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Around The SEC: Baseball Weekend Preview - 5/9/13

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

SEC Standings

Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. Home Away Neutral Streak
Vanderbilt 21 - 2 .913 41 - 6 .872 27-3 14-3 0-0 W8
South Carolina 13 - 10 .565 33 - 14 .702 23-6 10-6 0-2 L2
Florida 12 - 12 .500 27 - 23 .540 19-14 8-8 0-1 W2
Kentucky 10 - 14 .417 28 - 19 .596 18-8 7-10 3-1 W2
Missouri 7 - 17 .292 15 - 28 .349 11-12 4-15 0-1 L4
Tennessee 6 - 16 .273 18 - 26 .409 10-12 6-12 2-2 L2
Georgia 5 - 16 .238 17 - 28 .378 10-18 6-10 1-0 W1
LSU 19 - 5 .792 43 - 6 .878 31-3 11-3 1-0 W4
Arkansas 15 - 8 .652 32 - 16 .667 22-8 9-4 0-4 L1
Mississippi St. 13 - 11 .542 36 - 13 .735 27-6 7-7 2-0 W3
Ole Miss 12 - 12 .500 33 - 16 .673 20-8 13-6 0-2 L2
Alabama 11 - 12 .478 28 - 21 .571 19-8 9-11 0-2 W1
Texas A&M 10 - 13 .435 26 - 22 .542 20-8 4-12 1-2 W4
Auburn 9 - 15 .375 28 - 19 .596 19-10 7-9 2-0


Tennessee (18-26, 6-16) @ Arkansas (32-16, 15-8)

The Hogs are playing well right now. Since losing the series to LSU, Arkansas has won seven of nine conference games, and they're right on the bubble in terms of hosting a regional. College Baseball Daily's latest projections have Fayeteville as a host location and with Tennessee and Auburn the only SEC teams remaining on the schedule, the Hogs could go to Hoover as one of the hottest teams in the league...and the country.

In classic Arkansas style, the Hogs took a road series at Kentucky and scored just ten runs all weekend. But that's how this team rolls...with one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. Over their last seven games, Arkansas is averaging just 3.14 runs per game. That's not good. But they've won six of those seven games. They lean heavily on their pitchers to be nearly flawless, but they seem to figure out a way to win each night.

Tennessee was only able to get in one game last weekend against Georgia due to weather, and they lost 8-7. The Vols appear to have hit the skids on the season, simply playing out the string. They have lost eight of the last nine, including a pair of mid-week contests to Middle Tennessee State.

Arkansas has only swept one series this year which was, oddly enough, at South Carolina. The timing, momentum, etc all seem right for another one here. If I'm right, that will keep the pressure on LSU a bit in the SEC West standings.
Prediction: Arkansas Sweeps

Mississippi State (36-13, 13-11) @ Ole Miss (33-16, 12-12)

State earned a much needed sweep of Alabama last weekend, and after a slow start in league play, their conference record is starting to catch up to their RPI and to the quality of team they are. State's RPI is all the way up to #9, and they're a host site in every projection I can find. Short of going on a crazy run, I can't see them entering the national seed discussion, so their focus is on remaining a host site at this point.

Ole Miss, on the other hand, is limping into this weekend after losing their second straight series...the latest to Auburn. Things seemed to be looking up for the Rebs after consecutive sweeps of Alabama and Tennessee a few weeks back, but going 2-4 against Kentucky and Auburn has brought them back to reality. For now, the Rebs are still squarely in the post-season with a solid RPI of #20. But with a tough series against State and a road trip to Baton Rouge in their near future, they need to be careful.

This series features two of the league's top hitters in State's Hunter Renfroe (.394 / .488 / .781, 15 HR, 49 RBI) and Ole Miss's Stuart Turner (.397 / .454 / .580, 5 HR, 46 RBI). Along with LSU's Mason Katz and Alex Bregman, Renfroe is among the favorites to win the SEC Player Of The Year.
Prediction: Mississippi State Wins 2 of 3

Missouri (15-28, 7-17) @ Alabama 28-21, 11-12)

After a hot start, most figured Alabama would eventually fade and come back to Earth. And that's exactly what happened. After starting SEC play with a 7-2 record, they've gone 4-10 since. Despite still being in good shape for making the NCAA Tournament, this weekend is an important one for the Tide. Next week, Bama travels to Vanderbilt, so they really need to win the series this weekend. Losing this weekend could put them in position where they only end up with 12 conference wins and a mediocre overall record.

Not much to say about Missouri. They were swept by a very average Texas A&M team last weekend, and they scored just seven runs in those three games. They're dead last in the league in hitting, 12th in pitching, and 13th in fielding. But for now, they're head of Georgia and Tennessee in the standings, so there's that.
Prediction: Alabama Wins 2 of 3

Auburn (28-19, 9-15) @ Florida (27-23, 12-12)

Florida had really pulled themselves together after a rough start to the season. They were playing very good baseball, which included a sweep of South Carolina. But last weekend, the ran into a LSU team that was angry after losing a series the previous weekend and were swept. So they'll be looking to have a rebound of their own this weekend against an Auburn team that could be running into a buzz saw.

Auburn is coming off an unexpected series win against Ole Miss and suddenly, they MIGHT have something to play for. They have a solid overall record and a RPI of #41. Their strength of schedule is also up there at #37. With Florida and Arkansas on the schedule, it won't be easy, at all. But they may...MAY be able to play their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion if they can somehow manage to win four or five of the next six and then have a nice showing in Hoover. It's highly unlikely, but they may have something to play for now, which is a stark contrast to just a week ago.

In the end, I believe they're going to hit that buzz saw though.
Prediction: Florida Sweeps

Vanderbilt (41-6, 21-2) @ Kentucky (28-19, 10-14)

At this point, Vanderbilt is playing against the SEC history books. 21 conference wins is usually enough to win the league and earn a national seed. LSU won the SEC outright with 20 wins in 2009 and 19 last year. In 2008, LSU was 18-12 and earned a national seed. Vandy is accomplishing unprecedented things. But, the league title is not totally wrapped up because LSU is having a really fine season, too. The Tigers are 2.5 games behind Vandy with six to play. It's unlikely they can catch the Dores, but it provides Vandy with a reason to stay motivated.

Remember when Kentucky was ranked in the Top-10 and when LSU's sweep of them was a big deal? Counting the LSU series, they're 4-11 in conference play over the last five weekends, and their star is fading quickly. They still have a good RPI of #28, and they have the luxury of finishing the season against Missouri. But suffering a sweep this weekend would put Kentucky at 10-17 in SEC play, and that's not a good thing.
Prediction: Vanderbilt Sweeps (I'm an idiot not to predict this)

Georgia (17-28, 5-16) @ South Carolina (33-14, 13-10)

South Carolina is a really good team and after a confidence building series win in Baton Rouge, I thought they'd return home and win the series against Vanderbilt. In a two game series cut short by rain, the Cocks lost both. Oops. But Carolina is still an awfully good team, and they'll get the chance to take out their frustrations on the league's worst team this weekend, at home. Ranked #8 and with a RPI of #11, it's not out of the question that the Cocks receive a national seed with a strong finish. Barring a collapse, they should at least host a Regional.

They'll travel to Mississippi State for the final regular season series, so taking care of business this weekend is a must.

I don't see any way Georgia surprises and wins this series, but they could posisbly steal one game. They're overmatched and in a tough spot this weekend.
Prediction: South Carolina Sweeps