2021 SEC baseball tournament thoughts and takeaways: Alabama vs. Tennessee

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

HOOVER, Ala.--Some live thoughts and takeaways from the 2021 SEC baseball tournament game between Alabama and Tennessee, which Alabama won by a 3-2 score.

Andrew Diodati photo courtesy of the University of Alabama. 

TAKEAWAYS

- Does this change anything for Alabama? Maybe. D1 Baseball had the Vols on the bubble earlier this week and beating a top-10 RPI team, on the heels of the South Carolina win, moves Alabama closer to the edge. Obviously a lot depends on what happens elsewhere but a win against Florida tomorrow might do it. 

- Reliever Chase Lee may have just saved Alabama's season. The senior side-armer threw 85 pitches in relief over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Lee wasn't dominant in the least (three strikeouts) and gave up some hard-hit balls that found gloves. But any team like the Crimson Tide that plays the Tuesday game is going to have to get lengthy appearances from someone, somewhere, and these are the kinds of outings of which tournament runs are made. 

- What's this change for Tennessee? Probably nothing; maybe the Vols slide a spot in the national seeding but there's no reason Tennessee shouldn't be hosting on the first and second weekends of the NCAA tournament. 

FINAL: Alabama 3, Tennessee 2

The Vols hit the ball hard that inning twice but had nothing to show for it. Alabama advances to face Florida tomorrow night. 

T11: Alabama 3, Tennessee 2

Alabama's Sam Praytor and Owen DIodati have both doubled, and Alabama's taken a one-run lead in the top of the inning.

B10: Alabama 2, Tennessee 2

Tennessee closer Sean Hunley retires Alabama in order, so, the Vols have another opportunity to win it here.

E9: Alabama 2, Tennessee 2

I've just witnessed a ninth inning that defies description, with enough confusion that both Tennessee and Alabama were celebrating after the last batter of the inning.

Alabama closer Chase Lee had just intentionally walked Max Ferguson to load the bases with one out, in an attempt to set up a game-ending double play. And Lee got the ground ball to short that he wanted, as Jim Jarvis fielded it and tossed to Peyton Wilson at second for the second out.

Wilson threw to first, but it was late and the Vols mobbed Ferguson and doused him with water at first. 

While Tennessee celebrated, so did the Alabama dugout on the third-base side. That's because an infield umpire raised his arm to signal an out at first after the fact. The play went to replay, where it soon became clear that Ferguson slid slightly to the center-field side of second while extending his arm into Wilson's left thigh, knocking him off-balance enough to interfere with the throw. 

Replay officials converged for a few minutes and upheld the ruling.

Earlier in the inning, Wilson dropped a Liam Spence liner his way, and then chaos ensued as Connor Pavolony, thinking it was caught, scampered back to first as Spence reached. Obviously two runners can't occupy the bag at once, leaving Spence out once the bag was tagged.

E8: Alabama 2, Tennessee 2

We're heading to the ninth and both teams' closers are in, with Tennessee bringing Sean Hunley to the hill. 

E7: Alabama 2, Tennessee 2

Chase Lee gets a strikeout and a fly out, and we're tied heading to the eighth. 

B7: Alabama 2, Tennessee 2

This game has just turned on defense. 

First of all, Tennessee left fielder Evan Russell made one of the best plays of the tournament, robbing Alabama's Peyton Wilson of a double the previous inning.

Now, the Crimson Tide have melted down, with first baseman William Hamiter dropping a throw from Wilson to give the Vols the leadoff man on in the seventh, then, Zane Denton booting a grounder.

So, the Vols had men on first and third, and then Pete Derkay was credited with a single on an odd play where the Vols' Jordan Beck was called out for interfering with Hamiter on that play.

Reliever Chase Lee, facing his first hitter (Connor Pavolony), gave up a fly ball to medium center that Caden Rose couldn't' get and that scored a run. And then Liam Spence bounced a ball to the left of the mound; Lee slipped coming off the hill, another run scored and everyone's safe.

T6: Alabama 2, Tennessee 0

Camden Sewell gets out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam, striking out Andrew Pinckney after falling behind and then getting pesky Jim Jarvis to ground to second. The Vols will bring their 2-3-4 hitters up in the bottom of the inning.

T6: Alabama 2, Tennessee 0

Alabama's Jackson Tate falls behind 0-2 and then Tennessee's Camden Sewell can't successfully hit the outside corner of the plate with several tries. Sewell walks Tate and Alabama leads by two. 

T6: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Tennessee's Will Heflin hadn't walked a batter through the first five; he issued his second in the sixth, though the first was intentional. Vol coach Tony Vitello makes a pitching change, with angular righty Camden Sewell in. 

T6: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Tennessee's Will Heflin may also be tiring. He hit William Hamiter to lead off the inning, then Hamiter took second on a wild pitch, with the throw going into center and Hamiter taking third. The Vols have intentionally walked Zane Denton to get to Owen DIodati.

E5: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Great job by Alabama's William Freeman to get the 'Tide out of a fifth-inning jam. Freeman had the unenviable job of pitching to Liam Spence--who generally won't give you an easy out--by getting ahead 1-2 and then getting harmless, opposite-field fly ball to right to end the inning.

Tennessee's Will Heflin's been good, too, needing just 50 pitches to get through five innings. Heflin's pitching to contact effectively, having struck out just two.

B5: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Alabama starter Jacob McNairy has exceeded his season high in innings pitched, but Pete Derkay snaps a string of 12-straight hitters that McNairy had retired with a double to left-center, that coming with two outs in the fifth. 

McNairy hasn't been overpowering, and I wonder if the Vols are catching on. Connor Pavolony just missed a home run to right by about five feet (it went foul) that would have put Tennessee ahead. And now McNairy walks Pavolony, giving Tennessee two on and two out. 

I guess Alabama coach Brad Bohannon sees the same thing, as William Freeman runs out of the left-field bullpen to take over on the hill.

Eight of McNairy's outs came in the air, and if you're going to do that, this is the park to do that in. 

T5: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

The Vols really flashed some leather than inning, with second baseman Max Ferguson making a back-pedaling stab of a line drive for the inning's first out, then, Jake Rucker making a nice play on a smash down third and firing in time to first. 

Tennessee's offense still can't solve Jacob McNairy in what's been a well-played contest so far.

B3: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Alabama right fielder Andrew Pinckney makes his second terrific catch in right in two days, robbing Liam Spence of a hit. 

Pitch counts: Heflin 35, McNairy 37.

B2: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Alabama starter Jacob McNairy--who hasn't gone more than 4 1/3 innings all year--looks good through two. It's only McNairy's second start of the year. His best pitch so far looks like a 82-ish breaking ball (which looks like a slider from the press box) and his fastball's going around 93-95. 

T2: Alabama 1, Tennessee 0

Tennessee native Zane Denton led off the second with a single and then took second on Owen DIodati's double. Jackson Tate's ground-out plates a run and the Crimson Tide lead after an inning and a half. 

B1: Alabama 0, Tennessee 0

Tennessee made it interesting with a pair of two-out hits, but Jacob McNairy also gets out of the first without allowing a run. 

T1: Alabama 0, Tennessee 0

We're underway in Hoover; Tennessee lefty Will Heflin retires the Crimson Tide in order in the first.