Saturday recap: SEC shines on the big stage in Texas

 Barry Allen   in Baseball

Landon Sims has a big performance for MSU, while Arkansas and Ole Miss also win against Big 12 opponents

Seventeen games were played on Saturday around the SEC. 

 State, Ole Miss and Arkansas all posted wins at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington. 

Texas A&M stumbled at home to Xavier, who secured its first-ever series win over an SEC opponent.

 Alabama third baseman Zane Denton celebrated his 20th birthday with a walk-home run to beat McNeese State. 

Catch up on the day’s action.

 SEC success deep in the heart of Texas

The SEC had a  showing during the opening day of the State Farm College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Park. Miss. State, Ole Miss and Arkansas all had impressive wins to kick off the event.

 Mississippi State opened the season with an 8-3 win over Texas. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-0 lead and improved to 12-1 in their last 13 games against Top 25 clubs. 

The story of the game was MSU right hander Landon Sims. The Cumming, Ga., native entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning. Sims came on and struck out the side to limit the damage. He retired all 12 batters he faced, with 10 strikeouts. 

MSU pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts in the win over Texas. The 19 strikeouts are the most by MSU since Feb. 19, 2012 when the Bulldogs fanned 19 in the win over Washington State. 

Luke Hancock and Rowdey Jordan both homered to lead the MSU offense.

 Ole Miss posted its 17th straight win dating back to last season with a 7-3 win over TCU in the middle game in Arlington. 

Ole Miss scored four runs in the second inning and added two runs in the seventh and one more in the ninth. Ole Miss second baseman Peyton Chatagnier padded the lead with a two-run double in the seventh inning. Designated hitter Ben Van Cleve went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. 

The Ole Miss bullpen was lights out tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Doug Nikhazy, who allowed three runs and four walks in his brief outing. Jackson Kimbrell, Drew McDaniel and Taylor Broadway combined for 10 strikeouts out of the pen.

 Arkansas out-slugged Texas Tech 13-9 in the final game of the day, which ended just before 1 a.m. local time. After four scoreless innings, the teams scored all 22 runs over the final five frames. 

The lead changed hands three times in the final three innings. The Razorbacks trailed 9-8 entering the ninth inning after Texas Tech catcher Braxton Fulford smacked a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to put the Red Raiders back in front.  Arkansas got a game-tying single from Jalen Battles and Cayden Wallace scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Battles scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-9 and Brayden Webb capped the scoring with a two-run single. 

Arkansas pounded out 11 hits and took advantage of 11 walks. Arkansas used six pitchers in the game and two pitchers failed to record an out. Elijah Trest, who allowed the 3-run homer in the seventh pitched three innings for the win.

Florida bullpen falters in loss to Miami

Top-ranked Florida led 8-3 and seemed to be coasting over its second win over Miami in two days. But things unraveled with Gator right-hander Franco Aleman on the hill late. 

It was 8-4 going into the eighth, when Aleman, on for his first inning showed signs of wildness in the eighth, when a single and a wild pitch led to an unearned run. 

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan sent Aleman out for the ninth without having closer up in the bullpen, and that's a decision he may have been re-thinking later. Aleman walked five men and hit another, with the last one providing the tying run before Specht came on for the final out.

Miami got two more in the 13th to win thanks to help from Florida. Lefty Jordan Butler had been terrific for Florida in the 12th, but hit a man and walked another. Both scored, though one was unearned thanks to an infield error on first baseman Kris Armstrong on an infield throw that him him squarely in the mitt.

Xavier posts milestone wins against A&M

Xavier posted its first-ever SEC series win with a double header sweep at Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park. The Musketeers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to post a 10-6 win in the opener. A trio of pitchers combined a three-hit shutout in in the 2-0 win in the nightcap.

Xavier trailed 5-1 after two innings but outscored the Aggies 9-1 over the final seven innings for the win. Luke Franzoni hit two home runs to lead the Musketeers to the win. He hit a solo home run in the sixth inning and added a two-run homer in the eighth.

