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SEC Baseball Roundup: A Topsy-Turvy West and a Stagnant East

The East and the West are wide open for completely different reasons. South Carolina can't win on the road, and Auburn is starting to look like it can't win at all

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Division Standings

Florida Gators 7-5 20-12 -- Alabama Crimson Tide
8-4 22-9 --
South Carolina Gamecocks
7-5 26-5
-- Ole Miss Rebels
7-5 25-8 1.0
Vanderbilt Commodores
6-6 25-8 1.0 LSU Tigers
6-5-1 24-8-1 1.5
Kentucky Wildcats
6-6 22-10 1.0 Arkansas Razorbacks
6-6 20-12 2.0
Georgia Bulldogs
5-6-1 18-13-1 1.5 Mississippi St. Bulldogs
6-6 20-13 2.0
Tennessee Volunteers
5-7 21-9 2.0 Auburn Tigers
5-7 19-14 3.0
Missouri Tigers 4-8 14-16 3.0 Texas A&M Aggies
5-7 19-14 3.0

The East remains exactly the same as it was last week -- Florida and South Carolina remain tied for the lead, with Vanderbilt and Kentucky close behind and no one completely out of it (with the possible exception of Missouri, given the fact that it is Missouri.) The West is a bit more fluid, with only one member of the Top 3 (Alabama) and two members of the Bottom 4 (Arkansas, Texas A&M) last week staying in their respective categories this week. Alabama and Arkansas are the only teams in the division that remain in the same place as last week.

All of which is to say that both of the divisions are still wide open for completely different reasons. In the case of the SEC East, it's because no one has been able to completely pull away from the others. In the West, it seems to be more a symptom of teams still trying to find their stride.

Home and Away

Of course, there are some teams in the SEC East still looking for consistency as well. South Carolina has been a case study in that: Taking two of three from Ole Miss at home, dropping a series at Kentucky, rebounding by sweeping Tennessee in Columbia and following that up with a loss at Arkansas. You might note a pattern in where the Gamecocks tend to be when they win and where they tend to be when they lose.

In this case, it was something of a failure on both sides of the team. South Carolina scored just three runs on 16 hits all weekend, a total that won't do even against a light-hitting team like Arkansas. And speaking of light-hitting Arkansas: the Hogs scored 12 runs in this series, which might not seem like much but matches their season high in an SEC series, and scored more than four or more runs in two games of a league series for the first time this season.

The home-and-away split might not mean that much for South Carolina in the division. First, the other teams seem to be cooperating in helping the Gamecocks stay in the race, and some of the big remaining series (Florida and Alabama stand out) will be set in Columbia. But there's also a season-ending series at Vanderbilt that could help decide things.

Arkansas has to figure out how to keep its bats going -- or at least going better.  South Carolina gave the Hogs a fair number of men on base and free outs, something that future teams aren't likely to do, but the game can still provide a springboard. Arkansas travels this weekend to fellow former struggling offense LSU. Or potentially former.

Tide Rolls Into First

At times, it seemed like Alabama was doing everything it could to help Texas A&M win this series. Tide committed eight errors over the weekend and held the Aggies to fewer than four runs just once -- a(nother) gem by Spencer Turnbull on Friday, when he allowed one run on five hits in seven innings. But Alabama still managed to lock down the series and move into sole possession of first place in the SEC West.

It's getting a little bit late for the Tide to start the midseason fade that we've seen in previous years. But Alabama is also not at a point to start cruising -- after this weekend's series against Auburn, the Tide closes out the SEC schedule with consecutive sets at Tennessee, at South Carolina, vs. Florida, at LSU and vs. Mississippi State.

As for Texas A&M: Once again, Daniel Mengden was not great but not bad (8.0 IP, four earned runs, seven hits, nine strikeouts) and lost the game. But, hey, the 13-run barrage in the first game of Saturday's double-header was fun, right?

LSU Comes Alive

At least you can call LSU a former struggling team if you look at their Sunday game against Mississippi State, in which the Tigers cranked out 17 runs on 20 hits, seven walks and two Bulldog errors. That capped off a three-game sweep of Mississippi State that suggested that both of these teams might be just be who we thought they were a few weeks ago.

