In & around SEC baseball

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

Southeastern Conference baseball is in full swing, and the league is looking to reestablish itself as the premier baseball conference. The SEC won three straight NCAA championships before South Carolina fell to Arizona in the College World Series last season.

Seven SEC teams currently are in the national top 25 rankings, including No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Vanderbilt, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 10 South Carolina, No. 14 Kentucky, No. 16 Mississippi State and No. 23 Ole Miss. LSU and Vanderbilt have been the league’s two best teams all season, and each have already eclipsed 30 wins this year.

After a slow start to the season, Alabama has played much better since conference play started. The Crimson Tide currently are 21-13 overall and 8-4 in the SEC, good for third place in the SEC West.

Auburn started off the season in good shape, but the Tigers have struggled tremendously since league play began last month. The Tigers are 19-13 overall and 3-9 in conference play. Much like football and basketball, Auburn currently resides in last place in the SEC West.

There are still over six weeks left of regular season games before the conference tournament, so no team is out of contention just yet. However, teams that have stumbled out of the gate need to start winning games immediately and play more consistently if they want a chance to reach the postseason.

SEC baseball rankings
 1. LSU (31-2, 11-1)
 2. Vanderbilt (30-4, 11-1)
 3. South Carolina (27-7, 8-4)
 4. Arkansas (24-10, 8-4)
 5. Kentucky (23-9, 6-6)
 6. Alabama (21-13, 8-4)
 7. Mississippi State (27-9, 5-7)
 8. Texas A&M (21-13, 6-6)
 9. Ole Miss (23-10, 4-8)
 10. Florida (16-18, 5-7)
 11. Auburn (19-13, 3-9)
 12. Tennessee (14-17, 3-9)
 13. Missouri (12-17, 4-8)
 14. Georgia (12-22, 2-10)

Previews and Predictions
Thursday, April 11- Sunday, April 14

South Carolina at Florida. The Gators entered 2013 with high expectations but have been a disappointment all season. South Carolina is one of the best schools in the conference this year, which is impressive after three straight national championship appearances. Florida desperately needs to take this series to gain momentum for the rest of the year, but look for the Gamecocks to leave Gainesville with a series win. Series prediction: South Carolina 2, Florida 1.

Tennessee at Kentucky. The Wildcats started the season in the top 5 but have yet to meet expectations so far this year. This weekend’s series against Tennessee provides a great opportunity for Kentucky to pick up some much-needed confidence.If the Wildcats lose to their neighboring rival, however, this season could turn in an ugly direction. Series prediction: Kentucky 3, Tennessee 0.

Georgia at Auburn. Right now, these are the two worst teams from each conference division. Georgia has been awful all season, but Auburn has shown signs of life throughout various points of the year. This series is a must-win for the Tigers. Auburn has been plagued by inconsistency all season, but a win over Georgia might help turn things around on the Plains. Series prediction: Auburn 2, Georgia 1.

Missouri at Vanderbilt. The title of this series should be “Mismatch of the Weekend.” The Commodores are one of the best teams in the league and in the nation. On the other hand, the Tigers have had a difficult time navigating their way through their SEC schedule. This series should be an easy one for Vanderbilt. Series prediction: Vanderbilt 3, Missouri 0.

LSU at Arkansas. These two rivals square off in a crucial SEC West battle in Fayetteville this weekend, and the Razorbacks desperately need to pull off the upset. LSU currently is in first place in the SEC West, while the Razorbacks are second. If the Hogs can steal this series, it would make for a very intriguing SEC West race down the stretch. If not, the Tigers might run away with this division. Series prediction: LSU 3, Arkansas 0.

Mississippi State at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs have been quietly good all season, while the Aggies have been inconsistent. Texas A&M is capable of winning this series, especially since it’s in College Station, but Mississippi State has played well both at home and on the road all year. The winner of this series will be in position to finish in the top three of the SEC West. Series prediction: Mississippi State 2, Texas A&M 1.

SEC Series of the Week

Alabama at Ole Miss. After high expectations to start the season, Ole Miss has struggled in recent weeks. Hitting has been nonexistent and the pitching staff has been equally bad. Alabama has gotten off to a great start in SEC play, but the Crimson Tide have a difficult upcoming schedule. Both teams desperately need this series, but look for the Rebels to get back on track this weekend in Oxford. Series prediction: Ole Miss 2, Alabama 1.

 
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