Around the Bases: What Do You Mean, Alabama's in First?

Aroundthebases2010_medium

Don't panic, but Alabama might just run away with the SEC West. It's not that it's completely unprecedented for the Crimson Tide to win the division. It's just that they've only done it three times since 1981, and last took home the crown five years ago. Since then, Alabama has often been a solid but not great baseball program.

But with LSU trying to recover from a terrible start to the season, Auburn imploding and the rest of the division kind of bumping along, the West has become the one of the two divisions with the clearest favorite so far.

SEC EAST SEC WEST
Overall SEC GB Overall SEC GB
Florida 24-5 7-2 -- Alabama 21-9 7-2 --
Vanderbilt 26-3 7-2 -- Mississippi State 19-9 4-5 3.0
South Carolina
22-5 7-2 -- Mississippi 19-10 4-5 3.0
Georgia 14-14 6-3 1.0 LSU 20-8 3-6 4.0
Tennessee 19-9 2-7 5.0 Arkansas 19-8 3-6 4.0
Kentucky 15-14 2-7 5.0 Auburn 15-13 2-7 5.0

Again, it's still very early in the SEC baseball season. But Alabama's lead grew this weekend to where they could get swept by one of the teams tied for second place -- and the Tide would still be tied for first. That's a comfortable cushion.

So, how did we get to this after the weekend that was? Glad you asked.

Mississippi State at Georgia
Georgia 4, Mississippi State 1
Georgia 4, Mississippi State 3
Georgia 4, Mississippi State 1

Someone did tell the Western Division Bulldogs that the other team isn't disqualified if they score four runs, right? Aside from being a palindrome, this series was interesting for the chance to tell us which one of the Bulldog teams might be for real this season -- and it seems pretty obvious here. What's encouraging for Georgia baseball fans is that their once-disastrous pitching staff ... can actually pitch. Overall, the Dawgs' team ERA is 4.45; it's 2.14 if you just look at SEC games. The problem is that Georgia has already given up 13 unearned runs so far this year, which means the numbers aren't quite as good as they might seem and that the defense is still holding the pitching staff down. For Mississippi State, at least Hoover is not out of the question. If the Bulldogs can find more offense than they did this weekend against the Bulldogs.

NEXT FOR GEORGIA: Charleston Southern (Tuesday, Wednesday); at Ole Miss (Weekend)
NEXT FOR MISSISSIPPI STATE: vs. Southern Miss (Tuesday); Florida (Weekend)

Arkansas at Alabama
Alabama 5, Arkansas 3
Alabama 5, Arkansas 3
Arkansas 4, Alabama 3

Want to know the definition of a rut? Arkansas scored three runs on eight hits and committed three errors on Friday. And on Saturday. They managed to breakout in a sense on Sunday by scoring four runs on 10 hits -- and committing "only" two errors. As long as Alabama keeps getting decent pitching out of the starting rotation and saves from Jonathan Smart, they will be fine. Arkansas, meanwhile, needs to find a way to regain momentum if they want to be serious contenders for the SEC championship. The Hogs have lost four of their last five games, all against SEC opponents.

NEXT FOR ALABAMA: Samford (Tuesday); at Vanderbilt (Weekend)
NEXT FOR ARKANSAS: Texas State (Wednesday); LSU (Weekend)

Kentucky at South Carolina
South Carolina 3, Kentucky 1
South Carolina 4, Kentucky 3 (10)
South Carolina 4, Kentucky 1

Scoring five runs in three game is not going to win you a lot of baseball series; as Kentucky found out this weekend in Columbia, it's actually a pretty good way to get swept. Seventeen hits over 28 innings is also not going to get the job done, so it's not like the Wildcats just ran into some bad luck. Of course, they were also playing the defending national champions and a team with a decent shot of contending to repeat, making this series just another in a long line of subpar snoozers over the weekend. South Carolina does kick off ESPNU's Thursday Night Baseball series with its showdown against Tennessee this weekend. Hopefully, TNF will bring some compelling series unlike the variety that we saw this weekend.

NEXT FOR KENTUCKY: Xavier (Tuesday); Auburn (Weekend)
NEXT FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: USC Upstate (Tuesday); at Tennessee (Weekend)

Vanderbilt at Auburn
Vanderbilt 11, Auburn 6
Vanderbilt 11, Auburn 2
Vanderbilt 6, Auburn 2

Auburn led for one inning -- or really about an inning and a half -- all weekend. When that's the main storyline of the series, there's not a lot more that can be said about it. That, and Auburn's pitching staff now owns the worst ERA in SEC games, clocking in at slightly more than seven runs a ball game. That, and Vanderbilt now leads the conference in batting average, OPS and runs scored in SEC games. Which really shouldn't come as a surprise after they thrashed the Tigers.

NEXT FOR VANDERBILT: Middle Tennessee State (Tuesday); Alabama (Weekend)
NEXT FOR AUBURN: at Troy (Tuesday); at Kentucky (Weekend)

Ole Miss at LSU
LSU 7, Ole Miss 6
Ole Miss 16, LSU 3
LSU 8, Ole Miss 2

There's a bright side to this for LSU and there's a not-so-bright side. The bright side, of course, is that the Bayou Bengals won the series. The less-bright side is that they got shellacked in the middle game. The worst of that was a nightmarish, nine-run seventh inning -- in which Alex Yarbrough both led off with a single and cleared the bases with a three-run home run in the last scoring play of the frame. But back to the positives for the Tigers: They might have turned around their season in the series. Now, they face Arkansas in what could very well be an elimination series in the SEC West.

NEXT FOR OLE MISS: at Memphis (Tuesday); Georgia (Weekend)
NEXT FOR LSU: at Tulane (Tuesday); at Arkansas (Weekend)

Tennessee at Florida
Florida 3, Tennessee 0
Florida 11, Tennessee 2
Florida 9, Tennessee 1

Tennessee scored in two innings -- all weekend long. And here is how they got their sole run Sunday: Chris Fritts walked with one out in the ninth inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then advanced to third on a wild pitch before Tyler Horne singled to drive Fritts in, literally the only thing Tennessee did to earn the run in any real sense. Proving that, yes, Florida can pretty much defeat Tennessee on cruise control in baseball.

NEXT FOR TENNESSEE: Presbyterian (Tuesday); South Carolina (Weekend)
NEXT FOR FLORIDA: UCF (Tuesday); at Mississippi State (Weekend)

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