The 2020 College Baseball season is upon us. Valentine’s Day brings much more than date night for rabid baseball fans around the country. The SEC opens up with several high profile matchups and we’ll break them down here.
Non-Power Five Series
Most teams in the SEC are taking it easy in the opening weekend. Playing some lesser opponents will allow the ball clubs to work out early season kinks and give new faces some opportunities.
Wright State (42-17) @ No.10 Mississippi State (52-15)
Wright State should have been the regional team out of the Horizon League last year but failed to win their tournament. They are an upper-tier team outside of the power five. They won 40+ games a year ago and are used to doing that regularly. The Bulldogs will are capable of the sweep but can’t take an inning off.
Prediction: Mississippi State 3-0
Eastern Illinois (26-30) @ No.7 Arkansas (46-20)
Arkansas welcomes Eastern Illinois to Baum Stadium to begin their 2020 season. It is the same team Arkansas swept to open the 2019 season a year ago. They scored 30 runs over that series but narrowly avoided an upset bid in the Sunday game.
Prediction: Arkansas 3-0
Northeastern (28-29) @ Alabama (30-26)
Northeastern may prove a tricky opponent for an Alabama team that is supposed to be much improved. The Huskies knocked off three power five teams last season including Missouri. They have a very hot bat in Ian Fair. They stay atop of the Colonial Conference most years and may be able to steal a win.
Prediction: Alabama 2-1
Holy Cross (22-32) @ South Carolina (28-28)
South Carolina will test the engine on their improved 2020 roster with an easy weekend against Holy Cross. The Crusaders have a new head coach and are in no way a threat to be beating the Gamecocks. Barring a breakdown, the Gamecocks should earn the sweep.
Prediction: South Carolina 3-0
Missouri (34-22-1) @ Jacksonville State (39-23)
Missouri’s really going to have their hands full to open the season. This matchup has a sort of mismatch feel to it. Missouri has adequate pitching but has question marks on offense. Meanwhile, JSU returns seven players from last year’s lineup with question marks in the rotation. Missouri will have to fight hard to win this series
Prediction: Jacksonville State 2-1
Western Illinois (22-31) @ Tennessee (40-21)
Western Illinois was nothing to worry about last season but return most of that starting lineup. Seven of their nine batters are back along with their Friday night ace. It won’t be the easiest of three games facing all that experience, but its a team Tennessee should be able to sweep.
Prediction: Tennessee 3-0
Richmond (28-25-1) @ No.5 Georgia (46-17)
Richmond lost their two best hitters from a season ago but returns a lot of firepower. They may be able to give Georgia a little scare but this is a series Georgia should be sweeping. Their rotation should overpower the Spiders.
Prediction: Georgia 3-0
University of Illinois-Chicago (29-23) @ No.8 Auburn (38-28)
Auburn will get the Flames from Illinois-Chicago in their opening weekend. UIC was the Horizon representative in the NCAA Tournament last season. They are led by Horizon conference pitcher of the year Jacob Key. If Auburn isn’t careful, UIC is poised to steal one from the Tigers.
Prediction: Auburn 3-0
Marshall (29-28) @ No.4 Florida (34-26)
The Gators will open up with one of the easier opponents out of Conference USA. The Thundering Herd won’t pose a threat to Florida. The Gators should have the opportunity to flex it’s improved muscles this weekend.
Prediction: Florida 3-0
Miami (OH) (37-19) @ No.20 Texas A&M (39-23-1)
Miami had one of their best seasons in recent history last season. They return most of a batting lineup that was roughly the second strongest offense in the MAC last season. Their weak point is their rotation as they’ve lost most of the starts from last season. Texas A&M will need to keep the Redhawk bats quiet to get the sweep.
Prediction: Texas A&M 3-0
Power Five Series
No.1 Louisville (51-18) @ No.25 Ole Miss (41-27)
Ole Miss welcomes the top team in the country to Swayze Field to kick off the season. Louisville went 2-2 in Omaha last postseason and were eliminated by the eventual National Champions Vanderbilt.
A three-game sweep is not out of the question this weekend. Ole Miss lost two-thirds of their starting lineup from last year and are extremely young. They have just 12 total upperclassmen including four seniors (three of which are transfers).
Louisville meanwhile brings potentially college baseball’s best pitcher to the mound to open the series. LHP Reid Detmers is ranked as the second-best starting pitcher by D1 Baseball. Not far behind him is the No.22 ranked pitcher, Bobby Miller.
Ole Miss has a solid rotation and a bullpen that should be better suited this season, despite the season-ending injury to Tyler Myers. The lineup is young though and is going to have a wake-up call against some of the nation’s best pitching. Ole Miss will need everything to steal a game.
Prediction: Louisville 2-1
Vanderbilt (59-12) MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament – Scottsdale, AZ
Vanderbilt will be playing three different teams in the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament. The first game will undoubtedly be the most exciting game of the weekend. Michigan (50-22) took the Commodores to the final game of a three-game series a year ago. They’ll be looking for revenge to open up the season.
UCONN (39-25) had a respectable season but are hoping for a little more this year. The Huskies brought in 17 newcomers in the off-season and incoming recruits. They have the potential to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, so the Commodores won’t want to take them lightly.
Cal Poly (28-28) returns a lot of experience from last year. They’re expected to make a run at thte Big West title this season and a potential regional bid. By Sunday they may be running a little thin on pitching though. As long as Vanderbilt can contain the bats, they should be okay.
Overall Vanderbilt should have a good shot at sweeping the weekend. Their starting pitching makes it very difficult to lose the first two games. Mason Hickman (No.10) and Kumar Rocker (No.4) both rank inside the top 10 for D1 Baseball’s starting pitchers. The toughest test will be the first test.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 3-0
Kentucky (26-29) @ TCU (34-28)
TCU just barely made their way into the NCAA Tournament last season after pulling a 3-2 record in the Big 12 Tournament. Against all odds, the Horned Frogs went 2-2 in the Fayetteville Regional.
TCU brings back a solid squad, expected to finish in the middle to top of the Big 12. They are led by one of the best pitching staffs they’ve fielded in recent years. Redshirt Sophomore Johnny Ray leads the rotation. He’s had a good off-season and has been known to hit 97mph on the gun.
As far as the bats are concerned, TCU just about replaced its entire infield in the transfer market. The new firepower is expected to produce an uptick from a lackluster offense in 2019.
Kentucky’s green rotation is going to pose an interesting matchup against TCU’s generally new lineup. The Wildcats’ starters are going to be tested early. Their resolve in the series could set the tone early on for the 2020 season.
Prediction: TCU 2-1
Indiana (37-23) @ No.11 LSU (40-26)
The Indiana vs LSU series is a rare Big Ten vs SEC opening weekend series. The Hoosiers went 1-2 in the Louisville Regional after winning the conference title. Indiana is expected to be a Big Ten powerhouse this year and make a run for the title once again.
Indiana’s offense was the key to their success last season. First-year head coach Jeff Mercer had his players driving baseballs with authority, belting 95 home runs. Expect the Big Ten Coach of the Year to replicate that offensive prowess this season.
The Hoosiers lost three of their best bats from 2019, so LSU shouldn’t have quite as much offense on their hands. That doesn’t mean the lineup is weak. Third baseman Cole Barr belted 17 home runs last season. Outfielder Elijah Dunham had nine of his own to go along with a .314 average.
The key to success this weekend will be to get on top of Indiana’s pitching. The Hoosiers lost all three starters from their rotation. LSU’s offense might be replacing some holes of their own, but their rotation is solid. The Tigers should be able to win the series on the backs of their arms.
Prediction: LSU 2-1
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