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SEC Baseball Thursday: Florida Clinches SEC East, Race for SEC West Narrows

Five teams battle for what the remaining three first-round byes in the SEC tournament; three teams punch tickets to Hoover; Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn contending for last two spots in conference playoff

There was no shortage of drama in the SEC East tonight, with two extra-inning games affecting everything from the division race to the battle for seeding in the NCAA tournament. And then there was the SEC West, where things tended to get ... out of hand.

z-Florida Gators 20-8 36-18 -- y-Ole Miss Rebels 18-10 39-15 --
y-South Carolina Gamecocks 17-11 41-13 3.0 y-Mississippi St. Bulldogs 17-11 34-19 1.0
y-Vanderbilt Commodores 16-12 39-15 4.0 y-LSU Tigers 15-11-1 38-14-1 2.0
y-Kentucky Wildcats 13-15 31-21 7.0 y-Alabama Crimson Tide 14-13 33-20 3.5
Tennessee Volunteers 11-17 30-21 9.0 y-Arkansas Razorbacks 14-14 33-21 4.0
Georgia Bulldogs 10-17-1 25-26 9.5 y-Texas A&M Aggies 13-15 32-22 5.0
x-Missouri Tigers 6-22 20-31 14.0 Auburn Tigers 10-18 28-26 8.0
x-Eliminated from SEC tournament contention; y-Clinched spot in SEC tournament; z-Clinched division

Florida clinched the SEC East with an 11-inning, 6-5 win against Tennessee that could just as easily have been a Florida loss. The Gators scored the tying run with two outs in the top of the ninth, then took the lead in an 11th-inning rally that consisted of a hit and two Tennessee errors. With another win tomorrow evening, Florida can win the SEC outright and claim the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

South Carolina, meanwhile, decided to get a jump on the late-game heroics that the Gamecocks usually reserve for the postseason. The Gamecocks won, 4-3, in 10 innings in a game that featured two Commodores thrown out at the plate, more stolen bases by Vanderbilt than you would think possible against a left-handed pitcher and a series of terrible bunts by the Commodores. The game was tied on an RBI single by Max Schrock, who could barely run because of a back injury, and won on a solo home run by Joey Pankake. South Carolina is in solid position to be one of the top four seeds and is battling with Ole Miss for a possible second national seed. A win by Vanderbilt tomorrow would make the rubber game of this series gigantic.

Kentucky annihilated Georgia, 13-0, in the most lopsided East-vs.-East game of the night. Combined with the loss by Auburn, that was enough to give the Wildcats their ticket to Hoover.

The Auburn loss also put Arkansas and Texas A&M over the hump. For their part, the Hogs spent the night blasting Missouri, 9-4. Really, at this point, I don't think Mizzou is even capable of feeling pain.

Ole Miss, though, got the 8-4 win over Texas A&M. Mississippi State beat Alabama 9-4, keeping pace with the Rebels in the race for the SEC West and eliminating the Tide. LSU torched Auburn, 10-0, to stay technically alive, though down two games with two games to go, they need a lot to go right.

So where does the race for the top four seeds in Hoover stand? South Carolina and Mississippi State are arranged by where the seedings would end up today.

Race for the Top Four
z-Florida 20-8 Clinched
Ole Miss 18-10 +1.0
South Carolina
17-11 --
Mississippi State
17-11 --
LSU 15-11-1 1.0
Vanderbilt 16-12 1.0

Alabama gets knocked out with the loss, but everyone else who started out the day with a chance at a top-four seed is in a race that could come down to Saturday's games. Speaking of races that could come down to the wire, here's the contest for the last two spots in Hoover:

Race for the Top 12
Tennessee 11-17 +0.5
Georgia 10-17-1 --
Auburn 10-18 1.0

Tennessee's magic number is one -- the next Vols win or Auburn loss sends Tennessee to Hoover. Georgia needs some combination of two Bulldog wins and / or Auburn losses to clinch their ticket. With all three of these teams playing obviously superior foes, it will be interesting to see how this race shapes up over the final two days.

The Friday Slate

Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers, 6 p.m. ET
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Missouri Tigers, 7 p.m. ET, CST
Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide, 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Georgia Bulldogs, 7 p.m. ET
LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers, 7 p.m. ET
South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores, 7:30 p.m. ET
Ole Miss Rebels vs. Texas A&M Aggies, 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU