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SEC Baseball Roundup: Crowded Division Fields as Everyone Wins at Least One

There's a four-way tie for first in the SEC East and a three-way tie for first in the SEC West. A few of the names might surprise you, but not many

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David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Division Standings

Florida Gators 2-1 13-7 -- Alabama Crimson Tide 2-1 12-6 --
South Carolina Gamecocks 2-1 18-1 -- Auburn Tigers 2-1 13-7 --
Tennessee Volunteers 2-1 17-2 -- Mississippi St. Bulldogs 2-1 15-8 --
Vanderbilt Commodores 2-1 18-3 -- Arkansas Razorbacks 1-2 9-7 1.0
Georgia Bulldogs 1-2 13-8 1.0 LSU Tigers 1-2 17-4 1.0
Kentucky Wildcats 1-2 14-6 1.0 Ole Miss Rebels 1-2 17-4 1.0
Missouri Tigers 1-2 9-9 1.0 Texas A&M Aggies 1-2 14-7 1.0

Everyone in the conference got at least one win over the weekend, even Missouri. Which is not listed as last in the SEC East on the conference site right now for reasons passing understanding. (This paragraph has been corrected.)

Most of the series this weekend were actually done by Saturday, with threatening weather prompting every series except Arkansas' trip to Florida to wrap up before Sunday. Florida might have just as soon ended the series on Saturday without playing a third game, as we shall soon see.

East vs. West

The biggest series of opening weekend in the SEC, without question, was LSU facing off with Vanderbilt. The Tigers were one of the front-runners in the SEC West, and the Commodores are expected to battle South Carolina -- and potentially Tennessee and another team or two -- to claim the SEC East. Things started out looking good for LSU and ended up looking better for Vanderbilt.

The Tigers won the Friday night game, 4-2, scoring all their runs in the eighth inning. That would end up being the only time LSU would take the lead all weekend.

Vince Conde cranked out seven hits and drew a pair of walks for Vanderbilt over the course of the weekend. (He also drove in four runs, for those of you who care about the much-maligned RBI.) Hayden Stone struck out an eye-popping 10 batters in five and a third innings of "relief" work in the second game of Saturday's double-header. But Vanderbilt might want to work on its fielding after committing two errors in each of the games of this series.

The Tigers' energies might best be concentrated on the mound; LSU pitching gave up 21 hits and 10 walks over the course of Saturday's double-header. Putting an average of 15 men on base per game is (to state the obvious) not the best way to win games.

One Series, Two Winners

Ole Miss' trip to Columbia served as a kind of test for both teams, but more so for the Rebels, who had not started the season as highly touted as the Gamecocks and were suspected of having gained their 16-2 record more on schedule than on merit. South Carolina was undefeated and had at least three major wins against Clemson to its credit.

But Ole Miss announced early that there was really something to its gaudy record. The Rebels won the season opener, ending the Gamecocks' winning streak on the strength of a sixth-inning grand slam against a tired Jordan Montgomery, who struggled more than usual throughout the game. South Carolina came back to win the series by taking both halves of a Saturday double-header, but Ole Miss pushed South Carolina to extra innings in the first game Saturday and is the only team other than Clemson to score against the Gamecocks in three straight games.

It will take awhile to figure out just how good Ole Miss is; playing perhaps the best team in the conference only allows you to prove so much. But the fact that the Rebels managed to hang with the Gamecocks as well as they did seems to indicate that Ole Miss isn't going anywhere soon.

One Series, Two Losers?

Me, Friday: "Anything less than a sweep for Tennessee should be viewed as a disappointment." Me, sticking to my word: You have to kind of view this series as a disappointment for Tennessee.

And, indeed, the Friday night loss for the Volunteers featured one of the problems that has cropped up from time to time for Tennessee: late-game pitching. Missouri scored three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth in the 5-2 win. That came after Nick Williams pitched six scoreless innings for Tennessee, lowering his ERA to 1.48 and his WHIP to 0.73.

The Volunteers did allow just two more runs to the Tigers over the course of the series, and slip-ups are inevitable with a team that hasn't seen a lot of success in recent years. But the back of the bullpen has to get straightened out sooner or later.

Not Dead Yet (Part I)

It's become fashionable to write off Mississippi State after the Bulldogs, runners-up in last year's College World Series and one of the offseason favorites to play for the national title, got off to a lackluster start. And while taking two of three from Georgia isn't reason to start penciling the Western Division Bulldogs back into your brackets for Omaha, it's also the first tangible sign that Mississippi State might be regaining its footing.

Remember, Georgia had ripped off 10 straight wins coming into the series and ran that number to 11 with a 7-1 victory Friday. But then Ross Mitchell took the mound and threw a complete game, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out five. Three more pitchers combined to allow one run in the second game of Saturday's double-header, and Mississippi State has something approaching a winning streak going on.

Not Dead Yet (Part II)

Also among the SEC teams consigned to mid-tier status before conference games began: Florida. That might need to be rethought after the series win against Arkansas, but put the emphasis for the moment on might.

