Well, the Aggies certainly made it a stressful one, but a win is a win no matter how it plays out so A&M advances into the Winners Bracket of the SEC Tournament. Alabama took a 3-0 lead over A&M after 2 and a half innings, but the Aggies rallied back in the bottom half of the 3rd to tie the game at 3. Grayson Long had a rough 2nd inning on the mound, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, a walk, and an error by Ryne Birk, but got a pair of big strikeouts and a flyout to avoid further damage. The Tide tacked on another run in the 3rd with 2 outs, but A&M would find a way to get all 3 runs back with 2 outs in the 3rd. Blake Allemand drew a walk and scored from 1st on a double down the right field line by Birk. Mitchell Nau then drove in Birk with a single, and Logan Taylor followed that by crushing a double into the gap in right center.
Both the Aggies and Tide were scoreless through the next 3 innings, but Nick Banks would drive home Nau with a big RBI single in the bottom of the 8th. The stress would ramp all the way up for A&M in the top of the 9th. Andrew Vinson retired the first batter he faced but then allowed a walk and a single. The Tide would then get a single that appeared like it was going to tie the game, but a terrific throw by Logan Taylor from left and perfect positioning by Michael Barash at home nailed the runner trying to score. Vinson then hit a batter to load the bases with 2 outs, but got a routine fly ball to center to end the game.
Vanderbilt also had to come from behind to advance into the winners' bracket in their opening game of the Tournament against Missouri. The Tigers and Commodores traded a pair of runs each in the first inning and then went 3 scoreless innings before Missouri put up a 4 spot in the 5th inning to take a big 6-2 lead. Vanderbilt elected to start Tyler Ferguson on the mound for only his 3rd start of the season, and he only lasted an inning and a third. The 'Dores would go to Ryan Johnson and Jordan Sheffield for a combined 8 innings of work, so both are likely unavailable against the Aggies. Vanderbilt would get 2 runs back on a 2-run homer by LF Jeren Kendall in the 7th, another run back in the 8th on a solo blast by SS Dansby Swanson, and the 'Dores would complete the comeback to tie the game in the 9th with a 2-out walk, single and error. Vanderbilt would lead off the 10th inning with a lead-off homer to finish off the Tigers.
The Aggies and Commodores will meet for the first time this season. A&M got a massive series win in Nashville last season which allowed them to get their push for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid started. This will be the third match up in the SEC Tournament between these teams after they split a pair of games in 2013, with A&M taking the first game but Vanderbilt winning the elimination game 2 days later.
Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt
Date: Thursday 5/21; Time: 4:30pm Central
Pitching Matchup: Matt Kent (6-1, 3.74) vs Carson Fulmer (11-1, 1.51)
TV: SEC Network; Radio: 1150AM, 102.7FM
Kent's last 3 appearances (all in relief):
5/9 vs South Carolina: ND, 3 IP, 5 R, 8 H, 0 BB, 1 K
5/3 @ Tennessee: S, 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 K
5/2 @ Tennessee: S, 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 6 K
Fulmer's last 3 starts:
5/14 @ Alabama: W, 9 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 4 BB, 14 K
5/7 vs Florida: W, 9 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 11 K
5/1 @ Kentucky: W, 6.2 IP, 3 R, 8 H, 3 BB, 6 K
In their single-elimination game to begin the SEC Tournament on Tuesday, Alabama eliminated Ole Miss 6-1 thanks to an outstanding pitching performance by Geoffrey Bramblett, who tossed a complete game and allowed just 1 run on 9 hits while striking out 10. That allowed Alabama to avoid having to use their bullpen at all, which will certainly be a benefit coming into Wednesday morning's game against A&M. The Tide were led offensively by RF Casey Hughston (2-5, R, 2 RBI) and SS Mikey White (2-5, R, RBI) as they cruised into the double-elimination round.
Here's how the Aggies and 'Dores match up across some of the primary statistical categories.
|Texas A&M (44-10, 18-10)||Vanderbilt (40-17, 20-10)|
DH Mitchell Nau (.376, 14 2B, 4 HR, 46 RBI)
LF Logan Taylor (.358, 10 HR, 46 RBI)
SS Dansby Swanson (.350, 6 3B, 11 HR, 53 RBI)
|Batting Avg Against||.255||.219|
The winner in Thursday afternoon's game between A&M and Vanderbilt will advance to a single-elimination semifinal game at noon on Saturday. The loser will have to play in an elimination game on Friday afternoon against the winner of Thursday morning's elimination game between Alabama and Missouri. The winner of that Friday afternoon elimination will then advance to face the winner of the Thursday afternoon A&M/Vanderbilt game.
Confused? Yeah, welcome to the SEC Tournament. And don't feel too bad - I mixed it up in my late night preview writing efforts on Tuesday night. Below is an effort at a graphical representation again, if it helps. What you need to know, though, is that A&M won't face any of LSU, Florida or Arkansas until the single-elimination Championship game on Sunday.