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Around The SEC: Baseball Weekend Preview - 5/3/13

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

SEC Standings

Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. Home Away Neutral Streak
Vanderbilt 19 - 2 .905 39 - 6 .867 27-3 12-3 0-0 W6
South Carolina 13 - 8 .619 33 - 12 .733 23-4 10-6 0-2 W2
Florida 12 - 10 .545 25 - 21 .543 17-14 8-6 0-1 L2
Kentucky 9 - 12 .429 26 - 17 .605 16-6 7-10 3-1 W1
Missouri 7 - 14 .333 15 - 25 .375 11-12 4-12 0-1 L1
Tennessee 6 - 15 .286 18 - 25 .419 10-11 6-12 2-2 L1
Georgia 4 - 16 .200 16 - 28 .364 10-18 5-10 1-0 L2
LSU 17 - 5 .773 41 - 6 .872 29-3 11-3 1-0 W2
Arkansas 13 - 7 .650 30 - 15 .667 22-8 7-3 0-4 W5
Alabama 11 - 9 .550 27 - 18 .600 18-8 9-8 0-2 W4
Ole Miss 11 - 10 .524 32 - 14 .696 20-8 12-4 0-2 W1
Mississippi St. 10 - 11 .476 33 - 13 .717 24-6 7-7 2-0 L3
Texas A&M 7 - 13 .350 23 - 22 .511 17-8 4-12 1-2 W1
Auburn 7 - 14 .333 25 - 18 .518 17-9 6-9 2-0 L2

Arkansas (30-15, 13-7) @ Kentucky (26-17, 9-12)

The Hogs have won their last four conference games and are giving LSU a late run for the SEC West crown. They continue to win with the league's best pitching staff while doing just barely enough at the plate...but they're winning right now. The Hogs lead the SEC with an insane 1.78 team ERA.

The Hogs' hosting picture right now is very murky with a poor RPI of #47. But if they were to conceivably catch LSU in the SEC West, that would certainly change. Their last three opponents (@ Kentucky, vs. Tennessee, @ Auburn) may allow them to really make things interesting down the stretch.

On the other hand, Kentucky had been in a serious slide before showing signs of life last weekend by taking two of three from Ole Miss in Oxford. At just 9-12 in the league and with Vanderbilt still on the schedule, their chances of hosting a regional are pretty much zero. But they're still squarely in the post-season mix and are hanging on in the national rankings at #23. A series win against Arkansas would help solidify their spot in the post-season.
Pick: Arkansas Wins 2 of 3

Alabama (27-18, 11-9) @ Mississippi State (33-13, 10-11)

After a hot start, Alabama has cooled a bit in SEC play. But to their credit, they haven't cooled off quite as much as people assumed they would. While it hasn't been pretty, they have won enough games to stay above .500 in league play and stay in the post-season mix. With a road series to Vanderbilt looming on the last weekend of the season, this weekend's contest in Starkville is a big one for the Tide.

On paper, the Tide are over-matched this weekend. State is a far superior team who was really starting to play to their potential before running into a buzz saw in Nashville last weekend when Vandy broomed them. They're looking to rebound.

With a nice overall record and a RPI hovering around #10, State is in the mix to host a regional and is likely fourth in line in the SEC behind Vandy, LSU and South Carolina. They're hoping to stay there. But at some point, their conference record will have to surge ahead of .500. Things aren't that easy down the stretch either, traveling to Ole Miss and hosting South Carolina. They really need to win the series this weekend.

And I think they will.
Prediction: Mississippi State sweeps

Ole Miss (32-14, 11-10) @ Auburn (25-18, 7-14)

Ole Miss had won six SEC games in a row and seemed to be finding their groove before unexpectedly losing a home series to Kentucky last weekend. Ole Miss is a good team that does a lot of things very well, but they just can't seem to quite get everything together at the same time. This weekend provides them a good opportunity to start.

The Rebs are in good shape for the post-season but have very little chance to host at this point. They are ranked #24 and have a RPI of #20, but it would take a serious run to be anything other than a #2 seed. They must also still play two of the league's top teams in LSU and Mississippi State, so it's tough to see them finishing with any better than 16 conference wins. Life in the SEC is tough and the Rebs seem to be resigned to that fact.

Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl continues to dominate, now at 8-0 with a 1.22 ERA.

As for Auburn, they're not a very good baseball team. But they have won at least one game in each of the last four series, which tells me they're still playing hard and that they're capable. The Auburn faithful are getting restless and even HC John Pawlowski's strongest supporters believe the winds of change are blowing.
Prediction: Ole Miss Wins 2 of 3

Missouri (15-25, 7-14) @ Texas A&M (23-22, 7-13)

This is the battle of the SEC's newcomers, and neither have impressed in their inaugural SEC season. In fact, they've both been just....really bad. The Aggies started conference play at 5-1 before the wheels just fell off. They're just 2-13 in the conference since then. That's a little surprising because traditionally, A&M has a strong baseball program.

Missouri has just been consistently bad, but they have won two of their last four conference series. So that's something.

At this point, it's really, really tough to see either team in the post-season. Missouri is definitely out, and it's pretty much over for the Aggies too.

Not much intrigue here.
Prediction: Texas A&M Wins 2 of 3

Vanderbilt (39-6, 19-2) @ South Carolina (33-12, 13-8)

This should be a really fun series. Vandy is obviously RIDICULOUS right now. They're on fire and just got finished sweeping a good Mississippi State team. But South Carolina is fresh off a road series win against LSU, and their confidence is sky high, too. It should be a fantastic atmosphere in Columbia all weekend.

Both teams are among the league leaders in both hitting and pitching. Vandy leads the SEC in team batting average but South Carolina leads the team in home runs. Vanderbilt does an excellent job of executing and moving runners all over the bases. They lead the conference in both walks, on base percentage (.414!!) and stolen bases. They're also way up there in sacrifices. They also lead the conference in doubles, triples, and slugging. So they really put a lot of pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense. To top it off, they do have 30 home runs which isn't awful.

South Carolina's lefty-heavy rotation can, at times, be a neutralizer. It will be fun to see if they can slow down Vandy right now.

Vanderbilt is cruising towards a national seed while South Carolina is in great position to host a regional. They'd like to get into the conversation for a national seed, as well. Winning a series against Vanderbilt would really put them in the mix. Ranked #15 and with a RPI of #9, they're not far off from where they need to be.

This is the time of year when South Carolina starts really, really playing well. It has been a little too easy for Vanderbilt and South Carolina is a really tough place to play. I think the Cocks get it done this weekend.
Prediction: South Carolina Wins 2 of 3

Georgia (16-28, 4-16) @ Tennessee (18-25, 6-15)

There's really not anything interesting going on in this series. These two are battling for the cellar. Neither team has a prayer of any kind of post-season. Not surprisingly, these two bring up the rear in the conference in team ERA.

Georgia does have a win over Vanderbilt on their resume and they beat Georgia Tech 17-0 last week. So they have that going for them. Regardless, I think Tennessee takes the series.
Prediction: Tennessee Wins 2 of 3