After a wild week in the SEC, it’s time to start the second half of conference play. The standings are starting to take shape and there are some tight races for first in the divisions. In the East, Georgia and Vanderbilt are still neck and neck. And in the West, it’s still anyone’s race, with Mississippi State maintaining a game or less lead over four different teams.
The SEC enters the weekend with nine ranked teams in the USA Today Top 25. Tennessee breaks into the top 25 again this season after a big weekend against Georgia.
- #2 Mississippi State (1)
- #5 Vanderbilt (1)
- #6 Georgia
- #9 Texas A&M
- #10 Arkansas
- #14 LSU
- #17 Ole Miss
- #22 Tennessee
- #23 Auburn
Mississippi State takes over as the top team in the conference. The Bulldogs as well as Vanderbilt each received one first-place vote this week. Mississippi State has the best record in the SEC at 32-6 and are winners in eight of their last nine.
Tennessee made the biggest jump, up six spots and entering the rankings at No.23. They took care of Georgia at home, winning 2 out of 3 behind some solid starting pitching.
LSU fell the farthest, down six spots and dropping out of the top 10. The Tigers had all they could handle from Missouri last weekend, losing 2 out of 3 after just barely winning the opening night in extra innings.
Midweek Winners and Losers
South Carolina Continues to Dominate the ACC
South Carolina might be 4-11 in the SEC but don’t tell the ACC that. They defeated No.13 North Carolina 5-2 at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte on Tuesday.
The Gamecocks took a 4-0 lead over the first four innings and never looked back. A collection of five USC pitchers held the Tarheels to two runs on just four hits. The Gamecocks came into the night winning just one of their last five games.
It is the fourth win over ranked ACC opponents for USC who is now 4-1 overall against such opponents. They took 2 out of 3 over in-state rival Clemson earlier in the season, who was ranked No.23 at the time. They also defeated then ranked No.3 NC State on April 2 handing the Wolfpack their third loss of the season.
Georgia Wins in Marathon Game Against Clemson
No.6 Georgia hosted No 20 Clemson Tuesday night in a game that took 20 innings to complete. The Bulldogs had to burn through seven different pitchers and it was sophomore right-hander Darryn Pasqua who earned the win.
In just his sixth appearance of the season, Pasqua had the Clemson hitters guessing from the moment he entered the game. He struck out seven over five scoreless innings, pitching out of jams multiple times.
The scoring got started in the sixth on a series of hits by Clemson, capped off with a triple by freshman Bryar Hawkins to make the score 2-0. Georgia scored in the following inning off a double by shortstop Cam Shepherd which allowed pinch runner Steven Minter to score. The ball was bobbled badly in the outfield causing Shepherd to race around the bags and score on the error.
That would be the last of the scoring for nearly four hours. In the bottom of the 20th freshman, Connor Tate mercifully put the game to an end. With bases loaded and one out, he was able to drive the winning run in with a single, winning the longest game in program history for either team.
Auburn’s Struggles Continue
Although losing to the No.16 team isn’t much of a setback, it continues a downward trend for Butch Thompson’s 24-13 Tigers. Auburn went into Tuesday night with a big opportunity against Georgia Tech. They fell short for the second time this season, losing 11-6 resulting in a season sweep by the Yellow Jackets.
Auburn fell to Georgia Tech earlier in the season after taking an early 3-0 lead. The Tigers’ pitching would be shelled over the final seven innings, allowing nine unanswered runs en route to a 9-3 beating.
The story was much the same Tuesday night. Auburn jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead once again but couldn’t hold on to the lead as Georgia Tech outscored them 11-3 over the final seven innings. It was a game where Auburn had to pitch six different pitchers, each of which gave up at least one earned run.
Auburn’s season is quickly sputtering out of control. They have now lost seven of their last eight, and eleven of their last fifteen.
LSU Drops Another Embarrassing Midweek
LSU fell to in-state foe UL Lafayette 6-5 in the Wally Pontiff Classic. It is their fourth loss in the midweek, all to teams with a sub 100 RPI. They are now 15-8 in their out of conference schedule.
UL Lafayette entered the night with a 19-20 record and 109 in the RPI. LSU fought back from a 3-0 deficit to take the lead 5-3 in the fifth. Things would fall apart in the eighth however as sophomore Trent Vietmeier was knocked around for a three-run inning to give the Ragin’ Cajuns the eventual 6-5 win.
Head Coach Paul Mainieri remains positive and is looking forward to the series against Florida this weekend. “We were limited tonight with our pitching staff and available position players due to injuries, and the very short turnaround with the Florida series starting on Thursday,” said Mainieri. “We nearly overcame those obstacles tonight, but now our attention needs to completely shift to Thursday night’s game.”
Weekend Conference Schedule
#22 Tennessee 27-11 (6-9) @ Kentucky 20-17 (4-11)
Tennessee will head to Lexington in a rivalry series against Kentucky. Both teams are coming off impressive weekends. Tennessee handled Georgia nicely at home winning 2 out of 3, while Kentucky did likewise in a road series at Ole Miss.
Thursday night is sure to be a pitchers duel between Tennessee’s Garrett Stallings and Kentucky’s Zack Thompson. Both pitchers are expected to go high in the upcoming MLB Draft, with Thompson as high as a top 15 pick.
Kentucky will need to overcome a high powered Tennessee pitching staff that has allowed just ten runs over their last five games, including two shutouts. Kentucky’s offensive numbers rank at the bottom of the SEC and will hope to keep the scoring low to give their offense a chance.
#17 Ole Miss 26-12 (9-6) @ #23 Auburn 24-13 (8-7)
Both teams are coming off a losing weekend last week and will be looking to get on top of the series early in game 1. It’ll be Auburn’s ace Tanner Burns who has dominated this season but stumbled a little in his last two starts. After starting the season 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA he’s been hit around a little in the last two going 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
Ole Miss ace Will Etheridge appears to finally be over his season-long battle with a blister on his throwing hand. He threw seven scoreless innings against Kentucky last week while allowing just three hits. The junior has had a dominant season at 5-2 and a 1.76 ERA.
Game two will see two freshman left-handers take the mound. Doug Nikhazy has been solid for Ole Miss but got knocked around in his last start against Kentucky. Auburn’s Brooks Fuller pitched an impressive six scoreless innings against Texas A&M in his last start but has had control issues over the season. Look for Ole Miss to stay patient at the plate to try and get runners on.
This series could go either way this weekend. Game 3 will likely be a duel of freshmen pitchers again. Don’t be shocked if Auburn throws lefty Garrett Wade against an Ole Miss lineup that struggles against left-handed throwers.
#2 Mississippi State 32-6 (10-5) @ #10 Arkansas 27-10 (9-6)
The top team in the SEC faces off against Arkansas who has slipped to third in the SEC West standings. Razorback ace Isaiah Campbell will have his hands full in game 1 as he’ll face the SEC’s best offense. The Bulldogs continue to put on a clinic and are currently blowing the rest of the conference out of the water in most offensive categories.
The Bulldogs have two players with an OPS of 1.000+, as well as three others over .972. They lead the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, RBI, doubles and total bases. In SEC play they’re averaging an impressive 7.5 runs per game.
Senior outfielder Jake Mangum will be looking put his name down in history this weekend as he chases the all-time hit record in the SEC. He is now just eight hits away from topping LSU’s Eddy Furniss 352 hits, set in 1998.
As if the hitting wasn’t enough, Arkansas’ offense will be challenged by MSU’s trio of outstanding pitchers. Ethan Small, Peyton Plumlee and JT Ginn are a combined 13-3 this year with a 2.76 ERA. Arkansas will need Campbell to get them an early win in the series opener if they hope to win the weekend.
“From Our Haus to Yours”