The college baseball season is nearing its final month of the season and the excitement knows no bounds. Already, the Southeastern Conference has produced a whale of excitement and dominance, with five teams standing in the Top 10 of the USA TODAY Baseball Top 25 Coaches Poll, six amongst the Top 11, and seven in the Top 20. This should come as no surprise however, as the SEC has been one of the best baseball conferences on a yearly basis it seems.
Three teams in the Top 5 of that poll come from the SEC as Florida, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have stood out the most. The Gators are atop the mountain for the most, boasting a record of 33-5, tops in the nation, and have won 22 games in Gainesville. Their main threat in the SEC East has been the Gamecocks, who are currently tied with UF for the lead in the division with an 11-4 record.
Meanwhile, the Texas A&M Aggies stand with a 10-5 record in conference play and 28-7 overall, just edging out perennial power LSU who stands one game back of the Aggies in the conference standings for the moment. Breathing down their necks are Mississippi State and Alabama who each check in at 8-7, as well as Ole Miss who check in at 7-8. In the SEC East, Vandy and Kentucky are both 9-6 with a sizable gap between the two clubs and the Georgia Bulldogs who are three games back.
With a month to play, let's take a look at some of the biggest storylines on the diamond in the SEC.
Can A&M's home dominance continue?
Kyle Field is often noted as Texas A&M's most venerable venue, but in the 2016 baseball season, Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park is given it a run for its money.
The 6,100-seat venue is bringing all the sweetness for the Aggies this season as A&M is a hearty 20-1 on their home field. The lone loss came at the hands of the Bayou Bengals, as LSU got a win by the skin of their teeth 3-2 back on March 25 after junior shortstop Kramer Robertson reached on an error in the 9th inning that plated sophomore 3rd baseman Greg Deichmann.
The Aggies have 13 home games remaining this season. The most notable come against the Commodores and Rebels, both matchups occurring in the month of May. Later this week, they'll welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide to Aggieland, and the Tide are coming off a series victory over highly touted Ole Miss.
The Tide's biggest weapon is pitcher Jake Walton who, in nine appearances, has posted a 2.10 ERA in 51.1 IP as of April 17. Don't discount .300 hitter Vincent Chance either, as his bat could be a factor in this weekend's series.
The Aggies will certainly be tested this weekend but, if they can continue this stretch into the month of May, there's no telling what could come next.
Who will win the SEC East?
As noted, the Gators and Gamecocks both sit atop the SEC East Division with records of 11-4. The two teams have a hugely impactful series looming from April 29-May 1, and to the Gamecocks' benefit, that will be played at Founders Park in Columbia. As it stands, this will be a Top 10 matchup nationally with UF at No. 2 and South Carolina at No. 8. If things were to fall in their benefit, we could potentially see a Top 5 matchup next weekend, although still somewhat unlikely.
Nevertheless, that series could go a long way towards determining a Division Champion. Don't discount Vanderbilt's pitching aiding the 'Dores down the stretch either, though. What might hurt them however is they have trips to College Station and Gainesville remaining on their schedule as well as a game against currently ranked No. 4 Louisville on May 10. They may have the toughest road to try and compete with the Gators and Gamecocks, but they are rolling of late as winners of four of their last five, seven of their last 11, and 11 of their last 15.
Could Kentucky make a push? UK has it a little easier than some of their counterparts. Although they play against Louisville, South Carolina, and Ole Miss the Wildcats do have the Gamecocks at home at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington in early May. They also finish the season against lowly Mizzou who currently stands at 4-11 in conference play and 19-18 overall. The Wildcats will need some help but they still could pose as a threat to steal the East Division title if things break the 'Cats' way.
Who will win the batting title?
As of April 17, 2016, three dominant hitters have posted averages of .408 or better as the final month of the season looms. Two Auburn Tigers, Joshua Palacios and Anfernee Grier, each have hit .408 and .414 but the leader of the pack comes to us from College Station. Boomer White, who originally played for TCU, has given the Aggies a huge boost in the lineup and has downright mashed this month. In 44 at-bats, White's posted an average of a staggering .522 and has just three games of one hit or less.
The combo of Palacios and Grier has helped lead the Tigers to the third-best team batting average in the conference. In addition, Auburn's amassed 579 total bases this season, the fourth-highest mark in the conference. After playing in junior college, Palacios, a native of Brooklyn, has adjusted well to the SEC and has picked up 53 hits, nine doubles and four triples this season, whilst slugging .654 and getting on base at a rate of .487. Grier meanwhile has the higher average and, also, has gotten on base at a rate of .500 to this point in the year.
We're not sure whether the race between teammates Palacios and Grier will recapture the magic conjured by former New York Yankee legends Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly, but it sure should be fun to see down the stretch. If Boomer White can keep up the pace he's going on as well, then it's likely that the batting title will be headed to Aggieland.
That's all from here. What storylines do YOU think will be worth watching in the final month of the season? Discuss in the comment section below!