SEC Baseball: South Carolina, LSU in Front as Teams Start Getting Eliminated

Aroundthebases2010_medium

The defending national champion Gamecocks are back in the lead of their division after the weekend for the first time this year. LSU is in the lead in the SEC West -- and tied with South Carolina for the conference lead. (Have you heard that they play at the end of the season?) Kentucky and Florida are still in the race for the east, while Arkansas and the Mississippi schools -- well, there's always the No. 3 seed to play for. And the No. 4 seed.

SEC EAST SEC WEST
Overall SEC GB Overall SEC GB
South Carolina
36-12 16-8 -- LSU 38-11 16-8 --
Kentucky
37-11 15-9 1.0 Arkansas 34-15 12-12 4.0
Florida 35-13 14-10 2.0 Mississippi State
29-18 12-12 4.0
Georgia 28-20 12-12 4.0 Ole Miss
31-18 11-13 5.0
Vanderbilt
23-24 11-13 5.0 Auburn 25-22 10-14 6.0
x-Tennessee
23-14 8-16 8.0 x-Alabama 18-30 7-17 9.0

"x" denotes elimination from division contention.

The elimination watch is on for everyone except LSU and South Carolina this weekend. In practice, that's probably not how it's going to work out, but an ill-timed sweep or even losing two-of-three could end someone's season. LSU can finish off the division with a sweep (and even without it in some cases).

South Carolina's fate will be dictated to some extent by what Florida and Kentucky do; it can control whether Georgia makes it out of this weekend still in contention, and it's almost impossible at this point for Vanderbilt to storm back and win it all. (The Commodores would need to go 6-0 while South Carolina goes winless to clinch the entire division title; even if Vanderbilt goes 5-1 while South Carolina goes 1-5, it's a tie, and South Carolina wins the tiebreaker. This also assumes that Florida, Kentucky and Georgia lose the requisite number of games for Vanderbilt to move past them. As far as the division goes, Vanderbilt's done.)

Tennessee and Alabama, meanwhile, are playing for their seasons to continue. If they end the weekend more than three games back from the lowest of the 12-12 teams, Georgia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Auburn, there will be no trip to Hoover once the regular season games are done. (It also might matter which of those teams is the lowest-ranked and who has the tiebreaker, but we'll keep this as simple as possible for now.)

Florida at Kentucky
Thursday Friday
Saturday
Florida 5, Kentucky 3
Florida 5, Kentucky 1
Kentucky 2, Florida 1

If this was Kentucky's last remaining chance to show that it could face up to the league powers in Hoover -- mission not accomplished. The Gators' pitching, approaching full strength again, shut down the Bat Cats' bats and allowed the offense to take it from there in the first two games. Salvaging the series finale helped Kentucky in the league standings and might prove crucial in this respect: The only two series remaining on the slate are Alabama and Mississippi State. That's marginally easier than what's left for Florida and a good sight better than South Carolina's remaining schedule.

NEXT FOR FLORIDA: North Florida (Tuesday); Mississippi State (Weekend)
NEXT FOR KENTUCKY: at Indiana (Wednesday); Alabama (Weekend)

South Carolina at Arkansas
Friday Saturday
Sunday
South Carolina 8, Arkansas 6
Arkansas 7, South Carolina 6
South Carolina 10, Arkansas 7

Who says the new aluminium bats take all the offense out of the game? The Hogs and the Gamecocks racked up a combined 44 runs this weekend, an average of a bit more than 14 a game. But the first game came down to more than just the brief reappearance of gorilla ball; it came down to that old Gamecocks magic. Down 6-0 by the end of the third, the Gamecocks rallied back to tie things, then scored two runs in the top of the 10th. The second run almost didn't count when the home plate umpire incorrectly called Evan Marzilli out when he tried to take home on a throwing error. When Ray Tanner came out to argue the play, the it was changed (correctly) to a Marzilli score, and the inning continued. But not before some Arkansas fans were understandably upset, this being baseball and the arguments usually not resulting in a reversed call. It didn't ultimately change the outcome, but a bizarre run in a critical game is just another sign that last year's Gamecocks are back.

