Finally, SEC Baseball season is here! Here’s a rundown on which teams should be contenders for the SEC baseball crown in 2019.
By Don Yates
Alabama – (16-2, 83 RPI) The Tide has swept the likes of North Kentucky, South Alabama, North Alabama (2-0). The South Alabama sweep (29 RPI) was the most impressive of the mostly triple digit RPI of its opponents. Early on the Tide has one of the top hitters in the conference with Morgan Mccullough batting .368.
Arkansas – (13-2, 24 RPI) The Hog’s most notable series wins have been over Louisiana Tech and a power conference road series win at USC. Christian Franklin leads Arkansas in batting (.381). The Hog’s pitching (3.05 ERA) has given up a decent amount of runs in some games but in others they’ve shut down opponents. Arkansas could make a return trip to Omaha.
Auburn – (15-2, 20 RPI) The Tigers look formidable again. They have three series wins already over top 100 RPI teams. Rankin Woley has 18 RBIs (3rd in SEC). Auburn’s pitching staff has a solid 2.14 ERA. They have a lot of guys back from last year’s team that was fun to watch. They should be in the thick of things in the SEC this season.
Florida – (14-5, 41 RPI) The Gators lost a bunch of players from last year’s top tier team. Florida got off to a 3-3 start but the Gators have since won series over Miami and UCF. Their pitching staff (3.46 ERA) is averaging eight strike outs per game. Brady McConnell is the Gator’s top bat hitting .397 with 4 home runs. The Gators may be a little down this season but not but not by much.
Georgia – (14-2, 97 RPI) Except for a series win over Georgia Southern (54 RPI), the Bulldogs have played mostly bottom teir teams. UGA’s pitching looks solid with a 2.49 ERA. The team’s batting average is a healthy .308 but again, they haven’t played many good teams. This still doesn’t mean they won’t contend in the SEC. The Bulldogs were improved last year and should be better this season.
LSU – (11-5, 46 RPI) The Tigers have a sweep at Texas and a series win over Bryant (12 RPI, another head scratcher). Over the weekend LSU won two of three in a home series against Cal. LSU’s pitching has been questionable. The Tiger’s ERA sits at 4.95. As a team LSU bats .290. Josh Smith is hitting .415 with 10 RBIs. This is a team that was ranked a preseason No. 1 by some services. Like most SEC teams, they have a lot of work to do.
Mississippi State – (15-1, 85 RPI) MSU has had a not so challenging pre-conference schedule (like most SEC teams) but they do have series win over decent Southern Miss team and a solo victory over Texas Tech (2 RPI). State’s pitching looks strong (1.86 ERA). Ethan Small (1.50 ERA) and JT Ginn (1.80 ERA) are the best. Shortstop Jordan Westburg is batting .357. This team looks as strong as last year’s CWS team.
Missouri – (10-5, 142 RPI) Although Mizzou has played mostly lower level competition, they do have a series sweep over a top 100 RPI team in Northwestern. Mizzou, whose pitching staff was one of the best in the SEC last season, currently stands with a 3.59 ERA. Tiger pitcher T.J. Sikkema has a stellar 0.46 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. The Tigers as a team are batting .283. Chris Cornelius (.380) and Kameron Misner (.373) lead the way in that statistic.
Ole Miss – (12-4, 32 RPI) The Rebels have top 100 RPI wins over Tulane (a series win) and a victory over Wright State (31 RPI, another scratcher). Ole Miss pitchers have an overall ERA of 4.22. The Rebs are batting .302 as a team. Thomas Dillard co-leads the SEC in homeruns with 7.
South Carolina – (14-3, 47 RPI) South carolina has solid series wins over Clemson and Liberty (58 RPI). The Gamecocks pitching staff is has a 3.95 ERA. Cam Tringali Cam Tringali (0.56 ERA) leads the way on the mound statistically. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in home runs with 32 (No. 2 nationally) and are batting .279 as a team.
Tennessee – (16-1, 11 RPI) Tennessee, riding its pitching, is off to a great start. Tennessee has a 2.21 team ERA. Many may roll their eyes at UT’s sparklling record but at some point you have to think maybe the Vols have indeed improved.. a lot.
Texas A&M – (15-4, 65 RPI) The Aggies haven’t played the toughest non-conference but they do have a shutout victory over TCU, a team that murdered Vandy in Arizona and a wins over Baylor and Houston. Asa Lacy (0.38 ERA) and John Doxakis (1.44 ERA) are the Aggie’s top arms. A&M’s pitching staff is running a solid 2.25 ERA. While the Aggies are strong on the mound, their hitting is suspect. The Aggies are ranked last in the SEc with a .261 average.
Vanderbilt – (14-3, 21 RPI) Vandy is third in the nation in batting average (.328) and first nationally in strikeouts thrown per 9 innings (12.2). However, Vandy’s ERA is a concern (4.24). Austin Martin leads the SEC in batting average with a sick .481 average while senior Ethan Paul is hitting a paltry .409.
We don’t really know what to expect in the 2019 SEC baseball season. All these teams look pretty good. But look for Vanderbilt and Florida will probably be contenders. These two are the ones that sign the best recruiting classes year in and year out. It’s like getting a shiny new car. They want to try these young players out early in the season. This often results in mishaps and eye opening losses. Florida is already starting to show their normal selves. Vandy has lots of weapons on the mound, at the plate and among fielders (No. 2 nationally fielding). Mississippi State is the other team I believe will probably contend. They have solid pitching and batting. After those first three I see a log jam of teams including Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M South Carolina and Arkansas that could make a run for a SEC title. Anything can happen though.
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