story by Chris Rushing
Follow me on Twitter: @rushicw
After a month of Southeastern Conference baseball league play in the books, we hadn’t had a weekend quite like last week’s crazy results.
LSU scored a gigantic road series victory by claiming two of three contests at Florida. Alabama rebounded from being swept by Tennessee by taking all three meetings with rival and then-division leader Auburn. The Vols nearly took a big series win at South Carolina, but the Gamecocks were able to put across just enough runs to win two of the three games and keep pace in the race for Hoover.
It was definitely an intriguing and mostly entertaining weekend on the diamond throughout the conference.
Nothing could top the news that came out of Fayetteville Tuesday, though. With Jeff Long’s decision to fire Bobby Petrino, football once again made its way to the front page newsfeed and has put baseball back in its place of importance with fans of all SEC institutions. However, the good news for Razorback fans and supporters is that there are three huge games at Baum Stadium to help forget about Petrino and his motorcycle for a little while.
No. 1 Kentucky did nothing to relinquish its hold on the top of the Collegiate Baseball poll, earning wins 29 and 30 last weekend against No. 21 Ole Miss. The Wildcats have won every series, non-conference and SEC alike, in 2012, but there may not have been a tougher assignment than what awaits them this weekend.
No. 9 Arkansas (24-8, 7-5 SEC) held serve at home last weekend against Georgia, taking two of three and remaining just a game back in the Western Division race in the process. The Hogs were blanked in midweek action at Oklahoma, 4-0, Tuesday, but that result should hold little-to-no bearing on the importance of the upcoming tilts with UK.
It will be a NCAA Regional-like feel at Baum Stadium from Friday-Sunday. The home crowd will be charged and electric, pushing the Razorbacks to a huge series win and throwing yet another team into the race for the No. 1 overall seed this year at the SEC Tournament in late May.
The game times are as follows: Friday – 6:35 p.m. CT; Saturday – 2:05 p.m. CT; Sunday – 12:05 p.m. CT.
Bold prediction: Arkansas 2-1
• No. 21 Ole Miss (23-10, 6-6 SEC) at Georgia (19-13, 5-7 SEC)
Game Times: Thursday – 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPNU); Friday –6 p.m. CT; Saturday 1 p.m. CT
This should be one of the more entertaining series of the weekend. Ole Miss is Kentucky’s latest victim, while Georgia is fresh off three-straight series losses in SEC play.
The Rebels shook off the series loss to the nation’s top-ranked squad by winning both games of a midweek double-header against Central Arkansas Tuesday. Winning two in Athens would be huge for UM’s confidence heading into next weekend’s showdown with Arkansas in Oxford.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, scored a nice non-conference 8-7 win over Clemson Wednesday night, coming back from 7-2 down and putting together a nice six-run fifth inning to earn the win. The triumph over the Tigers is the best thing to happen to Dave Perno’s squad since opening SEC play with a series win over Tennessee.
Bold prediction: Georgia 2-1
• Auburn (18-14, 6-6 SEC) at Vanderbilt (13-19, 4-8 SEC)
Game Times: Friday – 6 p.m. CT (CSS); Saturday – 2 p.m. CT; Sunday – 1 p.m. CT
Absolute catastrophe is about the best way to sum up Auburn’s trip to Tuscaloosa a week ago. While LSU was busy taking care of business in Gainesville, the Tigers found themselves being jeered and swept out of town and in third place in the West before everything was said and done. The good things done in three-straight series wins to open league play were erased over the span of the 27 innings played last Friday-Sunday.
Vanderbilt found ways to not win a series yet again, but the Commodores are much better than their 13-19 record may otherwise indicate. At some point, VU will put everything together for a weekend. Hopefully for Tim Corbin and Co.’s sake, it won’t be too late.
Bold Prediction: Vanderbilt 2-1
• Mississippi State (21-12, 5-7 SEC) at No. 18 South Carolina (24-9, 5-7 SEC)
Game Times: Friday – 6 p.m. CT; Saturday – 3 p.m. CT; Sunday – 12:30 p.m. CT
Mississippi State finally found a way to win two games in an SEC series, and the Bulldogs continue to get healthy. MSU is no stranger to the dramatic, having played five games in extra innings already this year. However, State is just 1-4 in those contests after Wes Rea hit a 2-run walkoff bomb to beat South Alabama 2-0 Tuesday night.
South Carolina is slowly but surely climbing out of the hole dug over the span of the first two weekends of SEC play with back-to-back series wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee. It hasn’t been easy by any stretch for USC, but the two-time defending national champions have found ways to win late in games to preserve series victories – something that wasn’t the case against Kentucky and Florida the first two weeks.
Bold Prediction: South Carolina 2-1
• No. 4 Florida (26-7, 7-5 SEC) at Tennessee (20-12, 6-6 SEC)
Game Times: Friday – 5 p.m. CT; Saturday – 2 p.m. CT (SportSouth); Sunday – 1 p.m. CT
It’s hard to get a firm grasp on what’s happened to Florida the last two weekends. Losing on the road at Ole Miss is understandable since winning in front of 10,000-plus rabid opposing fans is difficult for any team. However, it’s difficult to fathom that LSU was able to come into Gainesville and return to Baton Rouge with two victories – especially on a weekend where attendance records were set at UF.
Tennessee has shaken off a rough start to SEC play by winning four of its last six league outings, getting right into the mix for a spot in the 10-team SEC Tournament. The Vols don’t do anything pretty, but they have gotten the job done at home more often than not this season.
Bold Prediction: Florida 2-1
• Alabama (13-20, 4-8 SEC) at No. 3 LSU (26-7, 8-4 SEC)
Game Times: Friday – 7 p.m. CT; Saturday – 6:30 p.m. CT; Sunday – 12 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
When it looked like the Tide was possibly turning a corner after sweeping Auburn last weekend, UAB downed UA 9-1 on Tuesday night, erasing much of the good feelings the team had following the huge 3-0 showing against the Tigers. If a team has a hard time taking care of UAB and Troy, it’s hard to give said team much hope playing on the road against the league’s hottest team.
LSU has opened up a 1-game lead over Arkansas in the Western Division standings and look to push that gap even further. Since sweeping the Hogs two weeks ago, the Tigers are playing with more confidence than perhaps anyone else in the country currently.
The biggest hurdle facing the home-standing Bayou Bengals this weekend will be complacency. To stay at the top of the SEC standings with Kentucky, LSU cannot afford to let up and allow Alabama to sneak up on it in Alex Box Stadium.
Bold Prediction: LSU 3-0