2021 SEC baseball tournament thoughts and takeaways: Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

HOOVER, Ala.--Some thoughts after Arkansas's 6-4 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday night at the Hoover Met. 

Insert witty Kevin Kopps joke here.

We've had our fun at The 14 with all our "Arkansas calls the Kopps" jokes this year, but we're running out of original things to say now. Last night, Vanderbilt had a man on first and probably its best hitter (Enrique Bradfield Jr.) at the plate with a 2-0 count, when Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made the slow walk from the dugout and made a mid-at-bat pitching change. 

Of course, he went to the SEC Pitcher of the Year, who threw three pitches to strike Bradfield out and then mowed down the next eight in order. Kopps struck out five and the Commodores never got the ball out of the infield.

It was the first time the teams had faced, and so now we have the answer to the question, "How would Kevin Kopps pitch against Vanderbilt?" too.

Kumar Rocker wasn't good.

Vandy's ace shut down Arkansas with a 13-pitch, three-strikeout inning on Thursday and then from the second inning on, lost control of his pitches. Rocker walked four, hit Matt Goodheart to force in a run and lasted just 3 1/3 innings while allowing five runs (all earned). 

I don't know what to make of it; when you've been to the mountaintop as a freshman, and are weeks away from being a multi-millionaire, maybe you just get bored in what was a game with little significance. But obviously Vanderbilt needs its ace to return to form if it's going to defend its 2019 national title in a few weeks. 

Ethan Bates gave Arkansas a spark.

The freshman barely played this year but a Brady Slavens injury created a domino effect that pressed him into service on Thursday. Bates had a key single in the Razorbacks' two-run second inning, walked to start a three-run fourth and added a sacrifice fly to score the final run of the night.

Bates is a talented hitter, but talent doesn't always translate in one's freshman year. The Razorbacks can at least feel a little better until Slavens returns given what Bates showed on Thursday.