It’s Opening Day in the SEC!
Let’s take a look at what lies ahead.
WRIGHT STATE vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE
2 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
The 6th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs open the season against the Wright State Raiders. The Raiders were picked to finish second in the Horizon League this year behind the UIC Flames, and return Horizon League Freshman of the Year Tyler Black. Black clubbed a .353 batting average last year en route to taking home the honor. The Bulldogs still have the likes of Tanner Allen, Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg aboard for this year. They also will have righthander JT Ginn aboard the rotation yet again. This should be an interesting early season matchup.
WESTERN ILLINOIS vs. TENNESSEE
2 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
Tennessee gets their season started against Western Illinois. The Leathernecks were picked to finish fifth this year in the Summit League, as they are coming off a 22-31 campaign a season ago. Tennessee figures to be a tough out this year, especially with the vaunted Garrett Crochet still in tow, as well as Alerick Soularie. Given the difference in talent, this should be a light way for Tennessee to begin this season.
EASTERN ILLINOIS vs. ARKANSAS
3 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
5th-ranked Arkansas will open up the year against Eastern Illinois. EIU was tabbed to finish eighth this season in the Ohio Valley Conference, and are armed with All-OVC infielder Christian Pena and pitcher Will Klein, who was named by D1 Baseball as the top pro prospect in the OVC. But they will be facing a juggernaut in the Razorbacks, who come in looking strong yet again. Still in Fayetteville are Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin, along with Matt Goodheart and Casey Opitz. Their offense is looking absolutely fantastic again, and it should get off to a hot start on Friday.
MIZZOU vs. JACKSONVILLE STATE
4 p.m. ET | ESPN+
Mizzou baseball is, of course, ineligible for postseason play this year due to NCAA sanctions. But the Tigers should be able to field a competitive team. Gone is TJ Sikkema but Ian Bedell is still around to get it done. Trey Dillard and Konnor Ash should likely be able to pack a serious punch in the rotation. Whatever the case, their season starts against Jacksonville State, who was picked to finish at the top of the OVC this year. So they will have their hands full against one of the better mid-major teams out there.
— Chris Novak
NORTHEASTERN vs. ALABAMA
4 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
A young Alabama Crimson Tide squad takes the field at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Friday for a three-game set with the Northeastern Huskies. Brad Bohannon’s team sports 22 freshmen and sophomores, with two of those freshmen (Connor Prielipp and Antoine Jean) in the starting rotation for the opening weekend. The Crimson Tide are working to move up the SEC ladder after finishing last or tied for last the previous three seasons. Northeastern is hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2019 after making the NCAA tournament the previous season. The Huskies were tabbed to finish second in the CAA preseason poll.
HOLY CROSS vs. SOUTH CAROLINA
4 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
After a disappointing 2019 that saw the Gamecocks set a program-record for losses in a season, South Carolina returns to the diamond with its sights set on making it back to the NCAA tournament. Carmen Mlodzinski takes the hill on Friday with a lot of hype behind him, and a spot on the Golden Spikes Award Watch list. The sophomore right-hander saw his 2019 season cut short by injury, but shined in the Cape Cod League last summer with 40 strikeouts in just over 29 innings of work. Baseball America has Mlodzinski as the 10th ranked prospect in the 2020 MLB draft. Holy Cross is headlined by all-Patriot League outfielder Austin Masel, who hit a team-best .312 with 13 home runs and 31 RBIs. On the mound, the Crusaders ace is first-team all-Patriot league pitcher Liam Dvorak, fresh off a 2019 where he posted a 2.89 ERA in league play.
RICHMOND vs. GEORGIA
5 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
Two years in a row as a national seed for the NCAA tournament, two NCAA tournament exits on its home field in Athens. Now, Georgia comes into 2020 loaded for another chance to break through to Omaha. The Bulldogs are a consensus preseason top 10 pick behind one of the best rotations in College Baseball. Junior right-hander Emerson Hancock is generating plenty of MLB buzz after finishing with a sub-two ERA with 97 strikeouts in 2019. UGA will have to replace a bit of offensive production in their lineup after losing two-way star Aaron Schunk, LJ Talley, and other key pieces of the ‘Dawgs 2019 roster. For Richmond, this is the second year in a row the Spiders will start their campaign in the Peach State. They opened with three straight wins last year, beating Georgia State, #17 Georgia Tech, and Kennesaw State to begin 2019. Richmond returns pitching ace Tim Miller, weekend starter Jacob Marcus, and four starters from last year’s lineup.
