Hoover Hits: Stars Shine in SEC Tournament

HOOVER, Ala. – On Friday, South Carolina first baseman Ethan Petry added to his impressive resume in Hoover. One of the hottest prospects of the 2025 MLB draft, Petry collected his seventh hit of the SEC Tournament on a scorching double to left field.

The right-hander is a polished hitter with double-plus power. He sits at 44 homers and 128 RBIs in his college career. Petry is hitting near the top of the Gamecock lineup and continues to provide a steady presence for an offense that has experienced much ebb and flow in 2024. South Carolina had 43 runs in five games in the tournament. But it also led the tournament with 12 errors.

Cole Messina accounted for 16 RBIs during the tournament. The Gamecock backstop will be one of the first few college catchers off the draft board come July. Messina has well-rounded hit tools that precede his defensive ability. The power and comfortability was on display early in the tournament. Messina referenced his two-run, go-ahead blast that put South Carolina over Arkansas, 6-5, on Wednesday.

“I felt like the majority of the time, when I’m geared up for the good fastball, I just hit with my eyes more than not,” Messina said. “And I felt like I hit with my eyes on that pitch and took a good swing.”

Tennessee and its Star-Studded Cast

Tennessee will be well represented in the 2024 MLB draft. In Hoover, it was the usual suspects making noteworthy bullet points.

Blake Burke hit .529 for the week with nine hits, but none were more profound than his Friday night solo home run in the eighth inning against Mississippi State’s Tyler Davis. The barrel traveled 107 mph off the bat out right-center field and proved to be the game-winning run on that evening.

The Vols were 3-21 with runners on the night, despite Burke reaching base in all five plate appearances. The lefty slugger was named SEC Tournament MVP. Burke could easily be the second college first baseman off the board this July.

Through the first three innings of play on Friday, Tennessee’s Drew Beam looked outstanding against State. Beam sat at 32 pitches with 24 strikes. His two-seamer and heater looked optimal. Beam ended the night with four strikeouts and two walks, on top of two HBPs. There was moderate swing-and-miss with the curveball, but there were also control issues that bled into giving up the Volunteers’ lead during the fifth inning.

Christian Moore left Hoover tied for the tournament lead in doubles (3) and had one of the more impressive home runs at the event. The Vols second baseman sent a fastball from Vanderbilt’s Luke Guth over the batter’s eye at 113 mph on Saturday. Moore has experienced a surge in 2024, leading him to ascend into our list for a possible late first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft.

LSU Thrives in Hoover

Gage Jump is sporting a 9.2 K:BB rate since taking a loss to Tennessee on April 12. He’s allowed just nine earned runs in 38 innings during that span as well. His latest gem came Tuesday in LSU’s first game at Hoover against Georgia. Jump struck out seven Bulldogs in the same amount of innings, while allowing just one run. The southpaw features a fastball with tremendous shape and carry. The curveball plays well off of the heater.

After the Tuesday start, Jump recognized the off-speed has been a vital weapon recently, especially in advantage counts.

“Getting ahead, and I think throwing the curveball,” Jump said of the breaker. “Lately it’s just been kind of one off-speed pitch, but having both in my back pocket with the fastball really helped.”

Jump is an arm to watch in this summer’s draft. He could be a Day 2 prize for someone.

Much like Petry and Messina, Jared Jones is a thumper that provides a spark for his lineup. He projects as a first baseman, but also has experience behind the dish. He had four home runs in Hoover, one of which traveled 471 feet in the championship game off of Tennessee’s AJ Russell. Jones is a draft-eligible sophomore with power as the carrying trait.

The Tigers came to Hoover needing to improve on their resume, as they were sitting on 13 conference wins and in danger of landing outside the Top 30 in RPI leading up to tournament play. After earning their way to the championship, LSU walked away from the SEC showcase having gained the most in terms of their NCAA tournament profile.

Side Notes From the SEC Tournament

Gavin Casas had a three-run blast in the second inning to get the scoring started for South Carolina on Friday against Kentucky. The Gamecocks had a pair of three-run innings to top the Wildcats. Casas was sidelined during Saturday’s game versus LSU with a hamate bone injury.

This is the latest statement here from South Carolina coach Mark Kingston about the status of Casas:

“No positive news on Casas yet. It is a hamate issue, so we’re just going to have to continue to see what the doctors and him come up with and our athletic trainer, Corey Barton, who does a good job. Just going to have to see if they come up with anything that would allow him to play.”

Gavin is the brother of Triston, who plays for the Boston Red Sox. The former could be a popular mid-to-late round target for MLB teams this summer.

Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton joined Baseball Prospect Journal in March 2023 as a College Baseball Writer focusing on the Tennessee Volunteers. Follow Quinton on Twitter @LDQsports.

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