Welcome to the 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event at the Hoover (Ala.) Met the best college baseball tournament in the nation. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.
The letter of the day on Day 1 of the 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament is K. K as in strikeout, go sit down and can someone here please put the bat on the ball, m'K?
Not many Georgia hitters could. The Bulldogs sent 34 batters to the plate in Game 1 against Alabama. Exactly half of them, 17 in all, struck out. Everyone in the batting order went down swinging or looking at least once. That's the fourth time in tournament history one team has suffered that many strikeouts.
Alabama freshman right-hander Ben Hess did most of the damage. He took over in the bottom of the third inning after a rain delay of two hours and six minutes, faced 15 batters and sat 10 of them down on strikes. His 10 Ks were the most by a relief pitcher in a nine-inning game in tournament history.
Alabama hitters fared slightly better in their 5-3 win. They struck out "only" 11 times. The combined 28 strikeouts by both teams set an SEC Tournament record for a nine-inning game. The record is 41 combined strikeouts by Arkansas and Auburn in a 17-inning game in 1994.
The swing-and-a-miss marathon continued in Game 2 as Florida and South Carolina combined for 22 strikeouts. The Gators prevailed 2-1 in 10 innings despite going down on strikes 14 times. The 1-2-3 hitters in the Florida lineup together struck out eight times. South Carolina starter Will Sanders joined Alabama's Hess with 10 strikeouts on the day in his seven innings of strong work.
South Carolina coach Mark Kingston attributed the plethora of punchouts to two factors.
"It was one of those nights where the guys weren't picking the ball up," he said. Which makes it even more difficult to put the bat on the ball when you're facing "an elite arm" like South Carolina's Sanders and Florida's Brandon Sproat, who no-hit the Gamecocks into the seventh and shut them out until giving up his only run, the tying run, in the ninth. Sproat's 8 ⅓ innings were a career best,
"Both of those guys," Kingston said, "are going to pitch in the big leagues."