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Vanderbilt in Hooverville: Game 3 vs. Alabama

Vanderbilt has to beat Alabama to stay alive in the SEC Tournament and stay in the hunt for a National Seed. Do the Crimson Tide have anything left in the tank after playing three games in the past three days?

It's ok, buddy. It happens. Just bring it in.
It's ok, buddy. It happens. Just bring it in.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Superman found his kryptonite on Thursday, and it dropped Carson Fulmer and the Vanderbilt Commodores to the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament. Now, they'll have to stave off a familiar foe to keep their National Seed hopes alive. Vandy will face off with Alabama, the team they took two of three games from in the final series of the regular season.

Fulmer had his worst start of the season at an inopportune time, serving up three home runs to #7 Texas A&M. They'll square off with the Crimson Tide for the chance to rematch the Aggies and keep their dream of an SEC title alive. Vanderbilt heads into this game with a bit of a question mark on the mound. After throwing Fulmer on Thursday, Tim Corbin will turn to the #2 spot in his rotation - a spot that has been fraught with instability all season.

Corbin gave Philip Pfeifer the Friday start against the Tide last week. The part-time reliever had struck out 13 Missouri Tigers in his previous start, but that magic wore off when he allowed eight baserunners and four runs in four innings against an up-and-down Alabama team. Vanderbilt went on to win 7-5 thanks to six early runs, but the junior's final line certainly doesn't inspire much confidence.

The Commodores had leaned on Jordan Sheffield to right the ship after Pfeifer struggled, but he won't be available on Friday. Sheffield tossed five shutout innings on Wednesday to give Vandy all the pitching they needed to stage a serious comeback win over Mizzou. Ryan Johnson, Tyler Ferguson, Collin Snider, and Aubrey McCarty are all also unlikely to pitch after taking the mound earlier in the SEC Tournament - though McCarty needed only 17 pitches to get through two innings yesterday.

If the 'Dores decide to empty the tank in order to ensure another day in Hoover, they could put Sunday starter Walker Buehler on the mound. Buehler's presence doesn't guarantee a win - he lost his last outing against the Tide - but he's trending upwards after allowing only one run in 6.2 innings against Alabama. John Kilichowski could also get the call to start.

Alabama started Jake Walters against the 'Dores last Friday, but he won't see the mound after throwing 5.1 innings in a loss to A&M on Wednesday. Top starter Taylor Guilbeau will also be unavailable. That leaves weekday starters Will Carter (4-5, 4.68 ERA) and Nick Eicholtz (3-1, 3.65) as the Tide's likely candidates. Neither one has pitched in Hoover so far. Alex Watkins (1-0, 5.46) is another possibility.

At the plate, 'Bama lacks the kind of game-changing power that wrecked Missouri in Vandy's first game and then came back to bite them against A&M. Casey Hughston is effective in all facets of the offensive game and could make life difficult for the 'Dores at the plate and on the basepaths. Shortstop Mikey White is an extra base machine. If Vanderbilt can shut those two down, they'll be able to keep Bama's from crossing home plate with regularity on Friday.

First pitch in at 3pm CST. You can watch all the action on the SEC Network.

Projected Starters

Vanderbilt: Philip Pfeifer (3-4, 4.36, 82 Ks in 64 innings)

or John Kilichowski (2-3, 3.35, 56 in 53.2)

or Walker Buehler (3-2, 2.97, 72 in 69.2)

AlabamaWill Carter (4-5, 4.68, 41 in 59.2)

or Nick Eicholtz (3-1, 3.65, 25 in 24.2)

or Alex Watkins (1-0, 5.46, 24 in 28)