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SEC Weekly Roundup (Mar. 16-19): Now the Fun Begins

While it’s just been one weekend of conference play in the SEC, everything points to this being the deepest the league has ever been – and that’s saying something.

Missouri, picked to finish last in the SEC East, swept Tennessee this past weekend showing they are a real force this year.

Vanderbilt also made a loud statement this past weekend sweeping the defending College World Series champions in dominating fashion.

There is a long way to go in the SEC season, but with the number of good teams in the conference it’s important to get off to a good start and even more important to not get buried early in the season.

Is Mizzou for real?

Going all the way back to week one when Missouri had a strong showing at the College Baseball Showdown, there was optimism that this team could be for real, but we wanted to see what happened once they got into conference play.

Sweeping the second-ranked Volunteers at home while giving up just 6 total runs in the three games is pretty convincing that they are for real.

Weather was a huge factor in this series with temperatures close to freezing and strong winds. The teams played a 7-inning double-header on Sunday as a result.

Chandler Murphy and Rorik Maltrud combined to allow just 1 earned run on 3 hits and 2 walks with 10 strikeouts on Friday, while Dalton Bargo had a pair of hits and 2 RBI.

Bargo had 2 more hits, including a home run, and 2 RBI in the first game of the double-header on Sunday – a 7-4 win for Missouri.

Missouri finished the sweep with a 7-1 win. Austin Troesser, Tony Neubeck, and Maltrud combined to allow just 1 hit to the Tennessee offense with 12 strikeouts in 7 innings.

There are certainly some concerns with the Tennessee offense that has yet to reach its potential. Perhaps even more concerning is that Chase Dollander and Chase Burns combined to allow 13 runs on the weekend. We’ll see how the Volunteers respond back at home next weekend against Texas A&M.

Missouri will head to South Carolina who had an equally impressive sweep over the weekend.

Vandy’s bats unleash in sweep over defending champs

The one perceived weakness for Vanderbilt through the first four weeks were the bats. Just a weekend ago they only scored 10 total runs in three games against Loyola Marymount.

Those concerns have been tempered, for the moment, after an impressive weekend sweep against Ole Miss in which they scored a total of 27 runs.

The pitching remains great as they only allowed 4 runs all weekend to a powerful Ole Miss lineup.

Carter Holton pitched 6 strong innings in game one, while RJ Schreck, Parker Noland, and Matthew Polk all drove in 3 runs.

Hunter Owen tossed a complete game shutout in game two allowing just 2 hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts.

Enrique Bradfield Jr. had 3 hits and scored 2 runs, while RJ Austin drove in four.

Ole Miss showed their power in the finale with home runs by Jacob Gonzalez and Calvin Harris to give them an early 2-0 lead. Then, Vanderbilt scored the final 7 runs of the game for the win and sweep. This time it was Jack Bulger for the Commodores, who led the offense with 2 hits, a home run, and 3 RBI.

Ole Miss may finally be feeling the effects of losing Friday night starter Hunter Elliott, but their offense should be good enough to keep them competitive in the SEC.

Vandy has a good chance to continue its hot streak against a struggling Mississippi State next weekend, while it doesn’t get any easier for Ole Miss facing Florida’s rotation.

LSU starts SEC play with solid road series win

Playing on the road in the SEC is not an easy task, so winning a series at Texas A&M is a solid start to conference play for the top-ranked Tigers of LSU. However, you kind of walk away from that series thinking they could have done more.

Friday night is almost a guaranteed win for LSU right now with the way Paul Skenes is pitching. He’s looking like the best pitcher in all of college baseball and perhaps the top pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.

He struck out 11 batters over 6.1 scoreless innings without walking a batter and only giving up 4 hits leading LSU to a 9-0 win in game one.

Dylan Crews, another LSU candidate to go first overall in the draft, had 2 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs scored. Tommy White drove in three.

Texas A&M took a 4-0 lead in game two before LSU broke out with a 6-run fourth inning followed by a pair of 3-run innings later in the game before winning 12-7.

This game was pretty ugly on the mound as the two teams combined for 17 walks – 11 by A&M pitching.

White had another big game with 3 hits, 3 runs, and 3 RBI. Jared Jones drove in seven on 4 hits, including a 3-run homer.

In the finale it was A&M’s turn for a comeback after LSU posted a four spot in the top of the first. The Aggies chipped away before having their own 4-run inning in the 8th to win 8-6.

Stanley Tucker had the big 2 RBI single to give Texas A&M the lead.

Will Johnston was great out of the bullpen to close out the game for the Aggies allowing just 1 hit with no walks and 3 strikeouts in the final 3 innings.

LSU gets Arkansas at home next weekend while Texas A&M goes to Knoxville to face an angry Tennessee team who just got swept.

Time to take these Gamecocks seriously

There was some hype on South Carolina coming into the season, but that hype is about to go through the roof after going on the road to sweep Georgia.

Game one of this series was perhaps the best game of the weekend with Will Sanders and Jaden Woods each going 7 innings.

Woods struck out 11 and left with his Georgia Bulldogs leading 4-3.

Then, Michael Braswell had a huge two-strike pinch-hit double in the top of the 9th to give South Carolina the lead for good with a 5-4 win.

