Live from Birmingham…it’s the SEC!!
Greetings from Regions Park in Birmingham, Alabama, site of the SEC baseball tournament. I’m currently sitting and watching Vanderbilt beat South Carolina, though the Gamecocks have made it interesting with a four-run eighth inning.
Before the game, we went over to Ole Miss’ practice to talk to Lance Lynn, who was outstanding here on Wednesday. Great interview, by the way — keep an eye out for his part in a feature on the draftable talent at the SEC tourney (along with Smoak and Alvarez). It’s funny, he’s known more as a “pitchability” guy, something he kind of jokingly bristled at, pointing out that he’s got a pretty good K/9 rate (just over 10, actually) and he was evidently touching 95-96 in his tourney start the other day. He’s a big dude, so maybe there’s more there than people think. Only time will tell.
The afternoon game today, from our standpoint, is Pedro Alvarez vs. Justin Smoak. OK, so that does a disservice to the other draftable prospects here, but you get the point — 2 top 10 picks in the same game doesn’t happen all that often (Georgia’s Gordon Beckham was here, but the Bulldogs dropped two straight and are already gone). It didn’t start out looking like a good day. Alvarez struck out looking with the bases loaded and Smoak didn’t do anything of note.
But in the sixth, Alvarez showed everyone a glimpse of why he’s considered one of the best bats in the draft class, turning on a Will Atwood offering and yanking it out to right field for a three-run homer. At the time, it gave Vandy a 7-1 lead, runs that became important when the Gamecocks scored those four in the eighth. He also struck out three times, one of the only reasons for pause about his overall terrific offensive game.
Smoak had a sac fly in that four-run frame, but that was about it for the switch-hitting 1B. He did hit a line drive that ended up right at the second baseman, who was shifted way over in a Jason Giambi-esque defensive alignment. The real star for South Carolina in the losing effort was Reese Havens (well, senior Phil Disher hit two homers, to be fair). He’s not a top 10 guy, but he is sneaking into first-round conversations and this game certainly didn’t hurt. Havens had three hits and made a couple of fine plays at short, supposedly a position he won’t be able to stay at in the future. He’s got the arm to stick, that’s for sure — maybe a team will let him play his way off the position rather than moving him right away.
That’s all for now… will be back later on this weekend.