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Around The SEC: Baseball Weekend Preview 4/19/13

A look around the league, previewing the weekend in SEC Baseball

SEC Standings

Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. Home Away Neutral Streak
Vanderbilt 14 - 1 .933 33 - 5 .868 24-3 9-2 0-0 L1
Florida 8 - 7 .533 20 - 18 .526 14-13 6-4 0-1 W6
South Carolina 8 - 7 .533 28 - 10 .737 20-5 8-3 0-2 W1
Kentucky 7 - 8 .467 24 - 12 .667 16-6 5-5 3-1 L3
Tennessee 5 - 10 .333 17 - 18 .486 10-7 5-9 2-2 W3
Missouri 4 - 11 .267 12 - 20 .375 8-7 4-12 0-1 L3
Georgia 3 - 12 .200 14 - 24 .368 9-14 5-10 0-0 W2
LSU 13 - 2 .867 35 - 3 .921 25-1 9-2 1-0 W2
Arkansas 9 - 6 .600 25 - 14 .651 19-7 5-3 0-4 L3
Mississippi St. 8 - 7 .533 30 - 9 .769 22-5 6-4 2-0 W4
Alabama 8 - 7 .533 23 - 16 .590 15-6 8-8 0-2 W1
Ole Miss 7 - 8 .467 26 - 12 .684 18-6 8-4 0-2 L2
Texas A&M 6 - 9 .400 21 - 17 .553 16-8 3-7 1-2 L4
Auburn 5 - 10 .333 23 - 14 .622 17-9 4-5 2-0 W1

Vanderbilt (33-5, 14-1) @ Georgia (14-24, 3-12)

Coming off three straight sweeps, Vanderbilt takes their league leading 14-1 conference record to Georgia this weekend to play the league's worst team. It's tough to say that any SEC team should sweep when they're playing away from home, but I think we'd all agree it would be a mild shock if the Dores didn't bust out the brooms for the fourth straight time come Sunday.

Vandy has overtaken LSU as the SEC's top hitting team with a .314 batting average (LSU is at .309), and they also lead the league in stolen bases with 87. Nobody is even close to matching them in steals. They're led by spark plug Tony Kemp who leads off for Vandy and leads the team in hitting, runs, steals, and on base percentage.

Vandy's schedule does toughen up some after this weekend. Out of conference, they travel to play a good Louisville team next Tuesday. Within the conference, they must still face some of the league's better teams, including Mississippi State, South Carolina and Kentucky. Regardless, Vanderbilt is steamrolling towards a National Top-8 seed.

As for Georgia, they have no hope of reaching the post-season and despite a few decent sticks in the lineup, they're probably just playing out the string at this point.
Pick: Vanderbilt Sweeps

Texas A&M (21-17, 6-9) @ Arkansas (25-14, 9-6)

After seemingly righting the ship, the Hogs have had a rough go of things lately. Losing a home series to LSU is nothing to be ashamed of. But following that up by losing a double-header to Nebraska doesn't help, especially when you go hitless in one of the games. Suddenly, Arkansas has lost four of their last five and six of their last eight.

Regardless, the Hogs are not struggling as much as the Aggies. After a 5-1 start in the conference, the Ags have won just one of their next nine and that includes a series loss at home to Auburn. Eesh. In Perfect Game's most recent projection for the Field of 64, the Aggies don't make it.

My guess is that Arkansas bounces back this weekend to win this series and possibly sweep, but the Aggies may come out swinging and could benefit from the "backs against the wall" effect.
Pick: Arkansas Wins 2 of 3

Florida (20-18, 8-7) @ Missouri (12-20, 4-11)

The real story here is the Gators and how well they've been playing lately. They have won two of their last three SEC series, all against quality teams, with their most recent including a sweep of South Carolina. They also notched a win over Florida Gulf Coast this week, a team with a #34 RPI that had swept the Gators earlier in the season. So despite their really rough start to this season, Florida is definitely playing their best baseball right now.

