The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

The Hoover Met + SEC arms = pitching paradise

128 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: Michael Wade

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.

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco summed up the SEC Tournament through the first four-game rotation in a single quote after his Rebels lost Tuesday's final game 3-1 to Vanderbilt: "I knew he was good, but that was special."

Bianco was complimenting Vanderbilt starter Carter Holton but could just as easily have offered the same kudos to Alabama long reliever Ben Hess, Florida starter Brandon Sproat, South Carolina starter Will Sanders and Kentucky starter Sean Harney. Each delivered an extended pitching gem.

Holton, a member of the SEC All-Freshman Team, threw six shutout innings against Ole Miss to run his personal shutout streak to 24 innings. He struck out six and allowed only three hits.

"We just couldn't catch up to the fastball," Bianco said. "I mean, he just kept attacking us and usually we can get to the fastball. We struggled."

The Rebels weren't alone in their hitting woes. Alabama's Hess shut out Georgia during his 4 ⅓-inning relief stint, striking out 10 of the 15 batters he faced, as the Crimson Tide won 5-3. Florida's Sproat, in the longest outing of his college career, shut out South Carolina for 8 1/3 innings before the tying run reached base in the ninth. The Gators had to win it 2-1 in the 10th in large part because South Carolina's Sanders allowed only one unearned run in his seven-inning start, which included 10 strikeouts.

Kentucky's Harney continued the mound mastery in Wednesday's first game, which completed Day 1. He tossed seven shutout innings at Auburn, allowing only four hits and departing with a 1-0 lead in what became a 3-1 victory. A late flurry of three solo home runs, one by Auburn's Sonny

DiChiara to tie it in the eighth, back-to-backers by UK's Oraj Anu and Adam Fogel to untie it in the ninth, gave the hitters some hope.

Because of its generous dimensions that intentionally mirror those at TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., the Hoover Met is known as a pitcher-friendly venue. It has been a pitcher's paradise through the SEC Tournament's first four games.

"It's a big field and bad weather," Holton said, citing two of a pitcher's best friends. "I mean, the ball isn't really flying."