HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss right-handed pitcher Mike Mayers looked more like the elite prospect he is than the veteran who has had quite a tumultuous campaign in a 4-1 win over Kentucky to stay alive in the SEC tournament after a victory in the play-in game.
Mayers has had quite an interesting run over the past year. He finished last season strong, showing incredibly elite stuff at the College Station Regional, and doing enough during the summer to warrant some high second-round talk. However, inconsistency has really plagued him throughout this spring, causing his stock to slip in some circles.
Perhaps Tuesday's performance, even on short rest, will get some scouts to buy into his stuff. Mayers was fantastic against the Wildcats, striking out four, walking one and allowing just one run -- unearned -- on six hits in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Mayer's performance against the Wildcats was particularly interesting when you take into account the short amount of time he had to prepare. Mayers started last Thursday's series opener against LSU, throwing 105 pitches and allowing five runs in six innings of work.
Mayers insisted the short rest wasn't an issue, and pitched like someone on a mission.
"I'm not sure we have another guy who can do what Mike just did today," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said about his coming back on short rest. "He had the whole package today. He had the slider, changeup, and honestly, that's as good as he's pitched all-season long."
The last performance you can point to as a performance this dominant is way back in March when Mayers twirled a gem against Lipscomb, striking out seven, walking one and allowing just one hit in six innings.
Though his numbers against UK on Tuesday were good, his overall stuff was even more impressive. Mayers can have some control issues, but that problem was non-existent against the Wildcats. He utilized an 89-92 fastball that he was able to move around the strike zone, while the 78-81 changeup was a plus pitch against UK. The 82-84 slider also had good action and was consistently thrown for strikes.
"I thought Mike had great fastball command on both sides of the plate," he said. "He's really tough to hit when he can really pitch off that fastball to left-handed hitters. I thought he had an excellent mix with that slider and changeup, too."
Though Mayers was the headliner in this contest, credit also must be given to relievers Jeremy Massie and Tanner Bailey, who finished the contest in impressive fashion. Massie allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings of work, while Bailey closed things out with a scoreless inning to earn his fourth save.
While Ole Miss will be in the field of 64 next Monday, Kentucky isn't expected to be so lucky. The Wildcats entered the conference tournament with a good overall record and RPI, but a weak overall resume, along with an 11-19 SEC record in the regular season, likely will keep them out of the mix for an at-large bid.
Kentucky won just one of its last seven series.
"The biggest issue the last seven weeks for us is that we haven't been able to get a key hit at all. It's been the case the last half of our season, really," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "We've pitched extremely well at times, but like today, we haven't been able to sustain anything offensively. The story with this team, I think, is pretty black and white at this point."
The beat goes on for Mayers and Ole Miss. It ends for Kentucky.
Alabama eliminates Auburn, creates more uncertainty for AU
No matter the sport, it's always a big deal when Auburn and Alabama meet.
Throw in that Tuesday's game between the two heated rivals had potential postseason implications, and you had the recipe for quite an exciting matchup.
Despite winning the contest 6-3 with a strong comeback, the contest didn't start in positive fashion for Alabama. The Tigers spotted left-handed starting pitcher Conner Kendrick for three runs in the third inning, and a 3-1 advantage. However, the Crimson Tide chipped away at the lead in the middle innings and forced Kendrick out of the game after five innings.
Meanwhile, crafty Alabama left-handed pitcher Justin Kamplain was lifted from the contest after allowing three runs on four hits in three innings of work, while reliever Jay Shaw rose to the occasion by allowing just four hits in five shutout frames.
Though Kendrick was unable to go the distance for the Tigers, the junior left-handed pitcher showed early on why some believe he's a solid prospect. Though only 6-foot, 195 pounds, Kendrick showed good stuff early in the contest. He was consistently 87-90 with his fastball, along with a sharp 78-82 changeup and versatile curveball, ranging anywhere from 73-77.
Meanwhile, Kamplain was a rather interesting pitcher to watch. The left-hander had a rather quirky, yet deceptive, windup and delivery, and sat in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball, while also utilizing a steady diet of secondary offerings.
The most impressive player in the contest was Alabama freshman shortstop Mikey White. White has earned plenty of headlines for his play this spring, but he couldn't have been more impressive, especially defensively, in my first opportunity to see him in action. White recorded a hit at the plate, but showed off his elite defensive skills in the seventh inning with a well-turned double play to end a massive Auburn threat. The double play threat of Mikey White and Kyle Overstreet up the middle continues to give the Crimson Tide flashes of Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson from a few seasons ago.
Beyond just beating a heated rival, this contest could have some serious postseason implications, particularly for Auburn, which entered the SEC tournament with a 13-17 conference record. Meanwhile, Alabama was clearly on the good side of the bubble entering the contest with a 14-15 mark in conference, and likely only solidified its status with the win over the Tigers.
"I thought there was a little more pressure on Auburn to win this game than us," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "At the same time, if we would've lost this game, Auburn would've beaten us by a 3-2 margin this season. But for us, I personally feel like we've done enough to get in, but we didn't want to leave anything for chance, as a lot can happen this week in terms of the NCAA tournament picture."
Interestingly, Auburn coach John Pawlowski was equally stoic about his team's chances of getting into the postseason despite the loss.
"Absolutely [we should get in]. When you look at where our team was at the beginning of the season to the way we finished the regular season, winning three conference series, including a road series win over Florida, we've put ourselves in position," Pawlowski said. "I feel like we've done enough to be in the NCAA tournament."
Dissecting Auburn's resume, here are a few things that stand out: The Tigers have an RPI of 36 with a 3-9 mark vs. RPI Top 25, 11-14 mark vs. RPI Top 50 and 12-16 mark vs. RPI Top 100. Furthermore, the Tigers didn't start SEC play in impressive fashion, but finished league play with series wins over Ole Miss (home), Florida (road) and Arkansas (home).
While Alabama should feel safe, Auburn now spends the rest of the week hoping there are no major upsets in various conference tournaments.