This weekend had a little bit of everything as weather created havoc across the SEC. With one game cancelled and one moved up a day, the penultimate weekend of the season ended with ten teams solidifying their spot in Hoover, Alabama, for the SEC Tournament. Here’s a look at how the weekend’s series helped make coaches across the South turn into scoreboard watchers as the regular season draws to a close.
Auburn at Arkansas
The weekend started off with Auburn holding on to 10th place in the league with only a two game lead over Tennessee. But, the Tigers were able to take advantage of an Arkansas pitching staff that has begun to falter over the last two weekends.
Thursday night’s game saw the two teams locked in a low-scoring duel as the two staffs combined to strike out 22 while allowing only three walks. Auburn’s starter, Jon Luke Jacobs, went eight innings allowing two runs on just three hits. The Tigers and Hogs needed an extra frame, but Auburn was able to avoid extending the game past the 10th inning as Justin Bryant’s two-out RBI single in the visitor’s half proved to be the margin of victory. The loss meant the Razorbacks were officially out of the race for the SEC Western Division title.
After suffering a one-run loss of their own on Friday, Auburn’s bats unloaded on the Hogs. Scoring in each of the first eight innings, the Tigers put together 18 hits for 12 runs. The Razorbacks, for their part, tried to hang with the offensive onslaught. After scoring one run in each of the first three innings, Arkansas put up a crooked number in the fourth scoring two. It would be all the Razorbacks could muster, and they were unable to plate anymore the rest of the way.
Mississippi State at Florida
Mississippi State entered the weekend tied with Arkansas for second place in the West. The Bulldogs, though, suffered the same fate as the Razorbacks, losing their first game in Gainesville on their way to a series loss.
Chris Stratton, the Bulldog ace, suffered his first loss of the year. Stratton pitched into the eighth inning before being giving up two runs without recording an out. He finished the day with seven innings officially pitched allowing four runs – only two earned – on six hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Mississippi State rebounded the following day to shutout the Gators and tie the series. Kendall Graveman turned in one of his best performances of the year going 7.2 innings with only three hits. It was the Gator staff, though, that finally came together in the finale. Six Florida pitchers were able to overcome three errors to quiet the Bulldog bats allowing one run on three hits. With the series win, the Gators remained in third place in the East, two games back of Kentucky.
Alabama at Kentucky
Alabama entered the weekend needing a small miracle if they hoped to stay in contention for the SEC Tournament. After being swept by Kentucky, the Tide will have to buy tickets if they want to see the action in Hoover.
Kentucky got off to an historic start, not losing a single weekend series until the second half of conference play. That start helped them to hold their position in the race for the Eastern Division crown, even after losing their last two weekend series. Kentucky’s success has been predicated on swinging a hot bat, and the Wildcats returned to form this weekend. Kentucky opened the weekend with a modest offensive output beating the Tide 4-2 on Friday. With the Sunday game moved up to Saturday to avoid impending the weather, the Wildcats pounded out 25 hits for 15 runs on their way to the sweep of the doubleheader. The sweep moved the Wildcats back into the top spot in the East with a half-game lead on South Carolina and two games up on Florida.
South Carolina at Georgia
South Carolina and Georgia were scheduled to play the typical three-game series, but Mother Nature had her own ideas. The Sunday game between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs was cancelled, leaving the East with much left to be decided next weekend.
The two teams put on a pitcher’s clinic in the first game as neither team was able to scratch out a run through the first six innings. Georgia starter Alex Wood went the distance throwing only 110 pitches. But the South Carolina hitters were able to get to him late in the game and scored single runs in each of the final three innings. The Carolina pitching staff combined for nine strikeouts with only five hits and no runs.
Georgia was in control of the second game with a 5-1 lead going into the ninth. South Carolina, though, tied the game with four runs at the end of regulation. The Bulldogs were able to rebound with a run in the bottom of the tenth on a Joey Delmonico walk-off single. The loss put the Gamecocks a half-game behind East leading Kentucky.
Tennessee at Ole Miss
Tennessee entered the weekend trailing 10th place Auburn by two games with a shot at squeezing into the SEC Tournament. A sweep in Oxford, though, means Tennessee will join Alabama on the sidelines in Hoover.
The Rebels used a three-run second inning in Friday’s game to keep Tennessee contained, adding a run in the sixth. Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl went seven innings allowing just two runs on five hits. Reliever R. J. Hively pitched two perfect innings to record his third save of the year.
Ole Miss clinched the series in come-from-behind fashion. Trailing 3-0 after four innings, the Rebels put together two-run innings twice to push the game into extras. Senior first baseman Matt Snyder capped off Senior Day in Oxford by ending the game with a three-run blast in the bottom of the 11th to seal the series for the Rebs.
Ole Miss earned the sweep by a final of 4-2 on Sunday. R. J. Hively earned the win after picking up the save in the opening game, pitching five innings without giving up an earned run. The sweep put Ole Miss in sole possession of second place in the West, a full game ahead of Arkansas and Mississippi State.
This weekend decided the participants for the 2012 installment of the SEC Tournament. With the opening games just a week away, attention now turns to scoreboard watching as teams vie for seeding. The top seed from the Western Division has already been decided as LSU’s victory on Friday, coupled with losses by Arkansas and Mississippi State, gave the Tigers that honor. The #2-5 spot in the West is anybody’s guess, though, with Ole Miss holding down second place with a one-game lead over the Razorbacks and in-state rivals Mississippi State, and a two-game lead over Auburn.
The East is where things could interesting as three teams head into the final weekend of the regular season with a shot at claiming the divisional title. Kentucky holds a half-game lead over South Carolina as a result of the Gamecocks being rained out on Sunday. Florida is two games back in the third spot. Kentucky travels to Starkville, Florida goes to the plains of Auburn, and South Carolina welcomes LSU to Columbia next weekend.
1. LSU 39-13, 17-10
2. Mississippi State 31-19, 13-14
3. Ole Miss, 34-18, 14-13
4. Arkansas 35-17, 13-14
5. Auburn 28-23, 12-15
6. Alabama 18-33, 7-20
1. Kentucky 41-11, 18-9
2. South Carolina 38-13, 17-9
3. Florida 37-14, 16-11
4. Georgia, 29-22, 13-13
5. Vanderbilt 26-25, 13-14
6. Tennessee 24-27, 8-1
Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, College Baseball, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, SEC Baseball, SEC Tournament, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers