Baseball heads to Hoover for the 2022 SEC Tournament

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

The college baseball season is entering its peak. 

The 2022 SEC Baseball Tournament begins Tuesday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. 

“Super excited to be in the SEC Tournament,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “The Hoover community does such an amazing job, just really embraces the event. I know it’s certainly not the ultimate goal for our program, but our league is as tough as it’s ever been. Hopefully, we can go over there and give our ‘Bama’ fans in the greater Birmingham area an easy opportunity to see us.” 

After an extremely up-and-down season, the Alabama Crimson Tide (29-25, 12-17) made the tournament field after a series win over No. 13 Arkansas over the weekend in Tuscaloosa. After dropping Game 1 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Thursday night, the Crimson Tide outscored the Razorbacks 26-11 in the final two games of the weekend set to ensure their spot in the annual competition. 

“I think we showed the kind of team that we knew was in there the whole time,” Alabama first baseman Drew Williamson said. “We just kind of had a rough spell of it these last few series. Being able to see it transpire on the field was nice. It’s just coming out and playing every day like you know you’re the best. That’s what we’re going to have to do to make a run in Hoover.” 

Coming into the tournament, Alabama sits at No. 47 in RPI. To make the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide will need a big weekend.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot to play for,” Bohannon said. “If we don’t win [Tuesday], there’s a very high chance that our season is over. I really want to extend this season with this group. Our kids are excited, and I would expect that we will play with a lot of energy.” 

The first team in its way is the 6-seeded Georgia Bulldogs (35-20, 15-15). The Bulldogs finished their season with a home series loss to the 13th place Missouri Tigers, who will not appear in the tournament this week. 

Georgia was ranked in the top-25 for much of the season, but losses down the stretch have moved the Bulldogs out of the polls. Sitting at No. 12 in RPI, Georgia is still a lock for the NCAA Tournament. 

The Bulldogs won two of three games in Tuscaloosa in late April in what was a highly competitive series. 

If Alabama was to beat the Bulldogs on Tuesday, it would face third-seeded Arkansas (38-16, 18-12) for the fourth time in less than a week in the second round. Beginning Wednesday, the SEC Tournament shifts from single elimination to double elimination. 

“Every team that’s in this tournament is really good,” Bohannon said. “Every game that you play is going to be tough. You need somebody to do something that they haven’t done to this point. I don’t know who it is on our team, but somebody is going to have to have an extended outing that maybe they haven’t had in league play to this point. You have to go out and take games. The other team isn’t going to give it to you.” 

The obvious favorite to lift the hardware on Sunday afternoon is the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (49-7, 25-5). The Volunteers have been the unanimous top team in the country for a while now and lead the SEC in about every major category on both sides of the ball. 

Tennessee leads the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, home runs and walks. 

On the pitching side, the Volunteers lead the conference in ERA, opponents’ batting average, strikeouts, hits allowed, runs allowed and walks allowed. 

The battle tested Crimson Tide have seen a lot during its tough SEC conference schedule. Williamson believes that will help in front of a big audience at the Hoover Met this week. 

“I think we’ve already played in some pretty big crowds this year,” Williamson said. “This is the most fun baseball of the whole year. I love playing at Hoover, the people, the atmosphere. Everything about it is awesome. If you can’t get up to play in front of them, then you’re playing the wrong sport. It’s just managing your emotions and going out and playing just like any other day.” 

Alabama’s ace, Garrett McMillan (3.83 ERA), will be on the mound for the Crimson Tide in Tuesday’s win-or-go-home game.

Alabama and Georgia will kick-off the tournament at 9:30 a.m. CT. Every game throughout the week will be on the SEC Network, except for the championship game, which will be on ESPN2. 

“Even though that is a little bit out of routine, our kids are fired up for this,” Bohannon said. “I’m not worried about us coming out sleep walking. I’m not too concerned about the early start.”

Look at the full bracket here.