Around the Bases: Florida, Alabama and Auburn Start the Conference Season Right

Aroundthebases2010_medium

Conference play has finally begun, which means it's time for us to start our weekly look at the standings and then recap all the SEC match-ups this past weekend.

SEC EAST SEC WEST
Overall SEC GB Overall SEC GB
Florida 18-2 3-0 -- Alabama 13-7 2-1 --
Kentucky 12-8 2-1 1.0 Auburn 14-6 2-1 --
South Carolina 14-4 2-1 1.0 Arkansas 15-4 1-2 1.0
Vanderbilt 19-2 2-1 1.0 Mississippi 15-6 1-2 1.0
Georgia 9-11 1-2 2.0 Mississippi St. 15-6 1-2 1.0
Tennessee 16-4 1-2 2.0 LSU 16-4 0-3 2.0

It's always tough to do a wrap-up in the first week of the season. We still don't know which teams are so good that a 1-2 series against them might not a bad sign, and which teams you best win a series against if your season is going somewhere. Maybe South Carolina winning two of out three against Georgia is what it would have been last year: Nothing surprising. Or perhaps it's a significant sign that South Carolina is en route to repeating as national champions. We simply don't know.

But we can say that Florida, Alabama and Auburn start the weekend in the driver's seats in their respective divisions. It might be difficult to tell how significant that is, but it's always better to be the ones people are looking to catch up with instead of the other way around. 

Florida at LSU
Friday Saturday Sunday
Florida 5, LSU 4 Florida 1, LSU 0 Florida 7, LSU 3

Florida's been playing baseball for a long time, so it's impressive when the team does something for the first time in school history. Welcome to a sweep in Baton Rouge -- the first time LSU has been swept at home in conference play in five years. And while this was a meeting between two top-five teams, it didn't always look like it from the defense being played. The teams combined for eight errors in the three games, which isn't as bad as it might seem to those used to watching Major League Baseball but also isn't very good. You also have to feel sorry for Kevin Gausman, who pitched eight innings of one-run baseball on Saturday only to get the loss when his team left 10 men on base and actually outhit Florida 9-5 but couldn't score a run. It's not time to panic in Baton Rouge -- the only bad loss of the bunch was Sunday's game -- but some mild concern might be in order if the Bayou Bengals can't do better this weekend. Florida has its own challenge to deal with beginning Friday.

NEXT FOR FLORIDA: Winthrop (Tuesday and Wednesday); South Carolina (Weekend)
NEXT FOR LSU: Louisiana-Lafayette (Tuesday); at Georgia (Weekend)

Georgia at South Carolina
Friday Saturday Sunday
Georgia 4, South Carolina 2 South Carolina 2, Georgia 1 South Carolina 8, Georgia 3

South Carolina's offense hasn't been lighting the world on fire this year, but it still had to be encouraging for Georgia fans to see the league's worst pitching staff largely hold the Gamecocks in check for the first two days. So much for all that. The Dawgs burned through seven pitchers Sunday trying to stop the 10-hit, eight-run onslaught. And give credit to South Carolina for those 10 hits -- it hard to get that many hits when the other teams issues 10 walks in the course of the game. Blake Dietrich was the only Georgia pitcher who managed to not walk at least one batter, even though he pitched more innings (3.1) than any other Dawgs hurler who took the mound. Meanwhile, a South Carolina starting rotation and bullpen that have looked solid so far continued to pitch well ahead of this weekend's key matchup.

NEXT FOR GEORGIA: Georgia Tech (Tuesday); LSU (Weekend)
NEXT FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: College of Charleston (Tuesday); Rhode Island (Wednesday); at Florida (Weekend)

Arkansas at Auburn
Friday Saturday Sunday
Arkansas 6, Auburn 5 (11) Auburn 9, Arkansas 5 Auburn 8, Arkansas 7

Partly as a function of schedule and partly as a function of some inexplicable losses, Auburn had opened with mixed results so far this yaer. After Friday, the Tigers got by a fellow ranked SEC team to give them a bit of momentum heading into the league schedule. One thing both teams might want to work on: Pitching control. The last two games featured a combined 24 walks, which is more than one an inning. In any case, fans weren't leaving early in any of the games. Aside from Friday's extra-inning games, Arkansas scored three runs in the ninth Saturday to make things interesting and the Hogs and Tigers traded the lead twice in the last inning and a half Sunday -- with Arkansas rallying for two runs in the ninth before Auburn closed them out.

NEXT FOR ARKANSAS: at Jacksonville State (Tuesday); at Mississippi State (Weekend)
NEXT FOR AUBURN: Memphis (Tuesday and Wednesday); Vanderbilt (Weekend)

Mississippi State at Vanderbilt
Friday Saturday Sunday
Vanderbilt 10, Mississippi St. 0 Vanderbilt 4, Mississippi St. 0 Mississippi St. 9, Vanderbilt 8

If you were wondering how likely this was to be a turnaround season for Mississippi State, consider this: It wasn't until the 26th inning of their SEC schedule that the Western Division Bulldogs had more run scored than errors in league play. That has something to do with having five errors on Friday and throwing in two more on Sunday, and it has something to do with being held scoreless (and limited to seven hits) in the first two games of the series. For the uninitiated, neither of those generally leads to winning many baseball games. Both pitching staffs would like to forget about that Sunday game as well, though it provided the one bright spot for Mississippi State. A five-run eighth inning gave them more runs than errors -- and an SEC win that might be just as precious this year as it was last year. For it's part, Vanderbilt is just about where it would like to be going into next weekend's game against Arkansas. A better performance out of the bullpen than Sunday's debacle would be nice, though.

NEXT FOR GEORGIA: Auburn (Weekend)
NEXT FOR VANDERBILT: Tennessee Tech (Tuesday); at Arkansas (Weekend)

Alabama at Mississippi
Friday Saturday Sunday
Mississippi 4, Alabama 0 Alabama 7, Mississippi 5 Alabama 6, Mississippi 4

Let's not get too carried away with one series -- but we might have to get used to Alabama being a pretty good team again this year. Well, last year was mediocre, so maybe we need to get used to Alabama being a pretty good team. After all, going to Oxford and winning a series is no small feat. That said, the only game won by more than two runs was the game that Ole Miss won. And allowing two four-run innings in a weekend probably isn't going to win you a ton of games. But things have started out well for the Tide. Ole Miss, meanwhile, has now gone 5-5 over the last ten games after starting the season 10-1.

NEXT FOR ALABAMA: UAB (Tuesday); Jacksonville State (Wednesday); Kentucky (Weekend)
NEXT FOR MISSISSIPPI: Samford (Tuesday); at Tennessee (Weekend)

Tennessee at Kentucky
Friday Saturday Sunday
Kentucky 5, Tennessee 3 Tennessee 12, Kentucky 8 Kentucky 7, Tennessee 3

If you're a fan of great pitching duels -- this was not the series for you. The teams combined to allow 69 hits and 38 runs over the weekend. It's hard to tell too much about what this series means, given that neither team was particuarly good last year or expected to be very good this year. But it's better to start on the positive side of the ledger than the negative one, and Kentucky's done that much.

NEXT FOR TENNESSEE: Lipscomb (Wednesday); Mississippi (Weekend)
NEXT FOR KENTUCKY: Cincinnati (Tuesday); Canisius (Wednesday); at Alabama (Weekend)

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