SEC Baseball Starts for Real

SEC Baseball Starts for Real
March 15, 2013, 2:15 pm
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You might not have noticed but the college baseball season is four weeks old today.  While you've been busy watching college basketball or just...hibernating...the boys of summer have been in action...even if it's still winter.

If you haven't been paying attention, let me get you caught up with my SEC One-Month Awards.

Player of the Year (so far) - Ole Miss Rebels Junior Catcher Stuart Turner.  In his first season in Oxford, the LSU-Eunice transfer has been a beast at the plate and behind it too.  It's hard to imagine where he's been more impressive.  Let's start with his bat.  He leads the SEC with a .491 batting average, 28 RBI and nine doubles. Turner is second in the conference with 31 hits, third with a .762 slugging percentage and 4th with a .527 on-base percentage.  And he's just as lethal on defense, having thrown-out an incredible 11 would-be base-stealers in 15 attempts.

Pitcher of the Year (so far) - Vanderbilt Junior Left-Hander Kevin Ziomek.  Kevin is finally reaching expectations. After struggling through a 5-6, 5.22 ERA season as a sophomore, Ziomek has been nearly unhittable so far in 2013.  In four starts, Ziomek is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA (6th best in the SEC) and has two complete games.  
In a SEC-leading 31 innings pitched, Ziomek has allowed only 12 hits, walked only seven and struck-out a conference-leading 46 batters, 19 looking.  His .118 opponents batting average is 3rd best in the SEC.

Freshman of the Year (so far) - LSU Shortstop Alex Bregman.  How do you replace one of the conference's best shortstops over the last four years? With a kid from New Mexico who is the leading candidate to be SEC Freshman of the Year.  Bregman has stepped into the big shoes of Austin Nola and been spectacular with the bat and the glove.  Surgery on his throwing hand his senior year might be the only reason he's at LSU.  Otherwise he would have been a first round pick in the MLB Draft.  But as Coach Paul Mainieri told me, "Alex's misfortune has been our good fortune and will become a fortune for Alex."  In his first 17 games, Bregman is batting .391 with 1 HR and 16 RBI.  He leads the 2nd-ranked Tigers in runs (18), hits (27), 2B (6) and 3B (2).  And remember this is a team that still has reigning SEC Player of the Year Raph Rhymes and two-time All-SEC Mason Katz. Just as impressive, he played errorless ball for his first 13 games and has committed only two errors so far.

After four weeks, seven teams have 3 losses or less:  Ole Miss (18-1), LSU (16-1), Mississippi State (18-2), Vandy (16-2), South Carolina (15-2), Kentucky (14-2) and Auburn (13-3).  Five teams are around .500 or below:  Tennessee (9-7), Alabama (9-8), Georgia (8-9), Florida (8-10) and Missouri (5-7).

The SEC has played for the CWS National Championship the last 5 seasons and won three times.  I wouldn't bet against it happening again in 2013.