Around the Bases: Kentucky is For Real; Arkansas Leads the West and Auburn Has a Winning Record

Aroundthebases2010_medium

Conference play has finally begun, which means that this feature now turns into a weekly look at the standings and a brief recap of each of the SEC match-ups this past weekend.

SEC EAST SEC WEST
Overall SEC GB Overall SEC GB
Kentucky 21-0 3-0 -- Arkansas 19-2 3-0 --
Florida 19-1 3-0 -- LSU 16-4 2-1 1.0
Georgia 15-6 2-1 1.0 Auburn 12-8 2-1 1.0
Tennessee 11-8 1-2 2.0 Mississippi 15-5 1-2 2.0
South Carolina
15-4 0-3 3.0 Mississippi St. 15-7 1-2 2.0
Vanderbilt 7-13 0-3 3.0 Alabama 8-12 0-3 3.0

Yes, Kentucky is atop the SEC East and remains the only undefeated baseball team in the nation after sweeping the defending national champions. That is a sentence I could not have possibly imagined I would ever write. It's way too early and the nonconference schedule was still way too easy to start touting the Wildcats as a national championship contender in their own right -- but the fact that they have come this far proves that Kentucky will likely have to be dealt with in May.

The other surprise-ish team is Auburn, though we will have to wait and see whether the other Tigers (in baseball) taking two of three from the Rebel Black Bears tells us more about Auburn or more about Ole Miss. Vanderbilt and Alabama are already taken the lead on the two teams left out of Hoover with seasons that are just as bad as their records look. (South Carolina has established itself as a player in the race, but at least has a winning record overall.)

South Carolina at Kentucky
Friday Saturday Sunday
Kentucky 4, South Carolina 3
Kentucky 4, South Carolina 3
Kentucky 6, South Carolina 3

Might we humbly suggest that South Carolina try scoring more than three runs? Craziness. Aside from that, the takeaway for the Gamecocks is that they might want to work on their bullpen a bit. The five earned runs in 6.2 innings is bad enough. But relief pitchers were also on the mound when all four runs scored Friday -- two of them were charged to starter Michael Roth -- and when the winning run scored on Saturday (starter Matt Price was charged). Granted, the starters put those runners on base -- but part of the job of a bullpen is to get rid of inherited runners, and South Carolina is so far being less than successful at doing that. But the Gamecocks also squandered chances throughout the weekend, outhitting Kentucky in the first two games and collecting just as many hits in the last one. That said, this series felt like it said a lot more about Kentucky than about South Carolina. With late rallies and dramatic wins against the team that has made an art form out of that over last year, the Wildcats made a statement that they aren't going anywhere any time soon. The next test will be to see what they can do when they go on the road for the first time in a month. South Carolina faces Florida in what might very well already be a must-win series for their division hopes.

NEXT FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: at Furman (Tuesday); Wofford (Wednesday); Florida (Weekend, Thu.-Sat.)
NEXT FOR KENTUCKY: at Cincinnati (Wednesday); at Tennessee (Weekend)

Vanderbilt at Florida
Friday Saturday Sunday
Florida 10, Vanderbilt 2
Florida 5, Vanderbilt 1
Florida 8, Vanderbilt 2

It's not uncommon to have to score five runs to win a single game in college baseball. Scoring five runs in an entire weekend is almost guaranteed to leave you on the losing side of the series. And the season continues to go downhill for a Vanderbilt team that is far younger than the one that went to the College World Series last year. But when you strike out 25 times in a weekend, it's hard to score much more than that. The credit probably goes to the Florida pitching staff, which is only expected to pitch the Gators back to Omaha this year. Overall, there's just not much to say here; it's a very talented and seasoned team going up against a talented but young team. That usually goes in favor of the former by a lopsided margin.

NEXT FOR FLORIDA: Samford (Tuesday); at South Carolina (Weekend, Thu.-Sat.)
NEXT FOR VANDERBILT: Evansville (Tuesday); Georgia (Weekend)

Tennessee at Georgia
Friday Saturday Sunday
Georgia 4, Tennessee 0
Georgia 10, Tennessee 5
Tennessee 3, Georgia 0

David Perno either decided to be a baseball innovator or was simply impatient this weekend; only one pitcher for Georgia logged five innings in a single game, and no one pitched more than five frames in the same contest. (In fairness to Perno, he only took Alex Wood out of Friday's game because of an extended weather delay after Wood pitched four scoreless.) And it largely worked -- Tennessee didn't really have an offensive explosion this weekend, and all five runs in Saturday's contest were charged to the starter, Pete Nagel, who got 2.1 innings before Perno's hook caught up with him. That was enough to silence Tennessee for the day. Along with a combined 31-11 beatdown of Alcorn State midweek, the Dawgs seem to be finding their footing on what could be another solid season. The next SEC opponent in our woebegone Commodores, but the end of the month brings Kentucky to Athens for another major intradivision showdown.

NEXT FOR GEORGIA: Georgia Tech (Tuesday); at Vanderbilt (Weekend)
NEXT FOR TENNESSEE: FIU (Wednesday); Kentucky (Weekend)

Alabama at Arkansas
Friday Saturday Sunday
Arkansas 4, Alabama 3
Arkansas 8, Alabama 4
Arkansas 7, Alabama 4

Last year, Alabama started out strong before fading and leaving its fans disappointed in the race for the SEC West. There appears to be little danger of a repeat this year. Part of the reason for that is walking 28 men, or an average of slightly more than nine per game. Thanks to this generosity, Arkansas was able to score 19 runs despite leaving 34 men on base. As you might reasonably expect, the starting pitching for the Tide appears to be suspect. Taylor Guilbeau got just 2.1 innings on Saturday when he gave up six runs, all of them earned; Trey Pilkington followed that up Sunday by giving up four runs, three earned, in just over an inning of work. In any case, Arkansas takes the lead in the SEC West after the first weekend.

NEXT FOR ALABAMA: at Troy (Tuesday); Ole Miss (Weekend)
NEXT FOR ARKANSAS: Nevada (Tuesday and Wednesday); at Mississippi State (Weekend)

Mississippi State at LSU
Friday Saturday Sunday
LSU 3, Mississippi State 2 (10)
LSU 4, Mississippi State 3
Mississippi State 7, LSU 1

One of those bizarre series in baseball where Mississippi State outscored LSU on the weekend -- and came away having won just a single game. Part of that was because of an epic first inning Sunday that featured Aaron Nola allowing five runs to Mississippi State before things finally came to an end. Suffice it to say, Paul Mainieri does not have as quick a hook as David Perno and allowed Nola to somewhat recover; he would allow just one more run over another five innings of work. Kendall Graveman of Mississippi State scattered 10 hits and three walks over a complete game to get the Bulldogs' only win of the weekend. JaCoby Jones is your walkoff hero from Friday's game, singling home the winning run. Oh, and LSU needed just four hits to score their four runs on Saturday.

NEXT FOR MISSISSIPPI STATE: Alabama A&M (Wednesday); Arkansas (Weekend)
NEXT FOR LSU: Southern (Wednesday); at Auburn (Weekend)

Auburn at Ole Miss
Friday Saturday Sunday
Ole Miss 2, Auburn 1
Auburn 10, Ole Miss 4
Auburn 3, Ole Miss 2

You almost feel sorry for R.J Hively, who had the great misfortune of pitching on Saturday, the day when Ole Miss' entire team apparently forgot how to field. The Rebels committed five errors ... in the first inning. Hively gave up five runs in that frame, one of which was earned. But one of those unearned runs scored on an error by Hively, so don't go too far in blaming the runs on the rest of the team. Slade Smith earned the rare four-inning save for Auburn on Saturday as well. The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful -- except that Auburn, the near-unanimous choice to finish the year at the bottom of the SEC West, has a winning record after the first weekend.

NEXT FOR AUBURN: South Alabama (Tuesday); LSU (Weekend)
NEXT FOR OLE MISS: Southern Miss (Tuesday); at Alabama (Weekend)

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