The 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament is being held this week in Hoover, Ala., and, while second ranked Arkansas is the top seed, any one of five or six different teams could win it all. LSU, Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Texas A&M are all capable of winning the big trophy and the Tennessee Volunteers squandered their chance of hosting an NCAA Regional round as they were beaten by Texas A&M 3-0 in round one. The Aggies got 27 of 28 batters out as the usually high powered Volunteers managed just one base hit all day.
Now, the Volunteers will be lucky if they can hold onto their projected number two national seed.
They needed a deep run in the SEC Tournament to insure a hosting role in the first round of the NCAA Tournament which begins next week. Why is that so important you ask? Because the Vols were 13-2 in SEC play at home and only 4-11 away from Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Vols are still stinging from the upset loss to Notre Dame last year in the Super Regionals....a loss that kept them out of the NCAA College World Series despite being ranked number one most of the 2022 season.
Last year, Ole Miss won its first ever national title in baseball even though the Rebels were seeded ninth in the SEC Tournament bracket and were eliminated in round one. And that proves just how important it is to get hot at the right time. The Ole Miss battle cry last year was, " Don't let us get hot." The Johnny Rebs were completely unranked but made the NCAA Tournament as the last team in.
In 2021, Mississippi State was tossed from the SEC Tournament in round one 12-2 by Tennessee and the Bulldogs, like their rivals Ole Miss, won the national championship. That's why baseball is so exciting. Any team can win on any given day....proven by Mississippi State and Ole Miss with two titles in the last three years.
Tennessee appeared to be disinterested in their 3-0 loss to the Aggies. Maybe Coach Tony Vitello feels his team can go further in the tournament if they can sneak up on some folks. Last year when the Volunteers were dominating college baseball, every team they played wanted to beat them. Nobody in the SEC could do it in the league tournament but Notre Dame pulled off the upset in the Super Regionals. The only motivation Vitello needs for his team is to remind them about Mississippi State and Ole Miss....otherwise it will be a long off-season.