Missouri is just not very good, and they don't have a whole lot to play for. Barring something really silly, it's tough to see them winning more than one this weekend. I'm sure the Gators will be thinking about a sweep though. If they get it, they'll be in nice position with a 11-7 conference record and a very healthy RPI (currently #11). It's tough to see them working their way back into the conversation to host a Regional, but a #2 seed seems likely if they keep it up.
Pick: Florida Sweeps

Kentucky (24-12, 7-8) @ South Carolina (28-10, 8-7)

Like the Arkansas/A&M series, this one also features a pair of teams looking to rebound. Kentucky peaked a couple of weeks ago in terms of national perception. But getting swept at LSU and losing a home series to Tennessee has sent their stock plummeting. Add in a mid-week loss to Louisville and the fact that star pitcher Corey Litrell has been knocked around in his last two starts, and their confidence can't be too high right now. They're still ranked #17 in the polls with a RPI of #25, so they could potentially work their way back into the conversation to host a Regional, but they better start this weekend. A series win in Columbia would look nice on the resume.

Carolina is looking to bounce back after suffering a sweep at Florida. Surprisingly, that's the second time the Cocks have been swept this season. Prior to that, the Cocks were playing pretty good ball, winning six straight conference games. In their last four SEC series, Carolina has either swept the opponent or been swept. They are very much in the picture to host a Regional and would like to stick their nose into the discussion for a National Top-8 seed too. Beating a quality Kentucky team this weekend is a must in order for that to happen.

South Carolina's ace, Nolan Belcher, has been outstanding in SEC play and is currently fourth in the league with a 1.63 ERA.
Pick: South Carolina Wins 2 of 3

Ole Miss (26-12, 7-8) @ Tennessee (17-18, 5-10)

Ole Miss pulled themselves off the mat last weekend by sweeping Alabama. That comes after losing five of six to Florida and Vanderbilt the previous two weekends. However, they've had a rough week so far dropping mid-week games to Memphis and Southern Miss. Memphis shut out the Rebs.

Tennessee is not very good, but they can hit a little bit and they did just win a home series against Kentucky. So perhaps they have some confidence brewing. But the odds favor Ole Miss to win the series.

Ole Miss must still travel to Auburn and LSU while hosting Mississippi State and Kentucky. So their remaining schedule isn't overwhelming, but it's not easy either. Unless they really start playing better, it's tough to see them climbing into the discussion to host a Regional, but they're squarely in the post-season mix. Both their ranking and RPI is #21 this week.

Stuart Turner (.380 / .550 / .452) is one of the better hitters in the league and Bobby Wahl (7-0, 1.48 ERA, .196 BA against), is one of the SEC's top arms.
Pick: Ole Miss Wins 2 of 3

Auburn (23-14, 5-10) @ Mississippi State (30-9, 8-7)

State is grinding their way through this SEC season but steadily climbing back up the rankings after a 3-6 start to conference play. They faced solid opponents in the first three weekends in LSU, Kentucky and Arkansas. But since then, they have won five of their last six, including a series win against Florida and a sweep of Texas A&M. They also notched a "non-conference" win against Ole Miss last week. At #16 in the polls and #9 in the RPI, the Dawgs are squarely in the mix to host a Regional. Hosting Auburn this weekend provides them a great opportunity to notch some SEC wins so that their conference record can catch up with their overall record and RPI. They better get the wins this weekend because they travel to Vanderbilt next weekend and still must host South Carolina and travel to Ole Miss.

Auburn....well, they're not last in the SEC, and that's more than their football team or basketball team can say. So there's that. In all honesty, the War Eagles have won their last two SEC series, albeit against Texas A&M and Georgia. They have won seven of nine overall and might have some confidence cooking up. Auburn is likely toast as far as qualifying for any kind of post-season, but they could relish playing the role of spoiler during the last month of conference play.

UPDATE: This is this week's Thursday series. Play was suspended last night due to lightning, 6-3 State in the bottom of the 7th. It will be resumed late on Friday after the conclusion of today's game

Pick: Mississippi State Sweeps