Well, we've got a great conclusion in the SEC this weekend, with a two-team tie in the SEC East, three teams within a game of each other in the SEC West and four teams in contention for the last two places in the league tournament. Three head-to-head series will at least help determine the outcome of those races (Florida-South Carolina in the East, Auburn-Ole Miss in the West and Alabama-Tennessee in the Race to Eight). The only teams with nothing to play for -- and this really shouldn't surprise anyone -- are Georgia and Mississippi State. Even Vanderbilt, which has clinched a place in the tournament and been eliminated from the division, can play for seeding in Hoover.
|SEC EAST||SEC WEST|
|SEC W-L||Overall W-L||GB||SEC W-L||Overall W-L||GB|
|z, x-Vanderbilt||15-10||39-13||4.0||z-Ole Miss||16-11||36-17||1.0|
|x, y-Georgia||3-22||14-36||16.0||x, y-Mississippi State||5-22||21-31||12.0|
"z" indicates a team has clinched a berth in the SEC tournament;
"x" indicates a team has been eliminated from divisional race;
"y" indicates elimination from SEC tournament.
First of all, congratulations are in order for Florida and South Carolina, who will play this weekend for the regular-season championship. That means little in reality beyond a better seeding in the tournament (two spots because the West champ gets No. 2 automatically), but it's still nice to have. After the jump, you will see the race underway for the right to play for the official league crown.
|RACE TO EIGHT|
*GB eighth place
Yeah, this is going to be fun. To the review.
|South Carolina defeats Arkansas, 3-0|
|Friday||South Carolina 3||Arkansas 2|
|Saturday||South Carolina 5||Arkansas 0|
|Sunday||South Carolina 5||Arkansas 3|
The unlikeliest sweep of the weekend featured South Carolina largely shutting down Arkansas' offense, which even after the weekend was in the top three in the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and runs scored. Before the series, Arkansas was averaging almost 23 runs an SEC set. The first game featured Blake Cooper boosting his record to 10-0, Sam Dyson threw a six-hit shutout on Saturday and five relief pitchers helped South Carolina recover from allowing three runs in the first three innings Sunday. The sweep couldn't have come at a worse time for Arkansas, trying to win the West against two other solid teams, or a better time for South Carolina, whose East competitor Florida was facing Georgia this weekend.
NEXT SERIES FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: vs. Florida
NEXT SERIES FOR ARKANSAS: at Vanderbilt
|Auburn defeats Tennessee, 2-1|
|Friday||Tennessee 9||Auburn 3|
|Saturday||Auburn 18||Tennessee 0|
|Sunday||Auburn 9||Tennessee 2|
None of these games were particularly competitive, though it should be noted that Saturday's game was the only one in which the winning team outhit the loser. And boy did they -- Auburn pinged 22 hits during the game to Tennessee's three, with Cole Nelson needed just 93 pitches to zip through nine innings. In the course of winning this series, the Tigers also set a single-season record for the most home runs in school history. The Tigers also lead the league in batting average, OPS, hits and runs scored in league games. One odd stat: Auburn and Tennessee each committed exactly one error in each of the three games.
NEXT SERIES FOR AUBURN: at Ole Miss
NEXT SERIES FOR TENNESSEE: vs. Alabama
|Alabama defeats Ole Miss, 2-1|
|Friday||Ole Miss 5||Alabama 4|
|Saturday||Alabama 4||Ole Miss 1|
|Sunday||Alabama 6||Ole Miss 3|
Ole Miss won on Friday despite not having the one thing that has been a near-constant for the Rebels this year: a solid or great outing by Drew Pomeranz, who walked seven men in five innings of work but still claimed his seventh win in eight decisions this season. Alabama, meanwhile, got two sterling performances for its last two wins, with Jimmy Nelson pitching a four-hitter Saturday and Nathan Kilcrease, who allowed five hits and just two earned runs in his own complete game Sunday.
NEXT SERIES FOR ALABAMA: at Tennessee
NEXT SERIES FOR OLE MISS: vs. Auburn
|Florida defeated Georgia, 3-0|
|Friday||Florida 4||Georgia 3|
|Saturday||Florida 4||Georgia 3|
|Sunday||Florida 9||Georgia 3|
Face it: You could have called this series Thursday and been right. Florida is one of the best teams in the league -- and maybe the country -- while the Dawgs have made a convincing case for being the worst. But at least give Georgia credit for consistency in scoring exactly three runs in each of the series' games. Florida walked off Friday and Saturday, but didn't need to Sunday after a seven-run sixth that saw four Georgia pitchers try unsuccessful to get three outs before Cooper Moseley finally stopped the damage. Just another weekend for the Dawgs' pitchers, who collectively rank 11th in the league with an 8.71 ERA in SEC games.
NEXT SERIES FOR FLORIDA: at South Carolina
NEXT SERIES FOR GEORGIA: vs. Kentucky
|Kentucky defeats LSU, 3-0|
|Friday||Kentucky 11||LSU 9|
|Saturday||Kentucky 9||LSU 4|
|Sunday||Kentucky 6||LSU 4|
Who is this team and what have they done with LSU? The Tigers have lost 11 of their last 12 league games and haven't won an SEC series is almost a month. Starting pitching meltdowns, bullpen meltdowns, leaving 16 runners on base Sunday -- LSU found new and creative ways to lose games all weekend long. The Bayou Bengals still have to be considered a team in a strong place for going to Hoover -- they get one of the worst teams in the SEC this weekend -- but their hopes of hosting a super-regional are gone and even regional dreams are fading fast. At this point, LSU is just trying to make the NCAA field.
NEXT SERIES FOR KENTUCKY: at Georgia
NEXT SERIES FOR LSU: vs. Mississippi State
|Vanderbilt defeats Mississippi State, 3-0|
|Friday||Vanderbilt 13||Mississippi State 8|
|Saturday||Vanderbilt 13||Mississippi State 7|
|Sunday||Vanderbilt 14||Mississippi State 4|
Mississippi State's pitchers totaled 13 appearances over the weekend; in 10 of those appearances, the pitcher allowed multiple runs. Only one pitcher who pitched at least an inning allowed no runs. Not that Vanderbilt spent the weekend shutting down what is a pretty mediocre offense on the part of the Western Division Bulldogs. I still don't know exactly what to make of the Commodores, who defeated Auburn but lost to Tennessee as part of an odd season that will nonetheless go at least as far as Hoover and probably farther.
NEXT SERIES FOR VANDERBILT: vs. Arkansas
NEXT SERIES FOR MISSISSIPPI STATE: at LSU