As we suspected, Florida and South Carolina are basically slugging out the fight for the SEC East with the final showdown set for the last weekend of the season. What could be more fun? It's still at least a three-team fight in the West, with Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss all in the thick of things; next week's series between the Tigers and the Rebels is essentially an elimination match.
|SEC EAST||SEC WEST|
|SEC W-L||Overall W-L||GB||SEC W-L||Overall W-L||GB|
|x, y-Georgia||3-19||13-33||13.0||x-Mississippi State||5-19||20-28||11.0|
"z" indicates a team has clinched a berth in the SEC tournament;
"x" indicates a team has been eliminated from divisional race;
"y" indicates elimination from SEC tournament.
Three teams have clinched appearances in the postseason tournament now -- Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas -- and two more (Auburn, Ole Miss) seem like sure bets. Vanderbilt and LSU are getting close to being able to breathe easily, with Tennessee just in the eighth spot for now. Georgia is out and Mississippi State will join the Dawgs with the next loss (or the next Tennessee win). A clearer look at the tournament fight is after the jump.
|RACE TO EIGHT|
*GB eighth place
To the games.
|Arkansas defeats Ole Miss, 2-1|
|Friday||Arkansas 11||Ole Miss 4|
|Saturday||Ole Miss 3||Arkansas 2|
|Sunday||Arkansas 7||Ole Miss 0|
Here's to Arkansas' pitching staff; any time you allow only seven runs in a weekend, you've got to like your chances for winning the series. In fact, a better outing by the offense on Saturday would have given the Razorbacks a sweep. Drew Pomeranz wasn't great Friday, but he still pitched well enough to give the Rebels a chance to win. If only the bullpen hadn't allowed seven runs in two innings, including a five-run ninth that blew open what had been a close game. Ole Miss needs to address its pitching issues; the Rebels have now allowed six runs in eight of their last 12 games.
|Florida defeats Alabama, 2-1|
|Friday||Florida 9||Alabama 3|
|Saturday||Florida 14||Alabama 8|
|Sunday||Alabama 10||Florida 8|
It might be too late for their season, but the Alabama bats are beginning to come around. What's unfortunate for the Tide is that the Florida bats were alive this weekend as well. Neither of Alabama's starters in the first two games made it out of the fourth inning. Also of note: the teams combined for 11 errors on the weekend, six by Florida and five by Alabama. But there's nothing wrong about this series for the team in the Orange and Blue; they're now tied with South Carolina for the SEC East lead.
|Kentucky defeats South Carolina, 2-1|
|Friday||South Carolina 13||Kentucky 9|
|Saturday||Kentucky 2||South Carolina 1|
|Sunday||Kentucky 9||South Carolina 3|
That tie was also brought about by South Carolina's own problems over the weekend, including a continuation of the pitching woes that were present against Alabama and the inability to capitalize on its best starting pitching outing of the weekend -- by Sam Dyson (8 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 8 K, 4 BB) -- to win what would have been the decisive game in the series. Notice should be given to Kentucky's Jordan Cooper and Matt Little, who combined to throw nine sterling innings Saturday to make sure that didn't happen. The weekend marks South Carolina's first SEC series loss of the season. It best not become a habit; there are only two series left in the season, one of them with Florida.
|Auburn defeats Mississippi State, 3-0|
|Friday||Auburn 9||Mississippi State 6|
|Saturday||Auburn 16||Mississippi State 14|
|Sunday||Auburn 11||Mississippi State 8|
Let's go ahead and concede that neither team did much pitching in this series, or at least not much pitching worth talking about. There were 228 at-bats between the two teams over the weekend, and that obviously doesn't count the 21 walks issued during the three games. Before continuing for most of the weekend to follow his practice of quickly showing pitchers the door when they don't do well, John Cohen allowed Tyler Whitney to get shelled for nine earned runs in eight innings Friday (there wasn't a bottom of the ninth). But this is Mississippi State, so we can't be too quick to expect anything related to its baseball program to make sense. In any case, the sweep puts Auburn in place to make a late-season run at the West; some pitching might be required.
|Vanderbilt defeats LSU, 2-1|
|Friday (10 inn.)||LSU 16||Vanderbilt 15|
|Saturday||Vanderbilt 6||LSU 2|
|Sunday||Vanderbilt 4||LSU 3|
Friday's game took nearly five hours (4:44), featured 11 pitchers and saw 15 walks in addition to the 33 hits. Nine players had multiple RBIs, LSU's Paul Bertuccini was the only pitcher to throw for at least an inning and not allow a run (his three scoreless frames probably makes him the game MVP), and 21 men were left on base (not that the game really needed more runs). By comparison, the rest of the series seems tame, but Vanderbilt's Taylor Hill (CG, 2 ER, 7 H, 8 K, BB) and Jack Armstrong (7.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB) deserve recognition for their pitching on Saturday and Sunday.
|Tennessee defeats Georgia, 3-0|
|Friday||Tennessee 4||Georgia 1|
|Saturday||Tennessee 25||Georgia 5|
|Sunday||Tennessee 14||Georgia 11|
To put Saturday's game in context, there is only one other SEC series this year in which Tennessee has scored 25 runs -- and that was against Mississippi State. The Vols set a slew of records Saturday, including the school mark for hits in an inning (12). Not only did Tennessee score 25 runs in the game -- the Vols left 11 men on base. Three Tennessee players had at least as many RBIs as Georgia did in the game. On Sunday, Georgia had a 9-7 lead through the eighth inning before allowing the Vols to score seven in the ninth. This after Alex McRee opened the game by allowing three earned runs without a hit while facing three batters. The two wild pitches no doubt had something to do with this. We could go on, but that wouldn't be fair to any Georgia fans who are still paying attention to the season at this point.