striking out seven in the last three innings. Mengden will be a thorn in the SEC for at least one more year, and I think he will be a definite top-five pitcher in the conference next season, if not top-three.

LSU Recruiting Analyst
Follow me on Twitter @HunterPaniagua
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