Aaron Nola was Aaron Nola -- eight shutout innings Friday, allowing just two hits and two walks against 10 strikeouts. (He also plunked a man.) Jared Poche and a trio of relievers did a solid job on Saturday as well, while a team of pitchers held State to four runs while the offense was clubbing six Bulldog pitchers like so many baby seals.

One game, of course, does not a trend make. LSU will face two of the three best teams in terms of ERA in conference games over its next two series. We'll find out soon enough whether Sunday was foreshadowing or a mirage. For its part, Mississippi State has a few series coming up that will allow them to make up some ground -- but the high hopes that the Bulldogs had at the beginning of the year continue to fade.

What's the Matter with BBCOR?

Anyone who wanted to relive the old days of college baseball simply needed to watch Florida's trip to Kentucky this weekend. A total of 56 runs were scored in the three game series, with each team scoring eight runs in every game except Florida on Friday, with Kentucky blasted the Gators, 17-1.

That kept the pitchers busy, as you can probably guess. The teams logged a combined 26 appearances. A.J. Reed of Kentucky and Logan Shore of Florida -- who amazingly does not share his name with a CW soap opera -- deserve some plaudits as the only starters not to allow at least some runs. (Why Shore did not bludgeon assorted members of the bullpen after they gave up eight runs in the eighth inning and two runs in the ninth to almost give away Saturday's game is anyone's guess.)

Kentucky is an interesting experiment this year: Can an offense-only team still win in modern-day college baseball? The Wildcats are tied for 11th in the SEC in ERA in conference games, but lead virtually all of the major offensive categories at this point. They are one game out of the lead in the East and tied with Vanderbilt. Wait -- what?

Vols Rebound

Tennessee's hopes of contending for the division seemed to be on life support last week, when a sweep against South Carolina capped off two series in which the Volunteers lost five of six SEC games. That total went up to six of seven in when they lost to Vanderbilt on Friday.

It's not yet time to say that Tennessee has bounced all the way back -- Dave Serrano's team remains two games out, which is far from insurmountable, but behind five other teams, which is a little bit closer to it. Still, taking two of three from a program like Vanderbilt is reason enough to say that rumors of the Vols' demise were premature. More encouraging for Tennessee: The team allowed no runs in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings this weekend. The late-game pitching meltdowns that have cost the Vols so far this season were nowhere to be seen this weekend.

Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is following South Carolina's pattern this year: Winning the home series and dropping the ones on the road. Which could bode well for the Commodores in the season-ending tilt with the Gamecocks if both teams are still in the hunt. But the week before that is a trip to Florida, so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Ole Miss Sweeps Past Auburn

Meanwhile, Auburn's slide through the SEC slate -- and the schedule entirely, really -- continued at Ole Miss this weekend, with the Tigers dropping three straight to the Rebels. Auburn started out 17-7 but has won just two games since March 22 -- one against Missouri and one against Kennesaw State. Samford and the opponent in six of the last seven SEC games have defeated the Tigers over the same time frame.

Ole Miss did a bit of it all. Austin Anderson's walk-off three-run home run in the 13th inning capped off the only game where Auburn played that close. (A nice effort by Dillon Overton, who is the best thing Auburn has going for it right now, was blown by the bullpen in that one.) The Rebels won both of Saturday's games by a total of 11-1, including a complete game shutout by Christian Trent, who held Auburn to five hits and struck out seven in Game 1.

Right now, Ole Miss just needs to stay close in the SEC West. They end the season with a series against Georgia and at Texas A&M. That could provide room for them to make up ground if they trail by a game or two as things wind down.

A Singularity of Futility

Ole Miss and Auburn weren't the only teams going to 13 innings Friday. No, some fans were also treated to the battle between Georgia and Missouri, who cranked out 23 hits over the 13 innings -- and combined for three runs. The winning run scored on an error and was unearned. It was, after all, Georgia and Missouri.

Georgia turned around and clobbered Missouri, 7-2, to win the series in the next game, after which Mizzou managed to salvage a game in a 4-2 win. For now, Missouri seems able to claim the title of worst team in the SEC with little argument.