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

Championship game attendance ranks fifth

126 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.

There was a distinct orange tint to the entire 2022 SEC Tournament with Tennessee fans filling the seats and filling the air with joyful noise in support of the No. 1 team in the country. That didn't change on Championship Sunday.

A crowd of 13,270 packed the Hoover Met to watch the Vols subdue Florida 7-0 to add the tournament title to their regular-season championship. The attendance ranks fifth in league history for a championship game and second for a game not involving home-state Alabama.

The four title games with the highest attendance:

1. 16,165 Alabama 9, Arkansas 3 (1999)

2. 14,126 Ole Miss 9, LSU 1 (2018)

3. 13,367 Alabama 6, South Carolina 2 (2002)

4. 13,327 LSU 4, Alabama 3 (2010)

most amazing stat of the 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament isn't all the There hits, runs and home runs or all the Tennessee fans who made the Hoover Met feel and sound like Rocky Top. It's this: Sunday's Championship Game was the 17th game of the week.

That's normal, but after a week that started with Biblical rains and ended in brilliant sunshine, the angels in the outfield are in the details.

Every game was played to its full conclusion. No game was shortened to seven innings except when the run rule applied. No game was moved to another location. The format wasn't altered to single elimination to make sure every game would be played. Only the very first game of the week was halted by a rain delay after the game began.

In short, the SEC and the city of Hoover made sure that the full SEC Tournament experience was had by all.

No wonder one coach after another came to the interview room, in victory or defeat, with nothing but praise for the officials, volunteers and members of the grounds crew - especially the members of the grounds crew - for the tireless work they did to make the event work.

New Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said it was the kind of "awesome" experience that convinced him to leave TCU after 18 years for College Station.

"Certainly hope we can come back and stay longer," Schlossnagle said.

Good news, Coach. Even though the contract to play the tournament here had expired, the SEC and the city of Hoover have agreed in principle to keep it here in 2023 and 2024, according to SEC Associate Commissioner Herb Vincent.

Because COVID canceled the 2020 tournament, both parties agreed to extend their former agreement through this year's event. The new two-year extension will allBaseballow the SEC time to decide whether to keep the current 12-team format when Oklahoma and Texas join the conference on July 1, 2025. If that start date holds, the first 16-team SEC baseball season will be played in 2026.

Once the tournament format is solidified, the conference will decide whether to extend its long run at the Hoover Met Complex, which began in 1998. The tournament has grown on and off the field since then. This year, an expanded SEC Fan Fest in the adjacent Finley Center offered more amenities than ever, including the "Let's Play Tunes" concert series and a traveling Negro Leagues Baseball Museum exhibit.

New LSU coach Jay Johnson was impressed. He called the electric atmosphere at LSU's Friday night game against Tennessee "as close to Omaha outside of Omaha that I've ever been a part of in a college baseball game. So credit to the SEC for putting this event on. From afar, it has always looked awesome. Not only the competition but the venue, how it's run. This is better than Ameritrade."

He should know. He took Arizona to the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha twice, including last year.

This wasn't Kentucky coach Nick Mingione's first trip to Hoover. He expressed his appreciation for the way the SEC put player safety first and still got the games in.

"This is the time of year when the weather comes and goes, and there's nothing you can do about it," Mingione said. "What we can do about it is make sure the field is ready. Our grounds crew has been unbelievable. We can make sure that we don't put our student-athletes in harm or jeopardy, and we did not do that, just to get games in. I just feel like we just made all the right decisions."