Sports, Thrill of Victory

Southeastern Conference baseball weekend snapshot

We’re less than a month from the conclusion of the Southeastern Conference baseball regular season, and a bunch of exciting storylines are developing. Chris Lee has those, along with power rankings and player and pitcher of the year rankings.

All stats, records, etc., are through games of Thursday evening. I’ve added comments in various places when there’s something interesting to add.

Top storylines

LSU shortstop Alex Bregman has led the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking. PHOTO COURTESY LSU ATHLETICS

LSU shortstop Alex Bregman has led the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking. PHOTO COURTESY LSU ATHLETICS

LSU’s the consensus No. 1. Four SEC teams have spent time at the No. 1 spot in the five major polls, and sometimes, that’s included two different conference teams at once. This week, there’s a consensus as all five have the Bengal Tigers ranked first. While Texas A&M may have also had a case, momentum is on the side of LSU, which has won 13 of its last 14 games, including Thursday’s victory over A&M.

The national home run race. The flatter-seamed balls have been kind to SEC hitters, most notably, Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi (14 home runs) and J.J. Schwarz (13), who are ranked first and second in the country in that category. Best of all, SEC fans will get to see a lot more of these stars; Beinintendi is a sophomore and Schwarz, a freshman.

Florida’s Peter Alonso rounds into form. The Gators were already plenty good offensively—their 305 runs coming into the weekend series was tops in the league—but they’re now better with their regular first baseman back. Alonso, a Second Team Freshman All-American last year, has started to hit his stride, mashing a pair of homers against Mississippi State over the weekend. Alonso missed the season’s first 30 games with a foot injury.

Florida’s fielding. Statistically speaking, the Gators are the nation’s top defensive team with a .985 fielding percentage. That includes an unheard-of 1.000 by third baseman Josh Tobias.

SEC looking good for NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot of baseball to be played, but the league currently has 11 teams in position to potentially get NCAA Tournament bids. LSU, Texas A&M and Florida are sure-fire national seeds at the moment, and Vanderbilt is also in line to host. Those four, plus Missouri, are sure things as of the moment, and Arkansas likely is as well, but that could change. The league is a jumbled mess after the first five, and it’ll be interesting to see how the season plays out.

Florida's Ryan Larson had a key hit last weekend, as the Gators took a series from Mississippi State. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

Florida’s Ryan Larson had a key hit last weekend, as the Gators took a series from Mississippi State. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

Power rankings (RPI in parenthesis)

  1. LSU 13-5 (5)
  2. Texas A&M, 12-6 (6): Aggies (36-6) tied with LSU for nation’s best overall winning percentage.
  3. Florida, 12-6 (4)
  4. Vanderbilt, 12-6 (18): Commodores lead the country with 10 shutouts.
  5. Missouri, 12-6 (48): The 26-14 start is Missouri’s best since 2008.
  6. Auburn, 8-11 (24): Other than Arkansas, AU is the only team to play LSU, A&M and Vandy, and a road series with Florida ends the regular season.
  7. Arkansas, 9-9 (50): Razorbacks moved up nearly 40 RPI spots with series win over A&M.
  8. Alabama, 7-11 (32)
  9. Ole Miss, 8-10 (29): Rebels are a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs according to D1 Baseball this week.
  10. Kentucky, 8-9 (44)
  11. South Carolina, 8-10 (63): The Gamecocks’ series win over Vanderbilt was huge; D1 Baseball has USC as the last of nine SEC teams in its NCAA Tournament field this week.
  12. Georgia, 6-12 (95)
  13. Mississippi State, 6-12 (99)
  14. Tennessee, 5-13 (85)
Auburn's Cole Lipscomb, one of the league's best pitchers, led the Tigers to a Thursday night win over Georgia. PHOTO COURTESY AUBURN ATHLETICS

Auburn’s Cole Lipscomb, one of the league’s best pitchers, led the Tigers to a Thursday night win over Georgia. PHOTO COURTESY AUBURN ATHLETICS

Player of the Year (pitchers excluded; Bill James’s runs created per 27 outs and fielding percentage in parenthesis):

  1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt (10.5, .970)
  2. Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas (12.9, .984)
  3. Mikey White, SS, Alabama (10.3, .964)
  4. Alex Bregman, SS, LSU (8.9, .974)
  5. Kade Scivicque, C, LSU (9.9/.997)
  6. Nick Banks, RF, Texas A&M (11.1/.964)
  7. Logan Taylor, LF, Texas A&M (11.5/.971)
  8. Josh Tobias, 3B, Florida (9.6, 1.000)
  9. JaVon Shelby, 2B, Kentucky (9.9, .949)
  10. Harrison Bader, LF, Florida (10.6, 1.000)

Pitcher of the Year 

  1. Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt (64 IP, 1.69, 90 Ks, 24 BB)
  2. Alex Lange, LSU (57 2/3, 1.40, 65, 23)
  3. Cole Lipscomb, Auburn (60 1/3, 2.24, 61, 17)
  4. Reggie McClain, Missouri (73 1/3, 2.95, 60, 13)
  5. Logan Shore, Florida (59, 2.29, 40, 12) and Tanner Houck, Missouri (68 2/3, 2.88, 58, 7)