May 24, 2009
Danny P Smith -
The Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament has been known to be one of the best college tournaments in the country.
Sometimes the fans are put in tough situations to see it all.
The SEC attempts to play four games per day the first, second and fourth rounds of the tournament and sometimes the final game lasts well into the next morning.
Take Wednesday for example.
Florida and Arkansas started the day with a game scheduled at 10 a.m. It actually didn''t begin until 10:12 for what was assumed to be television purposes, although there wasn''t an official reason given.
The Gators and Razorbacks played a 3 hour and 17 minute game, which put the end of the game at 1:29 p.m.
That put the next game behind schedule as Ole Miss and Georgia were supposed to get started at 1:30 p.m.
With the mandatory 45 minutes between games to get the field ready for play, the Rebels and Bulldogs didn''t take the field until 2:18 p.m., almost an hour after the scheduled starting time.
Ole Miss and Georgia proceeded to play a 3-hour game, which ended at 5:19 p.m. The third game between LSU and Vanderbilt was set to begin at 5.
The chain reaction caused the final game of the day between Alabama and South Carolina to start at 9:57 p.m., almost an hour and a half from the 8:30 p.m. scheduled time.
The Crimson Tide and Gamecocks played 11 innings in a game that lasted three hours and 57 minutes. It finished just before 2 a.m. Thursday. That was without any weather delays.
Unless you are a night owl and didn''t have to get up early for work the next day, this was probably not an issue.
Being that it was a week-night situation, people had a hard time staying for all of the final game even with the home-state favorite Crimson Tide involved.
The attendance for the final session was announced at 9,254, but very few of those fans were left to see the final out of the game.
If anyone has a right to complain, it''s the players and coaches, but so far they refused to do so.
After Alabama lost 9-5, it was faced with having to come back less than 12 hours later to play against No. 1 seed LSU.
The Crimson Tide ended up losing 9-6 to the Tigers and was eliminated from the tournament.
Alabama coach Jim Wells wasn''t going to let fatigue be an excuse for his team''s performance.
"It is just part of the game," Wells said. "We have done it before and have won before. When you play the late game and you lose, you have to turn around. You want to do well in Hoover. You want to win because you are playing for a regional. I don''t put an credence to fatigue having anything to do with it."
SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap said the conference office is always looking for ways to improve its tournament, but the coaches are adamant about keeping the current format and aren''t in favor of starting earlier in the day to prevent games lasting well-past midnight.
"For those that have a 10 o''clock game in the morning, they already wake up for pregame in the 6 a.m. range and they just don''t want to get up any earlier than that," Dunlap said. "They don''t want to play at 9 in the morning."
As long as there is a double-elimination format in five days, there is nothing the SEC can do without playing seven-inning games or going to pool play like other conferences do around the country.
Dunlap believes pool play would cause more confusion than help.
"Anytime you talk about anything else it all goes back to the five-day, double-elimination format," Dunlap said.
Dunlap said the NCAA is trying to find ways to shorten games by cutting the time between at-bats and innings, which could help speed up the process in the future.
In the meantime, keep taking your coffee and maybe a blanket to Regions Park and be prepared to stay for a while if you are a diehard SEC college baseball fan.
Danny P. Smith is the assistant sports editor of The Commercial Dispatch. He can be contacted at [email protected]