The SEC currently boasts seven ranked team in the college baseball top 25. Who says this is just a football conference? With four games on CSS over the upcoming weekend, take a look at what you should be watching out for.
No. 11 Ole Miss at Florida
Ole Miss only has four losses on the season, but three have come within last two weeks. Dropping a doubleheader to No. 24 Texas A&M in two seven-inning games (SEC rules) leaves the Rebels looking for answers.
Florida is in the same boat, sort of. The Gators are on a three-game losing streak, but their 11-15 record shows the struggles aren’t a recent trend. Their team average of a 4.54 ERA and .260 batting average prove that case.
Stuart Turner currently holds a .459 batting average and 33 RBI. He was hitless in the last game of the series against the Aggies, both the Gators’ pitching should give him enough chances to steal the show, like he normally does.
Alabama at Auburn
The Iron Bowl baseball edition features two teams on different paths at this point in the season. Alabama, despite losing a close 1-0 ballgame to UAB Tuesday, is 8-3 against its last six opponents. Meanwhile Auburn has been beaten up by Vanderbilt and LSU, two of the nation’s best teams, in recent weeks.
“I don’t know if they are necessarily feeling pressure. I think what’s happening sometimes is they feel the need to do a little bit more than they are capable of,” said Tigers head coach John Pawlowski when asked if his team is pressing right now. Playing top-ranked teams will certainly add a bit of urgency to any outing. His players need to settle in against this 16-10 Crimson Tide team.
Spencer Turnbull takes the mound for Alabama coming off a seven-inning shutout against Georgia. If he can sustain his recent success, the Tide will have time to find the offense again. They managed just four hits in 31 at bats against the Blazers.
Tennessee at No. 5 Vanderbilt
A rare two-game skid for the Commodores appears to be firmly set in the rearview mirror. Now riding a three-game win streak, Vanderbilt is looking to climb back up the national rankings after dropping three spots following its 7-1 loss to Florida.
Tennessee is 13-10 on the year, but this series is easily its toughest test yet. The Volunteers team .280 batting average is bound to fall against the Commodores starting three.
Tyler Beede, Kevin Ziomek and Philip Pfeifer have combined to go 13-1 with a total ERA of 1.72. Add in the Tony Kemp currently batting .389 with 18 RBI and 12 steals, and it’s looking like a favorable weekend in for the home team in Nashville.
No. 16 Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Arkansas
Mississippi State began the season with a 17-game win streak. That impressive run came to a screeching halt, though, as the Bulldogs are now 5-6 since March 15. Perhaps their 13-5 road win over Austin Peay will revitalize the roster. Not only did the bats come alive, the Bulldog defense committed zero errors for the 13th time this season. They also lead the NCAA in double plays turned (39).
Arkansas is on fire late in March. The Razorbacks are 11-2 since losing four straight in the Coca-Cola Classic at the beginning of the month. Their pitching is outstanding. A team ERA of 1.67 (third in the nation) is a daunting mark for any opponent. After allowing a mere .189 batting average throughout 25 games, how will they match up against one of best hitting teams in college baseball?
Mississippi State averages a .310 batting average as a team, ranking them 18th in the country. Hunter Renfroe is nightmare for any pitching staff. The junior is hitting .427 with nine homers and 36 RBI. He gets on base in nearly half of his at bats. Keep an eye on him.