With four weekends to go, 12 games in the SEC Baseball season, the race to Hoover has essentially become a five team Western Division skirmish for four spots. The top four teams in the East, South Carolina, Vandy, Florida and Georgia look solid but who comes out of the West is the big question. Going into the weekend 2 games separate positions one through five and that doesn't include preseason division favorite LSU which is inexplicably buried at 4-14 less than 2 years removed from their national championship.
This figures to be a big weekend in the West with perhaps the most crucial showdown coming in Starkville where the Mississippi State Bulldogs will host Alabama. You've got to wonder where the Crimson Tide players hearts and minds are heading into that series after what just happened in Tuscaloosa? Will they be out of it, which would be understandable, or will they use it as motivation and inspiration. The Tide have been fading since jumping out to a big division lead in the first three weeks of the SEC season and now are hanging on to what would be the 8th and final berth in the Tournament race with Mississippi State just 1 game back. The winner of that series might be the last team in while the loser might be the first team out. High stakes because that might also determine whether you get into a NCAA Regional.
Meantime Auburn, Ole Miss, and Arkansas are all tied at 9-9 and all play on the road in the East. The Tigers play at South Carolina and the Rebels play at Florida. Their task for the weekend is try to not get swept. Get at least one win. The Razorbacks will be at Georgia and the same story applies for the Hogs, especially after dropping two of three at cellar dwelling Kentucky last weekend.
I'll be in Nashville for the weekend calling Tennessee at Vandy, Saturday, 1p ET on CSS. The Commodores need to sweep to keep pace with Florida and South Carolina in the East. Meantime I get asked this question every time I do an interview, "who's the best team in the SEC?" I've called games involving every team but Mississippi State this season and I'm very impressive with Vandy. Perhaps a tad bit more than Florida. I haven't seen South Carolina in person since they lost to Clemson back in early March but given that the Gamecocks have already won the season series from both the Commodores and Gators, I'd have to give Carolina the nod.
One more thing...right now my vote for SEC Player of the Year would probably have to go to South Carolina's Christian Walker. How he fares now that Jackie Bradley Junior is out (probably for rest of season) will either solidfy or diminish that vote. Second choice would probably be Florida Gators RF 1B Preston Tucker, coming back strong in his junior season. Truth is, he had a good sophomore year but his freshman year was so incredible, he had nowhere to go but down (statisically) from there. I wouldn't want to pitch to him. Third choice is probably Mikie Mahtook of LSU. Spectacular season but when your team is tied for last in the standings, hard to justify Player of the Year vote. Not that it's his fault. He doesn't pitch.
Anyway...let me know what you think about Player of the Year. Remember, vote while you can in the CSS Fan's Choice Game May 20th. Voting ongoing on home page of web site. Enjoy life. Live in peace. It isn't forever as the tornadoes of the last few days have painfully reminded us again. Follow me on twitter @matt_stewartcss.