The rest of the weekend was complete domination by South Carolina as they run-ruled Georgia 12-2 and 12-1 in the next two games.

Noah Hall tossed a 7-inning complete game in game two. Ethan Petry was 4-4 at the plate with 2 home runs and 5 RBI.

Will McGillis and Gavin Casas each homered twice in the finale as Jack Mahoney tossed 6 solid innings.

Now, South Carolina will go home to face another sleeper in the SEC East coming off a big sweep in Missouri.

Meanwhile, Georgia will go to Auburn for a huge rivalry matchup between teams who both got swept during the first weekend of SEC play.

Gators win compelling series over Alabama

In what was perhaps the best played series of the weekend, Florida came away with a good series win. But Alabama was impressive in the loss and could be a team to watch going forward.

Brandon Sproat was nearly unhittable in game one of this series tossing a complete game shutout allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks with 11 strikeouts. The Gators needed it as Bama got some great pitching as well from Hagan Banks and Hunter Furtado.

Cade Kurland hit a big 2-run homer in the 6th and Florida added one more in the seventh for a 3-0 win.

Game two of this series was a back-and-forth contest that saw each team swap 3-run homers in the first inning. Bama took a 5-3 lead in the 5th. Florida tied it up in the 6th. The Tide went back up 6-5 in the 7th, but the Gators tied it in the bottom half.

Once again, Alabama took a one-run lead in the eighth.

Colby Halter led off the bottom of the ninth with a game-tying home run.

Three straight batters then reached to load the bases for this walk-off dribbler by Josh Rivera.

Florida really showed off its power in game two with four home runs that really kept them in the game. Kurland, Rivera, BT Riopelle, and Halter all went deep.

Game three was another tight contest, but this time Alabama held on for the 6-3 win with a Caden Rose 2-run homer in the eighth creating some insurance.

Kade Woods was able to shut the door for the Crimson Tide, not allowing a hit or a walk over the final 2.2 innings with 7 strikeouts.

Alabama goes home to face a hot Kentucky team who is coming off a sweep of Mississippi State. Florida goes on the road to face the defending CWS champions who were just swept.

Arkansas somehow flying under the radar

The Razorbacks have been a perennial powerhouse in college baseball, but they seem to be an afterthought in this year’s SEC class with a ton of talk about LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida at the top.

But after sweeping Auburn this past weekend, they are now 18-2 on the season with quality wins over Texas, Oklahoma State, Louisiana Tech, and now Auburn.

As for Auburn, they’re really struggling right now without Joseph Gonzalez in the starting rotation and Bobby Pierce in the lineup.

They were never really in any of these three games as Arkansas won 7-2, 9-3, and 5-0.

Interesting to note, Hagan Smith had been the team’s Friday starter for the first four weeks but Dave Van Horn used him out of the bullpen this past weekend.

Smith pitched 3 hitless innings with 5 strikeouts to finish game one and then pitched the final 0.2 innings of game three.

It didn’t seem to affect the starting rotation as Hunter Hollan, Will McEntire, and Cody Adcock each went 6 innings.

Kendall Diggs, Brady Slavens, and Jared Wegner had good weekends at the plate for Arkansas. Wegner hit a home run that still hasn’t landed yet.

The Razorbacks can really grab some national attention if they can take down top-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge next weekend. Auburn will face Georgia at home with both teams searching for their first SEC win.

Is Kentucky that good or Mississippi State that bad?

In the battle for the basement (as I had both Kentucky and Mississippi State ranked at the bottom of last week’s SEC Power Rankings) it was the Wildcats playing at home who pretty clearly looked like the better team getting the sweep.

Similar to the South Carolina-Georgia series, game one was close with Kentucky getting a walk-off 6-5 win in 10 innings. But then Kentucky dominated the rest of the weekend with 12-3 and 17-3 wins.

Game one ended in the worst way possible for Mississippi State as the winning run scored on a 2-out, 2-strike wild pitch.

Hunter Hines gave Mississippi State a 3-0 lead in game two with a pair of home runs in the first four innings. But then Kentucky scored 12 unanswered and Ryan Hagenow finished off the game on the mound with 4.1 scoreless innings allowing 1 hit, no walks, and 5 strikeouts.

Despite allowing 8 walks and 7 hits in game three, Kentucky pitching only allowed 3 runs (2 earned). Which was plenty as the offense unloaded with 17 runs led by leadoff man Jackson Gray who was 4-5 with 3 runs and 3 RBI.

Next weekend should be an interesting series as Kentucky goes to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama with both teams trying to show they should move up a tier in the conference.

Mississippi State has some solid bats in guys like Amani Larry, Hines, and Kellum Clark. They’ll have to figure out their pitching quick as they host Vanderbilt next weekend.

SEC Power Rankings Week 5

Tier 1

1. LSU

2. Florida (up one)

3. Vanderbilt (up two)

4. Arkansas (up two)

Tier 2

5. South Carolina (up 2)

6. Tennessee (down 4)

7. Ole Miss (down 3)

8. Missouri (up 3)

Tier 3

9. Alabama (up 1)

10. Texas A&M (down 2)

Tier 4

11. Georgia (down 2)

12. Kentucky (up 2)

Tier 5

13. Auburn (down 1)

14. Mississippi State (down 1)


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