NEXT FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: Furman (Wednesday); at Georgia (Weekend)
NEXT FOR ARKANSAS: Auburn (Weekend; Thurs.-Sat.)

LSU at Ole Miss
Friday (13 inn.)
Saturday
Sunday
LSU 4, Ole Miss 3
Ole Miss 7, LSU 4
LSU 12, Ole Miss 3

For those keeping track, LSU has now won six of its last eight games and all but two of its SEC series -- the exceptions being Kentucky (understandable) and Auburn (!). The opener here was one of the more exciting games of the weekend, featuring a combined 93 at-bats and, of course, the four innings of free baseball. The winning run was scored by Raph Rhymes, which is as good a reason as any to tell you that he is now hitting .500 even and has to keep up that pace to finish at the halfway point for the season. (File that under: Obvious, Captain.) He's .093 points ahead of his nearest competitor. Rhmes' on-base percentage is at a healthy .544, which is mind-numbing when you think about it. Rhymes is right now more likely to end up on base than to make an out. That probably has something to do with the winning that LSU is doing.

NEXT FOR LSU: Vanderbilt (Weekend)
NEXT FOR OLE MISS: Tennessee (Weekend)

Auburn at Georgia
Friday
Saturday (11 inn.)
Sunday
Georgia 5, Auburn 2
Georgia 6, Auburn 5
Georgia 9, Auburn 3

Here's a heartbreaking way to lose a game: Score a run in the top of the 11th inning only to have the home team come back and score two in the bottom of the frame. There was no shortage of drama in the SEC this weekend. Georgia pulled off a sweep that firms up its reservations for Hoover and keeps it on the very fringes of contention for the SEC East. (A lot of things have to break right for the Dawgs, but they're still there.) Auburn, meanwhile, has seen its hot start in SEC play go up in smoke; the Tigers have been swept in three of their last five conference series and lost another, the only win coming in a sweep against lowly Tennessee.

NEXT FOR AUBURN: Presbyterian (Tuesday); at Arkansas (Weekend; Thurs.-Sat.)
NEXT FOR GEORGIA: at Georgia Tech (Wednesday); South Carolina (Weekend)

Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Tennessee 8, Vanderbilt 2
Vanderbilt 7, Tennessee 4
Vanderbilt 12, Tennessee 6

In a season in which very little has gone according to plan, at least the Commodores can still beat a rival, all but end their hopes for the postseason and finish it off with a barnburner. Vanderbilt scored runs in every inning except the fourth, eventually working away a 6-0 lead by the Vols and scoring half a dozen in the last three innings alone, turning the game into a laugher. The Commodores smashed two home runs in that game and Tennessee helped them out with three errors. (Three of Vanderbilt's runs in the game were unearned.) Tennessee has now lost 10 straight games and 15 of its last 17.

NEXT FOR VANDERBILT: Louisville (Tuesday); at LSU (Weekend)
NEXT FOR TENNESSEE: at Memphis (Wednesday); at Ole Miss (Weekend)

Mississippi State at Alabama
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Mississippi State 3, Alabama 1
Mississippi State 3, Alabama 2
Alabama 8, Mississippi State 7

If Mississippi State should miss anything by one game this year -- either going to Hoover or getting in the NCAA tournament -- the Western Division Bulldogs have only themselves to blame. They lost to Alabama. Six pitchers were a part of Sunday's fiasco, the end of a weekend in which Mississippi State's pitchers logged 16 total appearances. The result of their efforts in the final game? Blowing a five-run rally in the eighth and ninth innings by giving up a two-run, walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth. In defense of the Bulldogs' pitchers, though, we should note that the first five runs scored by Alabama were unearned -- so there's enough blame to go around. The win was Alabama's first in SEC play since an April 21 victory against Vanderbilt.

NEXT FOR MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mississippi Valley State (DH, Tuesday); at Florida
NEXT FOR ALABAMA: at Kentucky (Weekend)

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