According to Plan
There wasn't that much to be surprised by this weekend in SEC baseball. For the most part -- and we'll get to one of the exceptions in a moment -- the teams that you expect to see at or near the top of the standings on a year-in, year-out basis were the teams that were perfect when the action stopped on Sunday (or Monday).
In the West, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M were 3-0 after the weekend -- though some of those tidy records were thanks to underwhelming competition. Still, undefeated is undefeated. The challenge for everyone in that quartet with the exception of LSU will be staying on top until the end of the season. The opening-day loss by Mississippi State, meanwhile, is far from a season-killer.
East front-runners South Carolina and Vanderbilt finished the weekend without a loss, and were joined by -- Tennessee? Yes, Tennessee, where in some seasons it seems that they mistakenly field an intramural team, is running alongside the Gamecocks and the Commodores at the moment.
Like the first game of the football season, the first series of a baseball season can be incredibly deceptive. Particularly when you have weather playing havoc with the schedule, as it did in Tennessee's series with Purdue, which finally ended up playing out in the form of a Sunday doubleheader and a Monday afternoon game.
All that said, the Volunteers' sweep of the Boilermakers might be the closest thing to a glimmer of hope that Tennessee fans have seen in a long time. The only team the Vols swept in 2013 was Alcorn State -- which is probably not as good as your average B1G team. (Probably.) After a 3-0 victory in Game 1 on Sunday, Tennessee erupted for 20 runs on 23 hits in Game 2 and then cranked out eight more on Monday. The Tennessee pitching staff held Purdue to four runs on the weekend, start with the three pitchers who combined for a one-hitter in the first game of the series.
It's still a long way from that to Dave Serrano getting Tennessee to the. But the road looks shorter than it did on Friday.
Welcome to Athens, Scott Stricklin.
Georgia ended the weekend as the only SEC team with a losing record, against what really shouldn't have been the hardest series in the league. But the Georgia Southern Eagles (Florida fans, you can't laugh about this) pounded out 30 runs in three games, shelling the Bulldogs' pitching to the tune of 42 hits during the same stretch.
Ryan Lawlor pitched into the seventh of Saturday's second game while allowing three runs, but the starting staff otherwise threw poorly, which was okay because their starts were short-lived. The weekend reached its nadir in the third inning Sunday, when Southern scored 11 runs. In that inning. It didn't help that Georgia had to get four outs for the frame, since an inning-opening strikeout was erased on a third-strike passed ball.
Stricklin has some time, given that he took over the program from the smoking wreckage of the late-Perno flameout. If the first weekend is any indication, the new coach in Athens is going to need every bit of his grace period.
We've only got the Baseball America poll to go with this week, since USA Today decided not to update their rankings for whatever reason. Which is really a shame, because -- well, first, here it is.
|3||Cal State Fullerton|
Virginia, which lost to Kentucky to open the season and then "bounced back" to beat powerhouses VMI and UNC-Wilmington, is apparently more worthy of Baseball America's No. 1 spot than any of the major teams who, you know, didn't lose a game. If you want to know why some people accuse Baseball America of having an ACC bias, there's the case a nutshell. Though it should be noted that ignoring results was not something BA did only in the case of Virginia; Indiana went 1-3 and ended up No. 10. Good for them.