After successfully navigating the losers bracket, Ole Miss (45-15) and LSU (37-24) will meet for the SEC Tournament championship on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CST.
FOR THE TITLE!
Both the Rebels and Tigers lost their first game in the double-elimination portion of the bracket, forcing them to win three elimination games in three-consecutive days.
However, losing the first game of the double-elimination portion of the bracket has been a common theme in several recent SEC Tournament success stories: Arkansas made, but lost, the SEC championship in 2017; Texas A&M (2016) and Florida (2015) won the SEC Tournament; the Gators also made the final in 2014 after dropping their first game.
But to accomplish that feat, each had to rely on dominant pitching, depleting areas of their pitching staff.
Ole Miss has relied on excellent starting pitching for the entire SEC tournament. In their four games, Rebel starting pitchers have a 1.08 ERA and a .87 WHIP over 25 innings pitched. In their three wins (all elimination games), Ole Miss starters have pitched 18 innings, allowing just one earned run (an ERA of 0.5) with a whip of 0.944.
The Rebels will turn to sophomore right-hander Houston Roth (5-0, 4.75 ERA), a native of Oxford, Miss., for the tournament championship. Roth is the only remaining pitcher for Ole Miss to have started a game in 2018, but he hasn’t started since April 10 against Southern Miss, an 11-3 win for the Rebels.
Houston’s longest start on the season is five innings, but so was Jordan Fowler’s before his six-inning shutout performance in the semifinal against Texas A&M.
As for LSU, they got seven innings of one-hit ball from Zack Hess in the semifinal against Arkansas, which came a game after the Tigers blanked Florida in a run-rule of the Gators, 11-0.
LSU will turn to Caleb Gilbert for the championship. Gilbert has made ten starts for LSU on the season, though only four have come in conference games. In conference games, Gilbert (1-4) has an era of 6.08 with a WHIP of 1.679.
However, Caleb had a successful outing when LSU visited Ole Miss a few weeks ago. For the day, he allowed five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings of relief, but Gilbert didn’t allow a run through his first four innings of work. If anything, fatigue got him more than his “stuff” did.
Hoover, Ala., is a second home for LSU, as the Tigers have won six of the last ten SEC tournament titles and made it to at least the semifinal round in eight of the last ten tournaments.
However, history sides against LSU – only top-four seeds have won the SEC tournament under it’s current format, and the Tigers are the eight seed, with Ole Miss the two seed.
The Rebels are guaranteed to be a national seed – their resume is ridiculous – and LSU will probably be a two seed, or a three in the toughest regional to ever be played. Ole Miss has won the SEC tournament twice, while LSU has won it a record 12 times.