The East is close to being a three-team race already, with Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee all tanking over the weekend. (Not that anyone really expected Georgia or Tennessee to win the division at this point.) The West might be slightly more competitive even with Alabama moving in the wrong direction.
|SEC EAST||SEC WEST|
|SEC W-L||Overall W-L||SEC W-L||Overall W-L|
South Carolina now establishes a one-game lead in the SEC East after winning its series against Auburn, and LSU is back where everyone thought they belonged -- No. 1 in the SEC West. Kentucky and Alabama's early-season hopes seem to be evaporating, and Tennessee is almost making Georgia look good.
|LSU defeats Tennessee, 3-0|
|Friday||LSU 6||Tennessee 2|
|Saturday (Gm 1)||LSU 10||Tennessee 6|
|Saturday (Gm 2)||LSU 8||Tennessee 6|
A three-game sweep gives LSU the division lead and comes close to officially ending any optimism in Knoxville. The only thing Tennessee can say in defense of its 0-6 record at this point is that it's played the two best teams in the league, but it's not clear that their results indicate they'll do any better against the good and even middling second tier of the league. Anthony Ranaudo returned for LSU on Saturday, and the Tigers had to be happy to see him throw two scoreless innings to start the game. Meanwhile, Tennessee's Nick Blount allowed five runs, four earned, in 1.2 innings, giving LSU a late lead. The Bayou Bengals didn't get the best performance out of Joey Bourgeois during hte Saturday nightcap (5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, K), but scored a run each in the eighth and the ninth for the sweep.
|South Carolina defeats Auburn, 2-1|
|Friday||South Carolina 11||Auburn 5|
|Saturday||South Carolina 2||Auburn 0|
|Sunday||Auburn 10||South Carolina 6|
Auburn's bullpen didn't have the greatest weekend in the world -- both of South Carolina's runs on Saturday game in the final two innings -- but the Tigers are the first team to defeat the Gamecocks in 14 games and remain a factor in the SEC West, so the series wasn't a wipeout. Three pitchers combined on Saturday to give South Carolina its second league shutout of the year, with Sam Dyson leading the way with nine strikeouts. Jackie Bradley Jr. appears to be recovering nicely, going 2-for-5 on Sunday with 2 RBIs in the loss. We'll get a much clearer picture of just how good Auburn is in the next two weekends, when they play Alabama and LSU. After the month's first series against Missisippi State, South Carolina's April is also no picnic.
|Ole Miss defeats Florida, 2-1|
|Friday||Ole Miss 3||Florida 2|
|Saturday||Ole Miss 15||Florida 3|
|Sunday||Florida 13||Ole Miss 1|
So much for a rebuilding year in Oxford, though the team is developing an odd habit of swapping blowouts with league opponents and winning a close game for the series. Each of the Rebels' five pitchers allowed at least one earned run Sunday after each of Florida's pitchers allowed at least two Saturday. As long as Drew Pomeranz is going to pitch a game each weekend, though, you have to like your chances. As for Florida, this wasn't a three-alarm fire for their league championship hopes, but it also wasn't something they can ignore. The Florida lineup left 27 men on base during the series, 11 each in Friday and Saturday's games. That's fine if you're scoring six or seven runs, but not if you're just getting two or three.
|Arkansas defeats Alabama, 3-0|
|Friday||Arkansas 9||Alabama 8|
|Saturday||Arkansas 4||Alabama 3|
|Sunday||Arkansas 10||Alabama 5|
The good news for Alabama is that most of these games were close. The bad news is that they all count the same in the standings. The worse news is the implosion of the bullpen. Every day this weekend, the Tide had a lead going into the sixth inning or later. They lost each game. Only two relief appearances ended without that pitcher being charged an earned run -- and one of those was less than an inning. Arkansas' bullpen, meanwhile, had a decent enough weekend after having trouble in the LSU series. Four earned runs in 9.1 innings is good enough to win most college games, so we'll call it progress for the Hogs' relievers.
|Vanderbilt defeats Kentucky, 3-0|
|Friday||Vanderbilt 7||Kentucky 0|
|Saturday (Gm 1)||Vanderbilt 2||Kentucky 1|
|Saturday (Gm 2)||Vanderbilt 9||Kentucky 8|
Everyone look at Kentucky's ranked status coming into league play. Now, pick up your hand. And, wave goodbye. The Wildcats have lost five of six games in conference to start the season, pretty clearly proving that the early success was less of a sign that they were bound for Omaha and more of a sign that they scheduled well. (Not that any other Kentucky team has ever been accused of such a thing.) Though, like Alabama, Kentucky can argue that at least this weekend things were pretty close in most of their games. One matchup Saturday ended on a walkoff and another ended with the rare, eight-inning complete game by Taylor Rogers for Kentucky after he blanked the Commodores after allowing two runs in the first inning but saw almost no offensive support. But Big Blue is losing ground too quickly in the East to keep this up.
|Mississippi State defeats Georgia, 2-1|
|Friday||Mississippi State 9||Georgia 8|
|Saturday||Georgia 7||Mississippi State 4|
|Sunday||Mississippi State 11||Georgia 10|
Mississippi State wins its first series against a baseball team not from New England. (Unless you count the BankFirst Challenge tournament, in which it played Michigan State and Southeast Missouri twice each, as a series. In which case: Mississippi State wins its first series against a baseball team not from New England or the Midwest. And seeing as how one of those other series was a sweep by Southeastern Louisiana, I don't see how that's great comfort to either the Dogs or the Dawgs.) I mean, you could go with Georgia being able to say the same thing Alabama and Kentucky can say -- but they lost to decent teams, not the Western Division Bulldogs. And neither of them gave up eight runs in a single inning. The recap of the eighth inning Sunday from the box score.
Mississippi State 8th - Cornwell to p for Palazzone. C. Powers grounded out to 2b (2-2). Sneed walked (3-2). R. Collins singled through the left side (3-2); Sneed advanced to third. Butler singled through the left side, RBI (1-0); R. Collins advanced to third; Sneed scored. Herman to p for Cornwell. Thigpen singled down the rf line, RBI (1-2); Butler advanced to second; R. Collins scored. Ogden homered to left field, 3 RBI (0-1); Thigpen scored; Butler scored. Earls to p for Herman. Freeman doubled to center field (2-2). Vickerson singled to right field (1-0); Freeman advanced to third. Adkins doubled to right center, 2 RBI (3-2); Vickerson scored; Freeman scored. Moseley to p for Earls. C. Powers singled to right center, RBI (0-1); Adkins scored. Sneed fouled out to 1b (1-2). R. Collins struck out swinging (2-2). 8 runs, 8 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Not that either of these teams can boast about not allowing the big inning; there were five innings over the weekend in which four or more runs were allowed by one team, including the pitching debacle Friday in which both teams allowed six runs in a single frame.