Tigers to host regional

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The sun rises in the East but the Southeastern Conference baseball sun rose in the West and set in the East.

That’s because six of the eight teams that made it to the Hoover Met were from the West Division and the two from the East, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, saw their suns set quickly.

So Alabama, which seems to hold some sort of divine right on the SEC Tournament, emerged last Sunday as the survivor to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, beginning this week.

Although the Tide eliminated Auburn at Hoover, the Tigers were awarded a No. 1 seed and the right to play their regional games at home in Plainsman Park.

The NCAA selection committee thinks well of the SEC since eight of its 12 teams are continuing their seasons in the tournament. A twist is that Florida did not qualify for the SEC tournament but will play in the NCAA, while Vandy played at Hoover but will play no more.

After the SEC’s eight invitees, the next highest was five, for the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12.

Here’s the way it stacks up as the SEC teams begin the double-elimination tournament Friday:

Auburn (40-19 will meet Princeton (27-21).

Alabama (37-22) will open at College Station, Texas, against Houston (32-27).

Arkansas (34-20) goes against Lamar (37-16) at Austin, Texas.

Florida (34-19-1) meets Florida Atlantic (46-14) at Coral Gables, Fla.

Louisiana State (40-19-1), as a regional host at Baton Rouge, faces Northeastern (27-22).

Mississippi (34-25) meets Wichita State (47-25) at Houston.

Mississippi State (40-18-1), as a regional host at Starkville, draws Middle Tennessee State (33-25)

South Carolina (39-20) and East Carolina (33-25-1) meet in Atlanta.

From there on it is a matter of survival to see which teams from the eight Super Regional playoffs make it to the College World Series at Omaha.

The SEC tournament, with its start delayed a day due to rain, had plenty of excitement for the thousands of fans on hand.

Those attendance figures benefited, obviously, because Alabama stayed through the title game against LSU last Sunday and because Auburn lasted until the Tide eliminated the Tigers 13-3 Saturday. It didn’t hurt, either, that the two state teams met twice.

With LSU and Alabama making it to the title game, Sunday’s windup boded to be a good game &045; between LSU, the top-seeded team, and the Tide, with its fine record in the SEC meet the past few years.

Instead, the Alabama batters continued their assault, aided by five LSU errors, and the Tide prevailed 10-3.

So, eight SEC schools are pointing toward Omaha. The problem is that 56 others from around the country, mostly from the South and West, also have designs on the national title.

All the fans can do now is wait and see.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. E-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net)