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2021 SEC baseball tournament thoughts and takeaways: Ole Miss vs. Georgia, Alabama vs. Florida

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

HOOVER, Ala.--Here are some thoughts on the Ole Miss/Georgia and Alabama/Florida contests from Thursday. 

Kevin Graham photo courtesy of Ole Miss.

Ole Miss may have improved its postseason outlook more than anyone in the conference this week.

No, I'm not talking about the Rebels doing enough to ensure they'll play baseball in Oxford next weekend (and, if they keep it up, maybe the one after this). That's important, but what's more important is that the Rebels have found fantastic starting pitching behind Doug Nikhazy in their three games in the SEC tournament.

Last night, Derek Diamond was brilliant against Vanderbilt and today, it was Drew McDaniel's turn. The right-hander shut out Georgia for 6 2/3 innings, striking out 11, walking one and allowing just four hits (all singles). 

Diamond and McDaniel have terrific stuff--fastballs in the mid-90s, and McDaniel had two breaking pitches working today--but that's never been the issue. The question has been whether either can pitch effectively for any length of time, and while other parks may not be as forgiving as the Hoover Met, both built some confidence heading into the NCAA tournament. 

There's no question that the Rebels have the bats to get to Omaha. If this is what they get the next two weeks, the pitching side will be good enough also. 

I don't know what to make of Georgia's NCAA tournament situation. 

I thought the Bulldogs were underrated during the season, but so many pitching injuries have taken their toll on the Bulldogs in the last few weeks. And now, Georgia--which has had fits with strikeouts--forgot to pack the bats on their way to Hoover, getting shut out 4-0 today and failing to get any runs against Arkansas on Wednesday until it was far too late.

Coach Scott Stricklin talks like the Bulldogs are in the field of 64. Maybe he's right and I hope he is, because for once this year, Georgia deserves a break. And when the Bulldogs were good, they were really good--just ask Vanderbilt, which lost two of three to UGA in Nashville.

But that's just one part of the equation. The Bulldogs were 13-17 in the league, 8-15 against top-50 RPI teams and 6-4 against 51-100 teams and that doesn't sound like a tournament team. On the other hand, 20 of those games were against teams that are all in the top 18 of the RPI and all will be hosting with the possible (likely?) exception of South Carolina.

Georgia didn't leave a good last impression; we'll see how much that matters on Monday. 

Florida is looking like preseason-expectations-laden Florida.

The Gators have out-scored Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi State by a 24-4 margin in Hoover. The top three in the UF order (Jacob Young, Nathan Hickey and Jud Fabian) have hit well in the tournament and if Hickey can capably pick up third (and he's getting a shot down here) then it makes the Gators better.

I stand by my statement that Ole Miss has improved its outlook the most, but the Gators may not be far behind.