HOOVER, Ala. — The 2017 SEC Baseball Tournament continues with Day 3 of the competition on Thursday, May 25. Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Missouri and Auburn will take part in the third day of competition, starting at 9:30 a.m. CT.
Mississippi State and Arkansas close out the first double-elimination round in the first game. The matchup was previously pushed back by rain delays. South Carolina and Missouri play with their tournament lives on the line. Kentucky and LSU face off in the day’s signature matchup in primetime. Auburn will also play the loser of the first game this afternoon.
Here are five things to watch to help preview Day 3 of the SEC Baseball Tournament, as eight SEC teams fight for an SEC tournament championship.
Will Arkansas come out rusty?
The weather has been dreadful this week in Hoover, with two games getting delayed with rain. After arriving in Alabama earlier this week, 4-seed Arkansas still has not played a single game. When Mississippi State-Georgia was pushed back a day, the game between Arkansas and the winner of that game went back to Thursday.
Now, Arkansas must face Mississippi State on Thursday morning in its first game of the tournament. There will not be room for error. Should the Bulldogs pull the (minor) upset, the Razorbacks would immediately need to get ready for a 4:30 p.m. CT matchup on the same day. It’s a tough draw; we’ll have to see how Arkansas handles it.
Who emerges from the superstar pitching matchup?
Day 3 features an elite pitching matchup. The SEC named Kentucky pitcher Sean Hjelle the pitcher of the year a few days ago. LSU pitcher Alex Lange had to settle for First Team All-SEC. The pair will face off in the marquee matchup of the day at 8 p.m. CT.
Lange posted a 2.79 ERA in 90.1 innings, allowing just a .235 batting average and striking out 111 guys. Not to be outdone, Hjelle led Kentucky with a 3.17 ERA and a 9-2 record in 88 innings. Kentucky is an exceptional hitting team too, while LSU prides itself on defense. Whichever team wins this game is in the driver’s seat for an SEC championship.
Will Mizzou have to fight through another weather delay?
Rain delays are part of the sport, but having to sit through two lengthy delays in two days is frustrating. Somehow, Missouri was on the receiving end of both delays in the opening days of the tourney.
The Tigers had to wait 106 minutes during their opener against Texas A&M, a single-elimination nailbiter. One day later, Mizzou was struck by an 81-minute rain delay against 2-seed LSU. To this point, it hasn’t affected the team too much, but that much emotional letdown has to sink in eventually.
Who perseveres with their back against the wall?
South Carolina and Missouri face off at 1 p.m. CT in the double-elimination round of the SEC Baseball Tournament. Both teams pulled upsets – over Vanderbilt and Texas A&M respectively – just to appear in this round.
Both teams are also fighting for an elusive spot in the postseason NCAA baseball tournament. It’s hard to see either have a shot at the tourney without coming dang close to winning this SEC championship. In more ways than one, this is probably an elimination game.
Will the SEC player of the year keep streaking?
Mississippi State star Brent Rooker hit a foul ball on his first swing of the tournament. The second was a two-run home run, which effectively ended up being the difference in the Bulldogs’ win.
Rooker finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs in MSU’s dominant 3-0 win over Georgia. He pushed his average to an absurd .419, his slugging to .881 and his on-base percentage to .521. Those are absurd numbers. Rooker must keep them going in a big game against Arkansas.