After scoring five runs on five hits in the first two innings, the Aggies offense bogged down the rest of the day. A&M managed just one run and five hits over the final 16 innings. 

Jonathan Kelly was the star for Xavier in the nightcap. He crushed a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning for the only runs of the game. In the eighth inning, he moved from first base to the mound and closed the game with two scoreless innings for the save.

 Lefty Nick Zwack, a preseason All-Big East pick, opened with five no-hit innings and fanned eight batters, keeping the Aggies off balance from start to finish. Xavier pitchers combined for 21 strikeouts in the double header.

Denton's birthday bash

Alabama third baseman Zane Denton celebrated his 20th birthday in style. The sophomore hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Crimson Tide to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over McNeese State. Denton went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in the win. 

Alabama trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh but rallied for four runs over the final three innings for the win. Denton plated the first run with an RBI single in the seventh inning to score William Hamiter

Sophomore right fielder Owen Diodati ripped a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 3-3. 

McNeese State looked poised to take the lead in the top of the ninth inning as the Cowboys had runners on the corners with one out. Tre Obergon lined out to right fielder Andrew Pickney, who then threw out Nate Fisbeck, trying to score from the third base, to end the inning and keep the game tied.

Clarke's two homers part of Gamecock bomb barrage

South Carolina belted five home runs, including two homers by junior designated hitter Wes Clarke, in the 12-5 win over Dayton. The Gamecocks have slugged seven home runs and scored 24  runs in the first two games of the season.

Clarke homered in first two at-bats on Saturday and finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two home runs and five RBIs. He has been a hitting machine so far, going 6-for-7 (.857) with three home run and nine RBIs in the first two games. 

Clarke has 11 home runs in his last 62 at-bats since the start of the 2020 season. He is averaging one home run in every 5.6 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Brady Allen, Colin Burgess and Braylen Wimmer also homered for the Gamecocks on Saturday.

Vanderbilt still waiting to make debut

Vanderbilt is the only SEC team yet to play a game this season other than Kentucky, which had its series with North Carolina canceled due to a Covid-19 outbreak. The Commodores and Wright State were postponed again on Saturday due to large volumes of snow still on the turf at Hawkins Field. 

The good news: There was lots of sunshine in the Nashville area on Saturday as the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time in days. While everything re-froze as the temperature dropped back into the teens overnight, Sunday's forecast calls for more sun and temperatures climbing above freezing in the morning, and above 50 not long after noon.

So, the plan is for a 6 p.m. first pitch on Sunday night, with the possibility of a Monday doubleheader.

Elsewhere around the SEC...

Auburn defeated Presbyterian 6-1 as four different Tigers had multi-hit games. AU catcher Nate LaRue went 2-for-4 with one double, one home run and two RBIs.

Georgia won a double header with Evansville to take the season-opening series. The Bulldogs won the opener 7-3 as first baseman Connor Tate went 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Luke Wagner tossed four scoreless innings for the win. The Bulldogs won the nightcap 6-5 on Riley King’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Chaney Rogers belted a game-tying three-run homer in the sixth inning.

 LSU opened its season with a 6-1 win over Air Force. Preseason All-American Jaden Hill struck out five and did not walk a batter in four scoreless innings for the win. Shortstop Zach Arnold went 2-for-5 with two RBIs to lead the Tigers offense.

Tennessee posted a 5-3 series-clinching win at Georgia Southern. The Vols trailed 3-1 after seven innings but scored two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth for the win. Third baseman Jake Rucker had a game-tying, two-run single in the eighth and left fielder Drew Gilbert slugged the game-winning, two-run homer in the ninth.

Missouri's had a disappointing start to its season as he Tigers split a Saturday doubleheader with Grand Canyon after losing Friday's game. The win was a 9-7 victory in Saturday's nightcap as third baseman Luke Mann singled, homered and drove in four runs. That capped a bitterly disappointing pitching weekend for the Tigers, who allowed 26 runs in three games.