It’s tourney time once again in SEC Country. As the teams all converge on Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, there’s still quite a bit to play for for just about everyone.
For the last couple of weeks, the focus for the Aggie Baseballers has been to finish strong in hopes of hosting a regional. And with top-five Arkansas in town over the weekend, the Ags found themselves with a fantastic opportunity to do just that. They dropped the opener of the series, but came back to grab the final two games to take the series from the Hogs, which puts A&M in great position to nab a host spot. Now, a solid run in the SEC Tournament could all but close the deal for the Aggies.
To kick things off, the sixth-seeded Ags will take on eleventh-seeded Florida in the single elimination round. It’s been a weird year for the Gators (33-23, 13-17). They entered 2019 fresh off of 11-straight regional appearances and four consecutive College World Series appearances that included the school’s first national championship for baseball. Yet assuming they don’t win the SEC Tournament altogether, the Gators might miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in quite a while.
Historically, Florida has combined a strong offense with elite pitching. And at the plate, the bats have held up their end of the bargain. SS Brady McConnell (.344/.397/.604, 15 HRs, 45 RBIs) leads the team in just about every category, with OF/DH Nelson Maldonado (.335/.397/.581, 10 HRs, 40 RBIs) and LF Austin Langworthy (.270/.352/.461, 8 HRs, 35 RBIs) not far behind. As a team, the Gators rank in the top five in the conference in most categories. That includes fourth in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, and total bases, and fifth in runs scored, hits, and doubles.
Florida’s struggles in 2019 have been on the mound. As a team, the only two categories of note that the Gators rank outside the bottom third of the conference are saves (tied for fifth) and walks (sixth). They sport a team ERA of 5.19, a team WHIP of 1.46, have struck out the fewest batters (by a wide margin), and have surrendered the most homers in the conference.
First pitch is scheduled for 9:30 am. You can follow the official bracket here.
After serving his four-game suspension, it seems Asa Lacy (7-4, 2.13 ERA) is free:
He’ll be opposed by Florida’s usual Friday starter, Tommy Mace (8-4, 5.18 ERA). Mace began the season as the Gators’ Saturday guy. Following the struggles of their initial Friday starter, Tyler Dyson, Mace moved into the Friday night role for their final series before SEC play. Mace sports a 1.42 WHIP to go along with his 67 Ks and 34 BBs in 81.2 innings over 14 starts in 2019. Interestingly, Mace has plunked 15 batters this season, which is four more than Lacy and five more than John Doxakis. So if you thought the Aggie lefties hit a lot of batters, you ain’t seen nothin yet.