HOOVER, AL – After five days of competition at the 2014 SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, the field of 12 has been narrowed to two teams – both of who will face off in the championship game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
After upending Arkansas by a score of 11-1, the Louisiana State Tigers have earned a spot in Sunday’s title game, and as such, will face off against the 2014 SEC regular season champion Florida Gators, as Gainesville’s finest knocked off Kentucky 6-5 late in Saturday’s contest.
It will mark the first time since 2000 that Florida and Louisiana State have met in the championship game, which saw the Tigers grab the title by a score of 9-6 over the Gators in Hoover, Alabama.
Without further a do, below is a recap of Games 15 and 16 of the 2014 SEC Tournament that took place on Saturday, May 24:
Game 15: Louisiana State 11, Arkansas 1
After knocking off Mississippi late in the game on Friday, the Arkansas Razorbacks appeared confident in facing the Louisiana State Tigers on Saturday for a rematch of Thursday’s 7-2 loss. However, Friday night’s momentum could not sustain the Razorbacks’ effort on Saturday, nor could it hold back the firepower offense displayed by the Tigers.
The Tigers got things going in the bottom of the second when Conner Moore launched his fourth long ball of the season, a solo shot to left that put Louisiana State on the board with a 1-0 lead. Tyler Moore responded with a long ball of his own in the bottom of the fourth, a two-run blast down the line in right that plated Kade Scivicque and extended the Tigers’ lead to three runs.
But it would be their five-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth that allowed for the Tigers to pull away from the Diamond Hogs on Saturday.
Mark Laird and Jake Fraley grabbed a pair of singles to put runners on first and second for Sean McMullen, who punched a single through the right side to plate Laird. Andrew Stevenson followed by dropping down a bunt single to plate Fraley and advance McMullen to second.
After Dominic Taccolini was brought into the game in relief of Jackson Lowery, Scivicque took a 0-1 pitch to left center for a two-run double, plating both McMullen and Stevenson for the third and fourth runs of the inning. Two batters later, Moore ripped an RBI single to right, plating Scivique for the Tigers’ eighth run of the game.
Arkansas offered their only offensive showing of the afternoon in the top of the sixth, loading the bases for Eric Fisher, who worked a 10-pitch at-bat against Tigers starter Kyle Bouman and drew a walk to plate Alex Gosser and give the Razorbacks their first (and what would be their only) run of the game.
Scivique launched a solo shot to left in the seventh, while both Chris Sciambra added an RBI single and Chris Chinea sent a sac fly to left in the eighth to extend the Tigers’ lead to ten runs, at which point the game was stopped due to the 10-run mercy rule observed by the SEC Tournament.
Louisiana State’s 11-1 victory over Arkansas on Saturday was the second time throughout the tournament that the mercy rule was utilized, as the Tigers upended Vanderbilt 11-1 in seven innings on Wednesday. As such, the Tigers advance to their 17th SEC Tournament championship game in school history, wherein they currently boast a league-best 10 titles (including five of the last seven).
Game 16: Florida 6, Kentucky 5
The Florida Gators made quick work of South Carolina and Mississippi State in the two days since their 4-2 loss to Kentucky, and heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Wildcats, the Gators looked to ride that winning momentum and return the favor – they did just that and find themselves advancing to the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday.
However, it was Kentucky that jumped ahead and took control early on in the game, as Max Kuhn’s RBI double to left in the bottom of the first plated Austin Cousino for the early 1-0 lead. Kentucky added two more runs in the bottom of the second on a sac fly from Austin Cousino and an RBI single from Ka’ai Tom.
Florida responded in the top of the third with a pair of runs of its own, as Buddy Reed drew a walk and Josh Tobias muscled a double to right center to put two runners in scoring position for Casey Turgeon, who ripped a single through the right side to plate Reed. Richie Martin responded with a grounder to short (fielder’s choice), allowing Tobias to score for the second run of the inning.
The Gators responded once more in the top of the fifth, as Harrison Bader took a 2-2 pitch from Andrew Nelson to center for a two-run single, plating both Turgeon and Tobias for the outright 4-3 lead.
The lead proved to be short lived as the Wildcats responded in the bottom of the sixth. Cousino scorched an RBI single to right to plate Kyle Barrett, while Kuhn followed with a double down the line in right to bring Cousino across the plate for the 5-4 lead.
Looking to reverse Wednesday’s outcome against Kentucky, the Gators kept on fighting. Bader responded once again, grabbing an RBI single up the middle to plate Martin in the top of the seventh and tie the game at 5-5. But it was Tobias’ RBI single in the top of the eighth with runners on the corners that sent Ryan Larson home for the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run.
Eric Hanhold took care of business in relief of both Brett Morales and Kirby Snead, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four and surrendering not a single free pass to close out the game.
In grabbing the 6-5 victory over Kentucky, the Gators advance to the SEC Tournament championship game against Louisiana State on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and will look to grab their seventh title (and first since 2011 against Vanderbilt).