Vols Take Series at Georgia; Mizzou Gets Pinch-Hit HR in Comeback Win

 Barry Allen and Chris Lee   in Baseball

Cameron Swanger photo from Missouri Athletics

Ole Miss and Florida, the preseason favorites to win the SEC Western Division and SEC Eastern Division, both opened conference play with three-game sweeps. Ole Miss completed its sweep with a 19-11 win over Auburn on Sunday. The Rebels are 3-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2004. Tennessee won its first SEC season-opening series since 2014 with a road series win at Georgia. Missouri junior Cameron Swanger blasted a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the eighth inning as the Tigers avoided a three-game sweep at Kentucky.

TEAM OF THE DAY:

Tennessee won its first SEC opening series since 2014 as it took two of three games from Georgia in Athens. The Vols posted a 4-1 series-clinching win on Sunday. Centerfielder Drew Gilbert had three hits and two RBIs in the series finale.

GAME OF THE DAY:

Arkansas pitching shut down Alabama for the second straight day and captured the season with a 3-1 win at Baum Stadium. Lael Lockhart, Kevin Kopps and Jaxson Wiggins held the Crimson Tide to one run and three hits in the finale. Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens snapped a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the fourth inning. Catcher Casey Opitz added a two-run single in the sixth inning.

PITCHER OF THE DAY:

South Carolina right-hander Brett Kerry shutout down the Vanderbilt offense and in the process allowed the Gamecocks to salvage the series finale in Nashville. Kerry tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters for the win. He entered the game with a 4-2 deficit in the fourth inning allowed only two hits as the Gamecocks snapped a 6-game losing streak.

PLAYER OF THE DAY:

Missouri junior Cameron Swanger blasted a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the eighth inning as the Tigers avoided a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Swanger belted a 0-1 pitch over the left field wall of reliever Dillion Marsh in the Tigers 5-3 win.

VANDY PITCHERS RETIRE 36 STRAIGHT BATTERS:

Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Thomas Schultz combined to retire 36 straight South Carolina batters over 12 innings on Saturday and Sunday. After a leadoff walk, Leiter retired the final 27 batters he faced in a 9-inning no-hitter against the Gamecocks on Saturday. Schultz picked up where Leiter left off by retiring the first nine batters he faced on Sunday. South Carolina centerfielder Brady Allen ended the streak with a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning.

ALLEN, WIMMER FORM 1-2 PUNCH:

South Carolina centerfielder Brady Allen and second baseman Braylen Wimmer hit back-to-back solo home runs in the fourth inning to jump start the Gamecocks offense against the Commodores pitching staff. Allen led off the fourth inning with a solo home run to snap a streak of 36 hitters retired by Commodores pitching. Allen and Wimmer were a combined 6-for-10 with four runs scored, two home runs and five RBIs in the comeback win at Vandy.

SUNDAY RECAPS:

South Carolina 6, Vanderbilt 5 Nashville)

Records: Vanderbilt (15-3, 2-1 SEC); South Carolina (12-6, 1-2 SEC)

Series: Vanderbilt won series, 2-1

After Vanderbilt dominated on the mound on Friday and Saturday, it was South Carolina's turn to take the spotlight on Sunday. Carolina super reliever Brett Kerry was terrific, entering the game in the fourth inning with the Gamecocks trailing 4-2 and teetering on the edge of being swept.

Kerry was the medicine coach Mark Kingston needed. Vanderbilt couldn't handle a fastball that sat between 90-92 (mph) as Kerry threw 5 2/3 innings, striking out 10, as the Gamecocks rallied for a 6-5 win at Nashville's Hawkins Field.

Vanderbilt pitcher Thomas Schultz retired the first nine Gamecocks in order, extending the 'Dores streak of  consecutive retired batters to an incredible 36. But Brady Allen and Braylen Wimmer led off the fourth with home runs to begin the Carolina comeback.

In the eighth, sacrifice flies from Wes Clarke and Andrew Eyster provided the tying and winning runs.

Vanderbilt catcher C.J. Rodriguez, who caught all three games this weekend, hit his first career home run and drove in three runs. 

