The SEC finishes up weekend five of conference play in a roller coaster weekend. It is now the halfway point in the conference schedule and the postseason is looming closer. This is a recap of a weekend that had some surprising results from some of the top teams.
The SEC West had a shake-up this week after seeing three teams lose their series to East teams. Georgia remains atop the East just one game ahead of Vanderbilt. Mississippi State emerges as the leader in the West after sweeping Alabama. Ole Miss and Arkansas fall out of the tie for first in the West as both lost their series to SEC East opponents.
Tennessee Pitching too Much for Dawgs
Two of the top pitching teams in the conference faced off in a showcase of some of the conference’s best arms. Tennessee took two out of three from the top team in the East Georgia Bulldogs and is the surprise of the weekend.
The Volunteers silenced Georgia’s bats in the first two games of the weekend. Head coach Tony Vitello shuffled his rotation for the series, electing to give sophomore left-hander Garrett Crochet his first start of the season in the opener. Crochet delivered five shutout innings, pitching out of jams in the first three innings that saw two Bulldog baserunners in each inning.
The hard-throwing right-hander and MLB prospect Andrew Schultz followed with two scoreless innings to earn the win. Sophomore Redmond Walsh pitched the final two innings and recorded the fifth save of his very impressive season.
Georgia ace Emerson Hancock pitched a gem, going for eight innings of two-run baseball and his first complete game of the year. Tennessee scored two runs off of an infield single with two outs in a race to the first base bag which Emerson would barely lose. The two runs would prove the difference in the game.
Game two was all about Tennessee ace Garrett Stallings. Stallings threw his first complete-game shutout as well as Tennessee’s NCAA-leading eighth shutout of the year. Stallings earned his sixth win of the season in the 3-0 win.
The bats would eventually get going for Georgia in game three. Georgia jumped all over Vols starter Zach Linginfelter who wouldn’t make it past two innings. The Dawgs won 7-1 on ten hits.
The series win is the Volunteers first over a top-5 opponent since 2016. It was also the first time Tennessee has had consecutive shutouts against SEC teams since 1967.
David Beats Goliath
Kentucky entered the weekend as the worst team in the SEC at 2-10. They’d be facing the top team in the West on the road against Ole Miss. What started out in a bad 8-2 loss to start the weekend would turn around by Sunday with the Wildcats stealing the series from the Rebels.
Weather issues would see Saturday’s game postponed to two 7-inning games in a Sunday doubleheader. In game one Mason Hazelwood pitched 5.2 scoreless innings in his first SEC start of the season. Kentucky’s offense did the rest to earn the 4-1 win.
In game 2, projected top-15 pick Zack Thompson would pitch another gem for the Wildcats. His six innings of two run baseball was enough for Kentucky to secure the 4-2 win as well as the series.
Junior T.J. Collett provided the offense for Kentucky, going 3-for-5 in the doubleheader with a pair of home runs and four RBI’s. Kentucky’s two left-handed starters continue the season-long struggles for the Ole Miss offense against left-handed pitching.
The series win is Kentucky’s first in Oxford since 2013. It is also their first road series win over a top 10 team since 2015.
Mississippi State the Team to Beat
Mississippi State cruised through the weekend with a dominating sweep of Alabama. The Bulldogs outscored the Tide 28-4. It is the fourth SEC series win for MSU who has won four of their five conference series.
The sweep puts the Bulldogs at the top of the SEC West at 10-5 and tied with Georgia for the overall lead in the SEC. At 31-6 overall they have the best record in the conference and at No.2 in the rankings, they are certainly the team to beat in the SEC.
The Bulldogs have done it with a collection of solid pitching, and very dominant bats. The pitching has stayed very consistent, ranking in the top 5 in the conference in most major categories. Most notably, the Bulldog pitching staff has struck out the most batters in the SEC.
The offense leads the SEC in a multitude of categories including batting average, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, runs, and RBI’s. At 328 runs scored, they are 30 runs ahead of the next closest offense, Vanderbilt.
Senior outfielder Jake Mangum continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers. His offensive prowess has spearheaded the Bulldog offense to the juggernaut that it is. At 344 career hits, he is just nine away from becoming the SEC all-time hits leader.
Midweeks to Watch For
South Carolina 21-15 (4-11) @ #13 North Carolina 27-10 (9-6), 4/16 7pm ET ACCN Extra
South Carolina’s season has been largely a disappointment thus far. At this point in the season, they find themselves fighting for the final spot in the SEC Tournament. In the midweek however they’ll have a chance for a resume boost against No.13 North Carolina who has won 11 of their last 13.
UNC will likely pitch junior Andrew Grogan who is 2-0 with a 4.24 ERA and has four midweek starts this year. It is unclear who South Carolina will pitch as they tend to pitch by the committee in midweek games.
South Carolina knocked off UNC’s rival and then No.3 NC State in a midweek game on April 2nd.
#23 Auburn 24-12 (8-7) @ #16 Georgia Tech 24-12 (11-7), 4/16 6pm ET ACCN Extra
Georgia Tech dominated the first game this season at Auburn 9-3. Amos Willingham will likely get the start for Georgia Tech. He is 2-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his last four starts, though notably did not get the start in the first game against Auburn two weeks ago.
Auburn will throw freshman Garrett Wade who is 3-0 on the year with a 5.47 ERA. He was roughed up in his last start against Georgia Tech, throwing just three innings on three earned runs.
Auburn’s midseason struggles continued last weekend after losing the series to Texas A&M. They have now lost 10 of the last 14 and fallen all the way to No.23 in the rankings.
#20 Clemson 25-11 (11-7) @ #6 Georgia 29-8 (10-5), 4/16 7pm ET SECN
It is the second game of the season between these two teams. Georgia won the first matchup at Clemson by a score of 5-3. They were led by their stud midweek arm Tim Elliott who handled the Tigers lineup with ease going for a season-high 7.1 innings and allowing two runs.
Elliott looks to dominate the Tigers again on Tuesday. Clemson will likely throw left-handed junior Jacob Hennessy. In his first start of the season last week against Furman, Hennessy threw 6.1 innings of shutout baseball on two hits.
Both teams fell four spots in the rankings after disappointing weekends. Georgia lost 2 out of 3 over the weekend to Tennessee while Clemson suffered a series sweep at Florida State.
“From Our Haus to Yours”