With about one-third of the SEC baseball season finished, three surprise teams join an old, expected one as the league’s most powerful.
South Carolina remains the class of the league, if only just barely, and the Gamecocks are joined by Kentucky, Arkansas and Auburn inside SEC Country’s Week 3 Baseball Power Poll. The Gamecocks won the SEC East last year and are no strangers to top of the heap. Kentucky, though, finished .500 in league play in 2016. Auburn and Arkansas didn’t even make the SEC Tournament, checking in at 13th and 14th by season’s end.
But so far in 2017, the Wildcats, Tigers and Razorbacks are surprising nearly everyone with dominant play.
Even more surprising might be where the old hats have gone. Florida just crept above .500 in league play after its first SEC sweep of the season this past weekend. LSU lost another series, its second in three tries. Vanderbilt has a losing record in league play.
This poll isn’t projecting where teams will end the year. It’s simply a snapshot of where they stand now.
You can find it every Monday only at SEC Country.
Overall: 15-10, 1-8
Last week: 2-2 (beat Tennessee Tech, lost series to Georgia)
The Vols shocked about everyone with a 12-2 record before SEC play began, leading some to think that maybe things would turn around for a team that hasn’t finished with a winning record in league play since 2005. But South Carolina and Mississippi State promptly swept Tennessee after that. The Volunteers did, however, pick up their first SEC win of the year over the weekend. Seems like another year in the cellar so far, though.
Overall: 13-15, 2-7
Last week: 1-3 (lost to Auburn, lost series to Arkansas)
One of the most veteran teams in the SEC, Alabama looks like it. Meaning, veteran teams are veteran because they don’t lose guys to the MLB draft early. If they aren’t losing guys to the draft, those guys probably aren’t stars. Alabama is gutty and Greg Goff seems like a good hire in his first year from Louisiana Tech, but the Crimson Tide simply don’t have the talent right now.
Overall: 13-16, 3-6
Last week: 3-1 (beat Savannah State, won series against Tennessee)
There isn’t a thing sexy about Georgia baseball this year. Both their ERA in league play and slugging percentage are 12th in the SEC so far this year. The Bulldogs were picked to finish in a tie for fourth in the East and still could finish around there after having beat Tennessee this past weekend. Little leads you to believe, however, Georgia would finish anywhere above that.
11. Ole Miss
Overall: 16-12, 3-6
Last week: 1-3 (beat Little Rock, swept by Mississippi State)
Ole Miss strikes the most perfect balance between old, veteran talent and youthful energy (Baseball America ranked the Rebels’ recruiting class No. 1 in the country this past year) of anyone in the SEC. The Rebels beat Vanderbilt two games to one to start SEC play, but have struggled since. If there’s a team outside the top 10 that can fix things, though, it’s Ole Miss.
Overall: 21-6, 4-5
Last week: 0-4 (lost to Southeast Missouri State, swept by Florida)
Remember that 20-game winning streak? Yeah, we don’t either. Missouri has been brutal the last couple weeks. The Tigers took just one game from Arkansas in Columbia two weeks ago and were swept by Florida this past weekend. Granted, three losses against the Gators isn’t, in a vacuum, that much to be concerned about. Toss in a loss to Southeast Missouri State, though, and things are going downhill quickly at Mizzou.
9. Texas A&M
Overall: 19-10, 3-6
Last week: 3-1 (beat Texas State, won series against LSU)
Could the Aggies finally be turning the corner? Underwhelming most of the year, Texas A&M picked up its first SEC series win this past weekend by taking two of three from LSU in Baton Rouge. The Aggies lost a lot of talent off last year’s team and were probably a bit overrated to start the year. But they shouldn’t be as bad as their record thus far, either.
Overall: 18-11, 4-5
Last week: 2-2 (beat Lipscomb, lost series to Kentucky)
No team in the SEC needed to salvage at least one win an SEC series more than the Commodores. A top 10-ranked team in the preseason, they haven’t come close to that halfway through the year. Late heroics were needed to just take one from Kentucky on Sunday. They’re still an NCAA Tournament team … for now. But they’re going to have to figure things out.
7. Mississippi State
Overall: 19-10, 6-3
Last week: 4-0 (beat Memphis, swept Ole Miss)
You’ll have to pardon me for taking Mississippi State with a big helping of salt. The Bulldogs have the overall record in league play to be higher. But when you realize the six wins came off a sweep of Tennessee and then Ole Miss — a series MSU won by a grand total of 4 runs on aggregate — the sheen wears a little. Truth is they’re not as good as that, but they’re not as bad as the team who was swept by Arkansas, either. Thus, seventh.
Overall: 19-10, 5-4
Last week: 1-3 (lost to Tulane, lost series to Texas A&M)
To be fair, this ranking for LSU may be more off “there’s no way they’re this bad, right?” And it’s not like the Tigers are a bad baseball team. But you expected more than a 5-4 record through three weekends. They still have Jared Poche, who might be the best starting pitcher in the SEC, but the bullpen has squandered more than a few leads.
Overall: 19-9, 5-4
Last week: 4-0 (beat Florida State, swept Missouri)
Finally the Gators started looking like the team most favored to win the national title in the SEC. Beating in-state rival Florida State was nice for the resume and confidence. Sweeping Mizzou was good for the standings. Florida remains the most dangerous team in the SEC and the Gators have the most pro potential, especially on the pitching staff. Hovering around .500 all season, though, isn’t going to do them a lick of good.
Overall: 23-7, 7-2
Last week: 3-1 (beat Alabama, won series against South Carolina)
You keep waiting on when the other shoe will drop for Auburn. The Tigers were picked to finish in a tie for last in the SEC West, and three weekends in, they sit tied for first with Arkansas. It feels a little smoke-and-mirrors, though. Six of Auburn’s seven SEC wins have come by a single run.
Overall: 22-6, 7-2
Last week: 2-1 (won series against Alabama)
Things for Arkansas were only pretty once, Friday, against Alabama, but the Razorbacks still haven’t lost an SEC series this year. They also haven’t played any of the heavy hitters in the league, either. You sort of wonder how they’ll handle it when LSU heads to Baum Stadium this weekend. But if Arkansas faces down that test, there’d be little doubt left that the Hogs are legit.
Overall: 21-8, 7-2
Last week: 3-1 (beat Cincinnati, won series against Vanderbilt)
The old chestnut goes, “pitching wins championships.” While that may be true, hitting keeps teams in first place. At least, so far it does. Kentucky leads the SEC in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging in conference play and has a one-game lead in the SEC East. The good news for Kentucky, too, is its pitching staff is top two in league play in both strikeouts and walks — a sign teams are getting a little lucky when putting the ball in play.
1. South Carolina
Overall: 19-8, 6-3 in SEC
Last week: 2-2 (beat The Citadel, lost series to Auburn)
Yes, South Carolina just lost a series to Auburn. But the Gamecocks’ two losses were by one run apiece and one of them definitely should have been a South Carolina win. The Gamecocks are the only preseason top 25 team in the SEC who has looked the part this year. South Carolina leads the SEC in earned-run average both overall and in conference games, but to stick around this spot, it’ll have to improve its hitting (.262 in SEC play).