The end of the SEC baseball season is near and there is still a ton to be decided and plenty of teams trying to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
While Tennessee is clearly the toast of the SEC – and all of college baseball – behind them is a crowded herd of good teams looking to make a statement each and every week, which Texas A&M continues to do after a big series win over Vanderbilt.
The Wild, Wild West
While the SEC East, and the SEC as a whole, has pretty much been decided with Tennessee way out front, the SEC West is wide open with three weeks left.
Arkansas remains the favorite after winning the rubber game on Sunday to secure a series win over Ole Miss at home. A Michael Turner two-run homer on Sunday helped give the Razorbacks the lead and ultimately the series.
Texas A&M continued their winning ways with a big series win over Vanderbilt. A great pitching performance by Nathan Dettmer on Thursday led to a 5-1 victory. The offense carried the way on Saturday led by Troy Claunch and Ryan Targac who combined for 7 hits and 10 RBI in a 12-4 win.
The Aggies are now in a three-way tie for second place in the SEC West.
Auburn is one of those three teams after picking up a lone win over the Volunteers this past weekend, which came with some drama as Tennessee was not pleased with this bat-flip by Bobby Peirce on a 3-run homer that broke a tie in the ninth inning.
And then there is LSU who delivered the walk-off of the weekend on Sunday to secure a series win over Georgia.
Looking at the schedules for these four teams down the stretch, Texas A&M has the most favorable schedule with South Carolina and Mississippi State at home before finishing at Ole Miss.
Auburn and Arkansas play a huge series next weekend. LSU has Alabama, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt the rest of the way.
Gamecocks Continue Dominance at Home
If South Carolina only played games at home they’d be one of the best teams in the country. As it is, they might not even be an at-large candidate for the NCAA Tournament.
They swept Alabama over the weekend bringing their home record to 18-9, including series wins over Texas and Vanderbilt.
Three early home runs gave South Carolina a 5-0 lead on Thursday, but Alabama tied it up in the 9th. However, the Gamecocks walked it off in the bottom half.
Friday was a great pitching matchup that ended in a 2-1 game. Noah Hall for South Carolina pitched 7 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits with 8 strikeouts.
The bats broke out on Saturday led by Andrew Eyster who was 3-4 with 2 runs and 6 RBI.
For Alabama, this was a disastrous weekend as they were trying to stay in the SEC West race and keep their NCAA Tournament chances alive – the Crimson Tide just simply couldn’t afford to get swept.
The Battle to Get to Hoover
Only two teams will not make the trip to Hoover, Alabama for the SEC Tournament, and the battle to stay out of those spots will be fierce over the next three weeks.
There are seven teams within three games of each other at the bottom of the standings. The teams in the hottest water right now are Missouri, Kentucky, and Ole Miss.
The Wildcats avoided getting swept by Florida with a win on Sunday, which was big for their chances of making Hoover. And the series win was even bigger for Florida who is only at eight wins in the conference.
Ole Miss won the first game in their series with Arkansas but dropped a couple of close ones on the road, keeping them in the basement of the SEC West.
Missouri won a series against Mississippi State, which kept them from the bottom the SEC East. Now Missouri, Kentucky, and Ole Miss are tied for the worst record in the SEC with Florida just one game ahead of them, while South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi State are just two games ahead.
Who gets to Hoover will be one of the more interesting races to watch down the stretch.
SEC Pitcher of the Year Candidates
Connor Noland (Arkansas): 2.77 ERA, 68.1 IP, 77 Ks
Chase Burns (Tennessee): 2.09 ERA, 56 IP, 75 Ks
Drew Beam (Tennessee): 2.14 ERA, 63 IP, 51 Ks, .153 opposing batting average
Jonathan Cannon (Georgia): 2.04 ERA, 57.1 IP, 53 Ks
SEC Player of the Year Candidates
Sonny DiChiara (Auburn): .436/.597/.842 with 13 home runs.
Dominic Keegan (Vanderbilt): .401/.473/.669 with 8 home runs and 43 RBI.
Jacob Berry (LSU): .368/.455/.661 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI.
Trey Lipscomb (Tennessee): .361/.429/.789 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI.