This week the primary focus in the SEC is the East divisional race between South Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky. The secondary focus is the logjam of teams (Arkansas, Mississippi State, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt) hovering around the .500 mark fighting for higher seeds in the SEC Tournament.
Kentucky should have the easier road in SEC week nine action among top teams. The Wildcats have to be happy that Alabama comes to town after back-to-back series losses to Vanderbilt and Florida.
The Wildcats’ bats have gone quiet of late, only scoring five total runs against the Gators in last weekend’s three-game series. Statistically Alabama has the worst team pitching staff in the SEC posting an ERA of 5.18. This matchup should serve as a nice confidence boost for UK before having to face a tough MSU team on the road to close conference play next week.
South Carolina and Florida face similar teams in Georgia and MSU. Both Bulldog teams feature top tier college baseball talent on Friday going head-to-head against MSU’s Chris Stratton, 9-0 with a 2.19 ERA, and Georgia’s Alex Wood, 6-1, 2.64 ERA.
Georgia surprised everyone sweeping Auburn at home last weekend. Was this a one series mirage or the sign of a staff that is putting it together at the right time of the year?
Mississippi State has won their last three conference series including a sweep over Tennessee since being swept by South Carolina April 13-16.
Florida gets the Bulldogs at home while USC has to travel to Athens. If the Gators and Gamecocks can survive Friday all SEC East teams should make it out of the weekend as they went in, one game apart from each other.
Betting with house money, Kentucky sweeps while Florida and South Carolina drop at least one game. This puts Kentucky and USC in a two-way tie for first in the East. Florida more than likely will drop from the race giving Kentucky the East divisional crown next weekend after finishing off MSU. USC hosts LSU, a series the Tigers should win.
The mess below LSU in the SEC West is just that, a mess. Arkansas has the pitching talent to be a top five team in the nation, as they were earlier in the season. What the Razorbacks need are more than three position starters hitting above .300; even two guys hitting .260 with double digit homerun totals would suffice for Razorback’ fans.
As is the Hogs are at the mercy of what third baseman Matt Reynolds (.333), first baseman Dominic Ficociello (.323), and short stop Tim Carver (.316) can string together.
Sam Bates, an outfielder and part time starter (33 games out of 50), leads the Hogs with six homeruns. Reynolds and Ficociello are second and third on the team with five and four homeruns respectively.
Auburn has the bats to get at the Hogs the rest of the series. Arkansas may not have enough punch at the plate to keep up.
Ole Miss should be able to beat Tennessee at home while MSU drops a series on the road to Florida.
At the end of the weekend Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State should all still be clumped together leaving one more weekend of SEC play to separate one team from the other for second place in the West.
Vanderbilt has won their last two series after being left for last just three weeks ago. The resurgent Commodores shocked Kentucky at home but may have a hard time duplicating another top five upset in Baton Rouge.
Difficult to say LSU, ranked No. 3 by Baseball America and No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball, has been overlooked most of the year, but they have. The Tigers have been steady all year with two series losses to Auburn and then No. 3 Kentucky.
The two losses LSU had to Appalachian State in late February does not look good on the resume but have proven to be a stumble on the schedule not a measuring stick of the team’s ability.
The Tigers are playing for top seeding in the SEC Tournament. They could get caught looking ahead to South Carolina. At worst the LSU stays the course winning 2-1.
Top SEC Pitching Matchup
Two of the best in conference square off Friday night when USC senior pitcher Michael Roth (4-0, 2.82 ERA) faces Georgia sophomore pitcher Alex Wood (6-1, 2.64 ERA).
Both lefties should be able to shutdown the opposition’s bats for seven to eight innings. What happens after that is up to the bullpens. Unless Georgia can continue their sharp play from last weekend, Woods may have another no-decision on the board if the Bulldogs do not spot him early points.
SEC News and Notes
Is he or is he not?
That is the question about Chris Stratton in regards to the best pitcher in the SEC. Stratton is 9-0 with a 2.19 ERA. Georgia’s Alex Wood (6-1, 2.64 ERA) and South Carolina’s (4-0, 2.82 ERA) may be the only other Friday starters in the SEC to give Stratton a run for his money this late in the season.
Kentucky’s sophomore pitcher Corey Littrell has continued to impress throughout SEC play. Nestled in the backend of Kentucky’s rotation, he remains undefeated and lowered his ERA from 2.51 last week to 2.30 after facing Florida… but he’s on the backend of the weekend rotation.
Arkansas’ bats have heated up, some, just as the Hogs’ arms have gone a tad cool. The Razorbacks have raised their team batting average from .275 two weeks ago to .282 while the pitching staff’s ERA has jumped up to 2.93 from 2.61.
Video Game Numbers
LSU left fielder Ralph Ryhmes has continued his torrid streak through college baseball, even though his average dropped three points. Ryhmes is hitting .500 with 85 hits in 170 at bats.
Another interesting note about Ryhmes at the plate, he has only struck out 10 times during the 2012 college baseball season. He has also only walked 15 times. This says a lot about his plate approach… put the ball in play. Surprisingly just five of the balls he has put into play have been turned for a double play.
Ole Miss second baseman Alex Yarbrough’s average dropped 10 points after facing LSU inBaton Rouge. Fans of Mississippi baseball should not be too concerned he is still hitting .407 on the season.
Despite Ryhmes ridiculous season with the stick, Yarbrough is currently six total hits behind the league leader, 85 to 79.
Mississippi’s Adam Frazier leads the SEC with 39 walks. His patience at the plate pays off with his batting average as well, .349, seventh best in conference. Tanner Waite, New Mexico State, leads the nation with 56 base on balls.
Speed to Burn
Vanderbilt’s Tony Kemp hit two more doubles last week giving him eight for the year; tied for second best in Division I college baseball.
Crowded on the Plate
Kentucky’s Zac Zeller (.304) has been hit by a pitch 18 times this season.
Week Nine SEC Pitching Rotations
Alabama (18-30, 7-17) at Kentucky (38-11, 15-9)
Alabama, Freshman, RHP, Spencer Turnbull (2-4, 4.56 ERA)
Kentucky, Junior, LHP, Taylor Rodgers (5-3, 4.81 ERA)
Alabama, Freshman, LHP, Joe Keller (1-5, 4.14 ERA)
Kentucky, Junior, LHP, Jerad Grundy (4-2, 4.08 ERA)
Alabama, Junior, RHP, Charley Sullivan (2-2, 5.03 ERA)
Kentucky, Sophomore, LHP, Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.30 ERA)
Mississippi State (30-18, 12-12) at Florida (36-13, 14-10)
MSU, Junior, RHP, Chris Stratton (9-0, 2.19)
Florida, Junior, RHP, Hudson Randall (5-1, 3.53 ERA)
MSU, Junior, RHP, Kendall Graveman (3-3, 2.97 ERA)
Florida, Junior, LHP, Brian Johnson (5-4, 4.29 ERA)
Florida, Sophomore, RHP, Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.43 ERA)
South Carolina (37-12, 16-8) at Georgia (28-21, 12-12)
USC, Senior, LHP, Michael Roth (4-0, 2.82 ERA)
Georgia, Sophomore, LHP, Alex Wood (6-1, 2.64 ERA)
USC, Freshman, LHP, Jordan Montgomery (4-1, 3.98)
Georgia, Senior, RHP, Michael Palazzone (2-5, 5.45 ERA)
Georgia, Freshman, RHP, Luke Crumley (1-2, 4.44 ERA)
Vanderbilt (24-24, 11-13) at LSU (38-11, 16-8)
Vandy, Sophomore, RHP, T.J. Pecoraro (0-3, 5.40 ERA)
LSU, Sophomore, RHP, Kevin Gausman (7-1, 3.16 ERA)
Vandy, Junior, LHP, Sam Selman (7-3, 4.25 ERA)
LSU, Freshman, RHP, Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.90 ERA)
Vandy, Freshman, RHP, Tyler Beede (1-4, 4.18 ERA)
LSU, Sophomore, RHP, Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.62 ERA)
Tennessee (24-24, 8-16) at Ole Miss (31-18, 11-13)
Tennessee, Sophomore, LHP, Dalton Saberhagen (5-1, 2.92 ERA)
Ole Miss, Sophomore, RHP, Bobby Wahl (5-1, 2.14 ERA)
Tennessee, Sophomore, RHP, Nick Williams (3-4, 3.67 ERA)
Ole Miss, Sophomore, RHP, Mike Mayers (4-2, 4.01 ERA)
Ole Miss, TBA
Auburn (27-22, 11-11) at Arkansas (34-16, 12-13)
Auburn, Freshman, LHP, Daniel Koger (3-4, 2.74 ERA)
Arkansas, Junior, LHP, Randall Fant (2-2, 4.04 ERA)
SEC Thursday Game of the Week
Auburn at No. 13 Arkansas, Auburn won 3-2 in 11 innings
SEC Weekend Series: May 10-13
Auburn at No. 13 Arkansas
No. 3 South Carolina at Georgia
Vanderbilt at No. 4 LSU
Tennessee at Ole Miss
No. 30 Mississippi State at No. 5 Florida
Alabama at No. 7 Kentucky
Baseball America Rankings
No. 3 LSU
No. 4 South Carolina
No. 6 Florida
No. 7 Kentucky
No. 20 Arkansas
No. 25 Mississippi State
Ole Miss dropped out, previously No. 24
Collegiate Baseball Rankings
No. 3 South Carolina
No. 4 LSU
No. 5 Florida
No. 7 Kentucky
No. 13 Arkansas
No. 30 Mississippi State
* Rankings published May 8
SEC East (Overall Record, SEC Record)
South Carolina 37-12, 16-8
Kentucky 38-11, 15-9
Florida 36-13, 14-10
Georgia 28-21, 12-12
Vanderbilt 24-24, 11-13
Tennessee 24-24, 8-16
SEC West (Overall Record, SEC Record)
LSU 38-11, 16-8
Mississippi State 30-18, 12-12
Arkansas 34-16, 12-13
Ole Miss 31-18, 11-13
Auburn 27-22, 11-11
Alabama 18-30, 7-17
* Standings and records through May 11
Topics: Alabama, Alex Wood, Arkansas, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn, Baseball, Chris Stratton, College Baseball, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, LSU, Michael Roth, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Ralph Rhymes, Schedules, SEC Baseball, SEC Week Nine Action, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt