We’re in the homestretch of the Southeastern Conference baseball race, as the postseason picture and potential award winners are starting to take shape. Chris Lee catches you up on all you need to know through Thursday night’s games.
The hunt for a national seed. LSU, again the consensus top-ranked team in the country and second of the nation’s 301 teams in winning percentage, would have to improbably drive its season into a ditch in the last two weekends (Missouri, at South Carolina) in order not to get a national seed. The same can be said of Texas A&M (South Carolina, Ole Miss), which is just one notch behind the Tigers. Vanderbilt, the league’s overall leader heading into Friday’s games, will also be a national seed if it wins the conference’s regular-season crown.
Meanwhile, according to most experts, Florida lurks just behind VU outside of the top eight, though if the Gators were to take the series from Vanderbilt and the Commodores falter next weekend at Alabama, things could get interesting. Don’t expect the NCAA’s selection committee to award four national seeds to the SEC even if it deserves it, since that’s never happened before.
Pig sooey! I’ll make a confession here: when I saw Arkansas in Nashville in the league’s first conference series, I wasn’t too impressed after Vanderbilt swept all three games, especially after UA lost two of three at home to LSU the following weekend. At the same time, the fact that Arkansas lost a pair of one-run games on the road to the defending national champs perhaps should have raised an eyebrow in a good way. Alas, the Razorbacks, behind probable league Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi, have won the last six weekend series, topped off by a sweep at Alabama last weekend.
Arkansas’s 38 RPI is the stumbling block at the moment, but don’t rule out the Razorbacks possibly hosting a regional with a continued strong finish.
What to make of Ole Miss? The Rebels, if they continue to play okay in their last two series against Mississippi State and Texas A&M, could be an interesting case on Selection Monday. The RPI has Ole Miss with the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country, and between that, the team’s 31 RPI and the fact that it’s a respectable 12-13 in the SEC with series wins over Vanderbilt and LSU are all in Ole Miss’s corner. However, the Rebels (26-24) have to stay a game above .500 just to be eligible for the NCAAs, and with the A&M series, plus potential SEC Tournament games ahead, that won’t be easy.
And here’s an aside: Ole Miss may just not be good enough to do what it needs to do. The Rebels have been outscored 151-101 in SEC play and 259-246 overall, which suggests that the Rebels have caught a ton of breaks and should be more like 8-17 in the league and 23-26 overall. While the committee doesn’t consider those things when it picks, it certainly casts a shadow of doubt as to whether Ole Miss is good enough to pull it off, or do any damage if it gets into the NCAAs.
Power rankings (league record/RPI)
- LSU (16-7, 6)
- Texas A&M (16-7, 2)
- Vanderbilt (18-7, 11)
- Florida (15-10, 10)
- Auburn (12-12, 15)
- Arkansas (14-10, 38)
- Missouri (14-10, 57)
- Kentucky (11-12, 39)
- Ole Miss (11-13, 31)
- South Carolina (10-14, 75)
- Alabama (8-18, 63)
- Mississippi State (8-18, 95)
- Georgia (7-16, 100)
- Tennessee (7-17, 76)
Player of the Year (non-pitchers; runs created per 27 outs made/fielding percentage)
- Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas (13.5/.986): .409/.500/.682 in conference games
- Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt (10.0/.970)
- Mikey White, SS, Alabama (9.9/.966)
- Kyle Martin, 1B, South Carolina (10.5/.998): hitting .398/.509/.795 in SEC games
- Logan Taylor, LF, Texas A&M (11.2/.980): .414/.463/..644 in the SEC
- JaVon Shelby, 2B, Kentucky (10.2/.948)
- Alex Bregman, SS, LSU (8.9/.974)
- Kade Scivicque, C, LSU (8.6/.994)
- Josh Tobias, 3B, Florida (.9.3/1.000)
- Wes Rea, 1B, Mississippi State (9.8/.992)
Pitcher of the Year (ERA, IP, K/BB)
- Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt (1.56, 86.2, 118/33): Pitched a complete-game shutout of Florida on Thursday; may be the front-runner for national Pitcher of the Year
- Jack Wynkoop, South Carolina (2.45, 84.2, 74/11)
- Alex Lange, LSU (2.22, 69, 74/30)
- Cole Lipscomb, Auburn (2.44, 66.1, 66/20)
- Dustin Beggs, Kentucky (2.77, 81.1, 67/17)