Florida's pitching held up pretty well over the first two games of the series, limiting Arkansas to a total of one run. That said, the Hogs haven't exactly been an offensive powerhouse this year, and the Florida pitching did not hold up all that well in the Sunday matchup, when the Razorbacks scored four runs in the first two innings, three more in the ninth and a couple in between to win 9-3. That was the third-highest run total for Arkansas all year, and the first time the Hogs had scored more than four runs in the month of March.

Florida will take it, of course, and now finds itself in a tie with South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for first place in the SEC East. And if you can win the first two games of most of your series, pitching on Sunday becomes far less important.

Tide Rolls Over Kentucky Bats

It might be fair at this point to downgrade the Kentucky offense from "explosive" to "potentially explosive." Alabama did allow seven runs in the middle game of the three game series between the Wildcats and the Tide, but otherwise largely muted the Kentucky bats in the other two games -- including a shutout Friday.

Much of that shutout was pitched by Spencer Turnbull, who turned in seven and a third innings and nudged his ERA down to 0.31. Turnbull has allowed 13 hits in 29 innings. He leads a Bama pitching staff that could make the Tide a wild card in the race for the SEC West.

Pattern Recognition

There were some odd parallels going on in the series between Texas A&M and Auburn this weekend. Each team threw a shutout. Each team won a game in which it had 15 hits. And the team that scored first won every game.

It's still not entirely clear what to expect of either of these teams; in that respect, pairing them against each other really didn't help in any material way. Auburn won a shutout Friday, a 4-0 complete gamer from Dillon Ortman. The Tigers then won 5-2 in Saturday's first game before dropping a 9-0 loss in the second half of the double-header. That was enough to put Auburn in a tie for first place in the division right now.


We'll start with USA Today:

1 Florida St. Seminoles (14) 17-2 753 2
2 South Carolina Gamecocks (15) 18-1 748 1
3 Vanderbilt Commodores (2) 18-3 689 3
4 Oregon St. Beavers 18-3 683 4
5 Virginia Cavaliers 15-3 670 5
6 LSU Tigers 17-4 590 6
7 Oregon Ducks 14-5 539 9
8 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 17-2 516 10
9 Louisville Cardinals 15-4 483 11
10 N.C. State Wolfpack 14-5 468 7
11 Cal Poly Mustangs 17-3 443 14
12 North Carolina Tar Heels 14-5 403 13
13 Cal State Fullerton Titans 10-7 365 8
14 Ole Miss Rebels 17-4 339 12
15 Rice Owls 15-6 321 19t
16 Tennessee Volunteers 17-2 262 17
17 UCLA Bruins 12-7 258 22
18 Clemson Tigers 12-6 241 18
19 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 15-8 200 19t
20 Texas Longhorns 15-6 196 15
21 San Diego Toreros 14-4 149 25
22 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 14-6 139 16
23 Sam Houston St. Bearkats 16-4 132 NR
24 Houston Cougars 15-3 108 NR
25 Texas Tech Red Raiders 16-5 65 23
Also Receiving Votes: UC-Santa Barbara 57; Kentucky 47; Miami (FL) 30; Florida 23; Kansas 23; Indiana 18; VCU 15; Seton Hall 13; FIU 12; Alabama 11; Texas A&M 11; Charleston 9; Oklahoma 9; Washington 9; Indiana St. 8; San Diego St. 7; Pepperdine 3; TCU 3; Baylor 2; Dallas Baptist 2; Memphis 2; Georgia Southern 1

You will note that South Carolina has more first-place votes than Florida State in this poll. That means that some of those ranking FSU first are not as likely to rank South Carolina second as vice versa. Looking at the voting roster, this appears to not be some sort of ACConspiracy. But it is interesting.

Onto Baseball America:

1 South Carolina Gamecocks 18-1 1
2 Florida St. Seminoles 17-2 2
3 Virginia Cavaliers 15-3 3
4 Oregon St. Beavers 18-3 4
5 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 17-2 6
6 Vanderbilt Commodores 18-3 7
7 Cal Poly Mustangs 17-3 11
8 LSU Tigers 17-4 8
9 Cal State Fullerton Titans 10-7 9
10 N.C. State Wolfpack 14-5 5
11 Rice Owls 15-6 15
12 Oregon Ducks 14-5 12
13 Clemson Tigers 12-6 14
14 Louisville Cardinals 15-4 17
15 Texas Longhorns 15-6 10
16 Sam Houston St. Bearkats 16-4 18
17 North Carolina Tar Heels 14-5 19
18 Tennessee Volunteers 17-2 22
19 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 13-3 23
20 Ole Miss Rebels 17-4 21
21 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 15-8 24
22 UCLA Bruins 12-7 25
23 Houston Cougars 15-3 NR
24 San Diego Toreros 14-4 NR
25 Miami (FL) Hurricanes 11-9 13
Out: Indiana (No. 16); Kentucky (No. 20)

Losing two of three to Long Beach State finally got Indiana kicked out of the Top 25. So there's that.