Tight games the norm in early going at Hoover
By By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
May 24, 2003
HOOVER, Ala. If you are a fan of close baseball games, then Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on the outskirts of Birmingham has been the place to be this week.
The first six games of the 2003 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament have all been decided by two runs or less.
The only other time the first day of the SEC Tournament has ever seen the first five games have a margin of two runs or less was in 1987.
In fact, as far as tight games go, the 1987 tournament may never be topped. The first seven games of the event, played at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., were two runs or less, with six of those being decided by just one run.
The eighth game saw LSU beat Kentucky 4-1, before LSU topped Auburn 4-2. But Mississippi State ruined the pitching party for their opponents, when the Bulldogs pounded LSU 13-3 to win the championship.
The first four games of that 1987 event were all decided by one run.
The first day of the 2003 tourney saw Auburn beat Vanderbilt 3-1, Alabama top South Carolina 9-7, Mississippi State outlast Ole Miss 5-4 in 12 innings and LSU edged Arkansas 5-4.
South Carolina beat Vandy 3-2 in the first game on Friday, while Ole Miss beat Arkansas 8-7 in 11 innings.
Vandy knows a little
about close games
It should be of no surprise that both of Vanderbilt's games in the 2003 Tournament were close ones.
Vandy's 3-1 loss to Auburn in the opener and 3-2 setback to South Carolina in Friday's elimination game pushed the number of games the Commodores have been involved in this season with a margin of two runs or less to a whopping
Vanderbilt finished the year at 12-5 in one-run games, and 5-9 in two-run games. The Commodores also played 10 three-run games, winning six of those.
And, just in case you were wondering, Vandy played nine extra-inning games, winning five.
MVP list full
of familiar names
Five Mississippi State Bulldogs have been named SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player since the award was first given in 1979.
MSU outfielder Mike Kelley won the first award, while Gene Morgan was honored in 1985, Dan Paradoa in 1987, Jon Harden in 1990 and Chris Young in 2001.
To make Morgan's 1985 award even more impressive, it should be noted that four future Major Leaguers Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley were his teammates on that squad.
Former Tennessee standout and current Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton won the award in 1993, 1994 and 1995. That was when the SEC Tournament was split into a Western Division and an Eastern Division event. Other Major
Leaguers to take MVP honors were Alabama's David Magadan in 1983, Herbert Perry of Florida in 1991 and Andy Sheets of LSU in 1992.
Former Meridian Community College standout David Tidwell won the honor in 1997 when he was a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Auburn players get
to stay a little longer
Long visits to the Hoover Met for the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament have not been the norm for the Tigers of Auburn University.
In fact, Auburn's 3-1 win over Vanderbilt was the first SEC tourney win for the Tigers since 1999, breaking a streak of eight-straight losses.
Auburn, which has played in 17 of the last 18 SEC Tournaments, began the 1999 event with a pair of wins, only to drop two straight to Arkansas by the scores of 9-5 and 9-6.
The Tigers then went two-and-out in the 2000, 2001 and 2002 tourneys before posting the win over the Commodores.
This is the 19th time since the tournament began that the Tigers have played in the event, ranking them fourth all-time.
Mississippi State and Florida are tied for first with 24 trips to the event, while LSU is third with 20.
Spinning the turnstiles
at the Hoover Met
The 15 largest single-game attendances all-time at the SEC Tournament have been at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The biggest crowd, going into Friday night's session, was the 16,165 that showed up to watch Alabama beat Arkansas for the title 9-3.
Twelve times crowds of more than 10,000 fans have showed up for a tournament game, with either Alabama or Auburn playing in all but one of those contests.
The second-largest crowd was 14,390 for Auburn's 11-8 win over Alabama in 1998. Mississippi State participated in the games with the fourth, seventh, 11th and 12th biggest turnouts.
Oddly enough, despite the fact that LSU has won five National Championships, the Tigers have only been involved in one of the best-attended games. When Mississippi State best LSU 4-1 for the championship in 2001, 10,023 showed up for the game.
not always easy
The Southeastern Conference is noted nationwide as being a brutally tough conference. That's why teams interested in hanging up a lot of wins need to take advantage of their non-conference games.
Sometimes those games are against nationally recognized programs, but most of the time they are against regional teams or Northern teams traveling South to find good weather and a jump start on their conference rivals.
Ole Miss' 2003 non-conference schedule featured the likes of Louisiana Tech, Southwest Missouri State, Texas-Arlington, Rice, Stetson, Western Michigan, McNeese State, New York Tech, Arkansas State, Memphis, Murray State,
Southern Miss, Southeastern Louisiana, UT-Martin and Tennessee Tech.
While the Rebels posted an impressive 17-13 regular-season SEC mark, Ole Miss was 16-10 against non-league foes.
While losing to Rice (ranked No. 2 at the time) and USM (No. 23) doesn't really hurt Ole Miss in its hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid, falling to McNeese State (twice), UT-Arlington, Arkansas State (twice), Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana doesn't help.
Mississippi State has taken advantage of most if its opportunities at wins against non-SEC schools, going 21-3-1. The losses were to Birmingham-Southern in the season opener, Memphis and USM. The tie was with Louisiana Tech, a team the Rebels beat twice to open the season.
Other non-conference wins for the Bulldogs came against Connecticut (twice), East Tennessee State (three), UAB (twice), Lipscomb (three), New Orleans (twice), Memphis, Morehead State (twice), Mississippi Valley State, Samford, USM, Louisiana-Monroe, Southeastern Louisiana and Winthrop.
doesn't add up
In Friday's first elimination game Vanderbilt had 11 hits to just three for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks beat Vandy 3-2.
It was the fewest hit in a win for South Carolina all season. The Gamecocks previous low was six hits in a win five times.
The three hits were also the fewest given up by Vandy in a loss this year. The Commodores previous low was six hit allowed in a loss twice.