5 Things To Know About The SEC Tournament
The SEC Tournament got underway on Wednesday in College Station amidst heavy rain and a tornado warning. Three of the five scheduled games were played after a five-hour weather day.
The prelude to the NCAA Tournament comes off a wild weekend for one of the nation’s premier conferences that saw Alabama clinch the fifth regular season championship in program history and first since the 2012 campaign while Ole Miss went from potentially capturing its first conference pennant to missing out on a first-round bye.
A sweep of the regular season and tournament crowns are far from assured for the Crimson Tide with the league having so much parity this spring.
The Tide Might Roll
The 50-6 conference champs earned their crown with a series sweep of LSU in Baton Rouge and boost a deadly combination of power and pitching. Patrick Murphy’s squad leads the SEC in home runs (74), runs scored (360), RBIs (320) and stolen bases (129). Their pitching staff features SEC Pitcher of the Year, Sarah Cornell, a 20-game winner, as well as freshman phenom Montana Fouts. Waiting in the wings to potentially derail Bama are the only two teams to hand them a series defeat: South Carolina in the quarterfinals and Kentucky in the semis.
Can the Rebels Rebound?
The Rebs free fall from the top to the No. 5-seed was the result of a controversial series loss to Georgia where 13 illegal pitch calls proved to be the difference in two razor-thin losses. The psychological toll of such a defeat often carries over into the next weekend, and this comes at the worst possible time for Ole Miss and its pitching staff. They rely on their rotation to keep opponents in check with an offense that rates in the bottom half of most offensive categories, and haven't scored more than five runs in a game since they exploded for 21 against rival Mississippi State back on April 21. The Rebels will face Mississippi State in their first game on Thursday afternoon.
Florida Finds Itself in Unfamiliar Role
The defending tournament champions limp into College Station as the No. 6-seed after being pegged the preseason favorite to win it all. The Gators dropped series to three of the top four seeds in Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. The main culprit in the Gators disappointing 12-12 conference campaign was inconsistent offensive. They failed to record double-digit runs in an SEC contest this season and hung out their ace, Kelly Barnhill out to dry. Barnhill leads the SEC in wins (27), and innings pitched (220), and if is she throwing her best stuff this weekend the Gators have a chance to surprise a few opponents.
However, maybe the Gators comeback win against South Carolina on Wednesday night will fuel them into Thursday.
Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU finished 14-10 in conference play. The result was a three-way tie for second place, illustrating how extraordinarily level the SEC is this season. Each of the three clubs relies on a relay approach to pitching, often using three or more hurlers in the circle during a weekend. All three rank upwards in the top half of the league in offensive categories as well. The Wildcats, Volunteers or Tigers are also capable of going cold against top-level competition as well, opening up a hole for the 6 through 9-seeds to make a move; especially considering they all finished with identical 12-12 conference marks.
We saw the first instant replay review on Wednesday night in the Florida-South Carolina game.
Here is a breakdown of the instant replay system that will be used.
The Crew Chief may initiate a review of designated plays at his or her discretion any time during any game. Additionally, each head coach has one challenge to initiate a review, which must be indicated before the next pitch, before the pitcher all infielders have clearly vacated their field position and left fair territory, or before the umpires have left the field of play.
The following are the plays that shall be subject to review via initiation by the Crew Chief or via a head coach’s challenge:
A. Deciding if a batted ball called fair is fair or foul.
B. Deciding if a batted ball called a ground rule double or home run is fair or foul.
C. Deciding if a batted ball called foul that could result in a ground rule double or home run is fair or foul.
D. Spectator interference.
E. Deciding scoring plays at home plate inclusive of collisions (illegal and/or malicious slides), obstruction by a defensive player or time plays.
F. Force/Tag Play Calls: Plays involving all runners acquiring the base before the defensive player’s attempt to put the runner out at any base.
G. Hit-by-Pitch Calls: Those plays for which there is a possibility that a pitched ball touches a batter or her clothing, which shall incorporate a review on whether the batter is inside or outside the batter’s box if it is determined upon review that a pitched ball has touched a batter or her clothing.
H. Placement of Runners: An umpire’s placement of all runners (per the rules/case book) after any blocked ball call.
The following criteria shall be used by conferences using Instant Replay during the conference tournament:
A. All equipment should be tested by appropriate personnel before each game.
B. A ruling on the field will only be changed if there is indisputable video evidence to reverse the call. Absent that evidence, the original ruling on the field will stand.
C. A review must be verbally or visually indicated before the next pitch, before the pitcher and all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding position and left fair territory, or the umpires leave the field of play.
D. The video review area shall not require an umpire to walk through spectators or dugouts to view the coverage. At least one umpire must remain on the field.
E. During the video review, the defensive team shall maintain their position on the field and may warm-up if desired. Offensive base runners and the on-deck hitter shall maintain their position. Other personnel shall remain in the dugout. Any defensive or offensive conferences will be charged as during any other part of the game.
F. Once the review is completed, the crew chief will communicate the ruling to both head coaches and the official scorer using the following criteria. This should also be communicated to the broadcasting booth, if applicable, via the umpire who has a microphone.
1. Ruling on the field is confirmed;
2. Ruling on the field is reversed; or
3. Ruling stands due to no indisputable evidence to reverse it.
G. If the reversing of a call results in the need for decisions on the placement of base runners, the crew chief shall use his/her best judgment and/or the appropriate rule to determine their locations as if the call had been made correctly.
H. The final decision may not be argued by either coach. A coach who argues the final decision shall be immediately ejected.