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Upsets reign supreme at SEC tourney

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

Southeastern Conference coaches like to remind people how tough the league is. How evenly matched the teams are, top to bottom. How difficult it is to win a game, let alone a series.

The second day of the SEC Tournament showed that mindset isn’t just talk.

Three of the top four seeds in the tournament — Ole Miss, Florida and South Carolina — fell victim to the upset bug Wednesday, and will have to scramble to stay alive in elimination games today.

Ole Miss (40-17), the Western Division champion, was the first to fall. Chris Oliver held the Rebels to one unearned run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings, and led Arkansas to a 2-1 victory.

Chris Ellis matched Oliver, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings, but the Rebels couldn’t do enough at the plate to pull it out.

“I thought it was a typical Friday night in the Southeastern Conference. Two great pitchers, both on short rest, pitched great,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “It just comes to timely hitting and executing offensively. We didn’t have many opportunities.”

Arkansas will play LSU at 4:30 p.m. today, while Ole Miss was to face Vanderbilt at 9:30 a.m.

Not only was Vanderbilt (41-17) the only lower-seeded team that failed to win Wednesday, it didn’t even come close. The Commodores were held to five hits by Jared Poché, and LSU continued its incredible hitting surge by crushing Vandy 11-1 in a seven-inning run-rule shortened game.

Games in the SEC Tournament, with the exception of the championship game, are halted if a team has a lead of 10 or more runs through the seventh inning.

Alex Bregman homered and drove in five runs for the Tigers, who had seven extra base hits and 15 hits total. Bregman was 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and a double.

Mark Laird went 3-for-4 with a triple, double, two RBIs and four runs scored.

LSU (41-14-1) scored 10 of its runs from the fourth inning on and has now won five straight games. During the streak it has 76 hits and has outscored its opponents 67-5.

“I think we came out today with the approach of getting on base and putting together quality at-bats,” Bregman said. “We stuck to that approach the entire game, and the ball was traveling well.”

No. 4 seed South Carolina lost 12-0 to No. 5 Mississippi State in a milder upset in Wednesday’s final game. The Gamecocks (42-14) will play top-seeded Florida (37-20), which was stunned 4-2 by No. 9 Kentucky (34-22).

Kentucky’s Kyle Cody and Chandler Shepherd combined to hold the Gators to six hits and struck out seven batters.

Florida and South Carolina will play at 1 p.m. today, and Kentucky will face Mississippi State in the Thursday finale at 8.

“I thought it was a good game. Obviously Kentucky got off to a great start scoring two in the first and two in the third. Bottom line was we didn’t hit well enough. Credit Kentucky’s pitchers. Kyle Cody’s fastball had life to it, and Chandler Shepherd did a nice job coming out of the bullpen. Credit Kentucky as they did a nice job on the mound tonight.”