 Tennessee 4, Georgia 1 (Athens)

Records: Tennessee (17-4, 2-1 SEC); Georgia (14-5, 1-2 SEC)

Series: Tennessee won series, 2-1

Tennessee won its first SEC opening series since 2014 with its 4-1 series-clinching win at Georgia on Sunday. Tennessee had lost its last five SEC opening series and had not won its first series of the season since winning two out of three from Missouri to open the 2014 conference slate.

Blake Tidwell and two relievers stymied the Bulldogs on Sunday. Tidwell held the Bulldogs to one run on four hits through 7 1/3 innings.  He added six strikeouts. Kirby Connell and Cameron Seawell retired five of the six batters they faced out of the bullpen.

UT centerfielder Drew Gilbert led the Vols with three hits and two RBIs.

Georgia right fielder Connor Tate had three of the Bulldogs five hits in the loss.

Arkansas 3, Alabama 1 (Fayetteville)

Records: Alabama (15-5, 1-2 SEC); Arkansas (14-3, 2-1 SEC)

Series: Arkansas won series, 2-1

Arkansas pitching shut down Alabama for the second straight day and captured the season with a 3-1 win at Baum Stadium.

Lael Lockhart, Kevin Kopps and Jaxson Wiggins held the Crimson Tide to one run and three hits in the finale.

Alabama scored 16 runs on 15 hits in Friday’s series opener, but managed only two runs and five hits over the final two games.

Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens snapped a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the fourth inning. Catcher Casey Opitz added a two-run single in the sixth inning.

Alabama avoided the shutout when catcher Sam Praytor hit a solo home run in the ninth inning. It capped an 11-pitch at-bat off Wiggins.

Ole Miss 19, Auburn 11 (Oxford)

Records: Ole Miss (16-4, 3-0); Auburn (11-8, 0-3 SEC)

Series: Ole Miss swept series, 3-0

Sawyze Field was not the place to be Sunday if you were a relief pitcher.

Auburn and Ole Miss combined to use 10 relief pitchers in the Rebels 19-11 win to complete the three-game sweep of the Tigers.

The two bullpens combined to give up 23 runs on Sunday afternoon. Auburn used six relief pitchers and they were charged with 12 runs in 6 2/3 innings. Lefty Jack Owen made his return to the mound after missing the first four weeks with an injury and was tagged for five runs in one-third of an inning. Ole Miss used four relievers and they allowed 11 runs, including a 9-run eighth inning that allowed Auburn back in the game. The Rebels led 14-0 after seven innings.

Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko went 4-for-6 with two runs scored and three RBIs. Centerfielder T.J. McCants had a solo home run and two-run double. Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez had a pair of two-run singles for the Rebels.

Auburn left fielder Brayton Brown hit a three-run home run to highlight the 9-run eighth inning.

Missouri 5, Kentucky 3 (Lexington)

Records: Kentucky (13-4, 2-1 SEC); Missouri (8-12, 1-2 SEC)

Series: Kentucky won series, 2-1

Missouri junior Cameron Swanger blasted a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the eighth inning as the Tigers avoided a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Swanger belted a 0-1 pitch over the left field wall of reliever Dillion Marsh in the Tigers 5-3 win.

The Tigers trailed 3-0 entering the seventh inning before scratching lout the win.

Shortstop Joshua Day had three hits and one RBI for the Tigers.

T.J. Collett homered in the loss for the Wildcats.

LSU 8, Mississippi State 3 (Baton Rouge)

Records: Mississippi State (16-4, 2-1 SEC); LSU (16-5, 1-2 SEC)

Series: MSU won series, 2-1

LSU erupted six runs over the final three innings and posted an 8-3 win over long-time rival Mississippi State to avoid a three-game sweep in Baton Rouge.

The game was tied 2-2 in the sixth inning before the Tigers offense finally got to the MSU bullpen. Left fielder Gavin Dugas hit a game-tying solo home run in the sixth inning. LSU added three more runs in the seventh inning, including a two-run homer by DH Brody Dorst.

LSU managed only one run in the first two games of the series against MSU. In fact, in the last nine games, MSU allowed only five total runs, including one run in 18 innings vs. LSU. The Tigers scored eight runs on Sunday. MSU allowed a season-high nine runs in a 9-5 loss to Kent State on Feb. 27.