This season’s loaded SEC softball tournament begins Tuesday night at Arkansas’ Bogle Park and includes seven teams in the top 25, including five in the top 15.

Those are No. 4 and top-seeded Tennessee (41-8), No. 11 Georgia (39-12), defending tournament champ and No. 12 Arkansas (38-17), No. 13 Alabama (38-17), No. 14 LSU (40-14), No. 15 Auburn (39-16), No. 21 Florida (35-19) and No. 23 Texas A&M (33-18).

“This conference is a bear,” Tennessee head coach Karen Weekly said. “You have got to show up every single week ready to play every single day and even days you show up ready, it might not go your way. That’s just how good these teams are.”

This season’s tournament gets underway Tuesday night with 12th-seeded Mississippi State and 13th-seeded 13 Missouri battling at 6:30 p.m. at Bogle Park.

The winner of that game will pay fifth-seeded Alabama on Wednesday and that victor advances to play Arkansas Thursday at 4 p.m.

It is the second time that Bogle has hosted the event with the other being back in 2010 and will showcase Arkansas groundskeeper Austin Freeman’s work.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said earlier this season about the SEC Tournament. “I’m excited to host it at Bogle. I don’t know if all our people are quite as excited. They have to work a lot harder than me.
“…But I think we have just an amazing stadium, our fan base is huge, our people do it and incredible job and we get to see Austin’s work. Austin is going to be awfully tired at the end of the week.

Arkansas joins Tennessee, second-seeded Georgia and third-seeded and in all having byes until Thursday.

All games will be televised on the SEC Network with Jessica Mendoza, Beth Mowins and Michele Smith as the announcers.

Razorback slugger Rylin Hedgecock is pumped about playing at home after going on the road the last two seasons.

“I’ve obviously been to two SEC Tournaments now so being able to have all of our home fans will just give us a lot of momentum,” Hedgecock said. “I think it will help us a lot and be a lot of fun.”
Freshman pitcher Hannah Camenzind echoed similar sentiments.

“I am really excited,” Camenzind said. “It will be huge…You see how many fans come to our home games so it will be huge to have them here supporting us.”

Arkansas took two of three games from Tennessee and has a victory over every team SEC team it has played this season.

Arkansas won the SEC Tournament last season in Gainesville, Fla., with a 4-0 win Missouri in the championship game.

“I don’t think this team has flown under the radar at all and we’ve earned that,” Deifel said. “We earned a target and we’ve earned every one’s best game when we play them.
“So that’s part of the growing up piece. This team is different, this team has a new identity, but we’ve had the last few years of building our reputation. So I don’t think they have flown under the radar.

“Everybody that steps on the field with us brings their best game and we have found that we have to have a consistent level of play for us as well.”

Arkansas first baseball Cylie Halvorson believes playing familiar foes will help her team’s preparation.

“I think we are just able to see everyone and take note of prior games and see what allowed us to win in those games and some things we can work on that allowed them to beat us,” Hedgecock said. “Just taking the pros and cons of everything and being ready when they are here.”

All Times CST:
Tuesday, May 9
First round

Game 1: 13-seed Missouri v. 12-seed Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network

Wednesday, May 10
Second Round:

Game 2: 6-seed LSU v. 11-seed Ole Miss, 10 a.m., SEC Network
Game 3: 7-seed Texas A&M v. 10-seed South Carolina, 1 p.m., SEC Network
Game 4: 5-seed Alabama v. winner of Game 1, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Game 5: 8-seed Florida v. 9-seed Kentucky, 7 p.m., SEC Network

Thursday, May 11

Game 6: 3-seed Auburn v. winner of Game 2, 10 a.m., SEC Network
Game 7: 2-seed Georgia v. winner of Game 3, 1 p.m., SEC Network
Game 8: 4-seed Arkansas v. Winner of Game 4, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Game 9: 1-seed Tennessee v. winner of Game 5, 7 p.m., SEC Network

Friday, May 12

Game 10: Game 6 winner v. Game 7 winner, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Game 11: Game 8 winner v. Game 9 winner, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, May 13

Game 12: Game 10 winner vs Game 11 winner, 4 p.m., ESPN2

Photo by John D. James