LOUISVILLE vs. OLE MISS
5 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
One of the headliners for opening weekend features two ranked teams who say their 2019 seasons end in somewhat similar fashion. Louisville fell just one game short of advancing to the championship series at the College World Series, while Ole Miss was one game short of punching its ticket to Omaha. Now both will clash at Swayze Field with their sights set on championship success in 2020. The Cardinals come into Oxford ranked as the top team in the nation in some polls, behind one of the best rotations in baseball. Junior Reid Detmers headlines the staff, fresh off setting a program-record for strikeouts in a season with 167. Add in weekend starters Bobby Miller and Luke Smith with several names out of the bullpen, that’s six of the top eight arms back for the Cardinals. For the Rebels, Mike Bianco’s team loses a lot of experience in the lineup, only to be replaced with the second ranked recruiting class according to D1Baseball.com. Two-sport stars Jerrion Ealy and John Rhys Plumlee are notable names who will see action this spring, along with returning contributors in Anthony Servideo, Tyler Keenan, and Doug Nikhazy. These teams met last week for a midweek series in Louisville, with the Cardinals sweeping the Rebels in two games.
— Chris Turner
UIC vs. AUBURN
6 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
Aforementioned UIC, who’s tabbed as the Horizon League favorite this year, plays against a strong Auburn squad to start the season. After making the CWS for the first time since 1997, the Tigers are out to make more noise this season. They will have the likes of Tanner Burns and Jack Owen, as well as reliever Cody Greenhill to keep a stout rotation going. They will have plenty of returnees in their lineup, and should remain a force. They will play a strong UIC team though, led by reigning Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Jacob Key alongside Ryan Lin-Peistrup, among others.
MARSHALL vs. FLORIDA
6:30 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
10th-ranked Florida will begin the year against the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Gators are poised for another strong season, and will hope to get back to Omaha after missing out a year ago. Luckily they have a pretty strong top of the rotation this year and a veteran presence in their lineup in Austin Langworthy. Plus, some youngsters are poised to move forward. Marshall was picked to finish 10th out of 12 teams in CUSA this year, so this could be an opportunity for Florida to get off to a fast start.
VANDERBILT vs. MICHIGAN
7 p.m. ET | MLB Network
Top-ranked Vanderbilt will face the Michigan Wolverines as part of the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament out in Scottsdale. This is a much-anticipated rematch of the eventful College World Series of last year and will be broadcasted on MLB Network. Austin Martin is back along with plenty of talented fellows like Kumar Rocker, Jake Eder and Mason Hickman among others. They also have the best recruiting class in the country, so, you know, they’re going to be very talented. They will however face a Wolverines squad that has loads of talent. Jimmy Obertop is a prohibitive favorite for B1G Freshman of the Year. Additionally, they’ll have Jeff Criswell, Ben Dragan, Steve Hajjar and the likes of Jordan Nwogu, Jesse Franklin and plenty of other talented players. This is a team that should compete near the top of the B1G all season long and this matchup will be a good one to follow.
MIAMI (OH) vs. TEXAS A&M
7:30 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
The 21st-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will begin the 2020 campaign against the Miami (OH) RedHawks. The RedHawks had a 37-win season a year ago and will be looking to finish near the top of the MAC yet again. They are led by Sam Bachman and will have .310 hitter Landon Stephens around with them as well. Texas A&M’s pitching staff will be the strength of this team, led primarily by ace Asa Lacy who figures to be a top-flight pro prospect.
KENTUCKY vs. TCU
7:30 p.m. ET | GoFrogs[dot]com
Kentucky figures to have another difficult season ahead of them. But they will hope to get off to a hot start as they face TCU on Friday. The Wildcats were the only club to be under .500 last year, going 26-23 and 7-23 in conference play. So, yeah, every loss they suffered was to a conference opponent. We shall see how they fare, but they will face a very solid TCU squad. The Horned Frogs may not be on Texas Tech’s level this season, but they figure to still be a tough out in the Big 12. They will still have the likes of Zach Humphreys, Conner Shepherd and Hunter Wolfe around as well as Porter Brown, giving them a pretty stout offense. The rotation may be the most intriguing thing about them, so we’ll see how that phase works from them early on.
INDIANA vs. LSU
8 p.m. ET | SEC Network+
Finally, the 12th-ranked LSU Tigers will take on the Indiana Hoosiers to round out the night. Daniel Cabrera is an All-American and they will still have one of the stronger rotations in the entire conference. The big thing will be to see how they replace the glut of their lineup, but they should still be one of the better teams in the conference and the nation as well. Indiana, meanwhile, is on the heels of a 37-win campaign and will be looking very different this season. They don’t return much especially in the rotation. But there’s a lot of talent on this team and they could give LSU some fits.
— Chris Novak