Alabama and Arkansas head to Texas, while Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt try to bounce back
William Drummond • 2/25/2022 in Baseball
Here's a series preview for the SEC's 14 baseball teams heading into the weekend.
Bryce Eblin photo courtesy of Alabama athletics.
Rankings are courtesy of D1Baseball.com
Alabama and Arkansas heading to Texas for premiere matchups of Weekend Two
Alabama at No. 1 Texas
The Crimson Tide opened the season with a three-game sweep of Xavier highlighted by Owen Diodati’s walk-off on opening day. They also added a pair of midweek wins over in-state foes Jacksonville State and Alabama State. A big part of Alabama's early success has been the stellar play of shortstop Jim Jarvis and first baseman Drew Williamson, both of whom have an OPS over 1.000.
They’ll travel to Austin to face the consensus No. 1 Texas Longhorns, who are coming off of a top 4 finish in last year’s College World Series. Texas is anchored by one of the nation’s best starting rotations—Pete Hansen, Tristan Stevens, and Tanner Witt—who went a combined 11 innings only allowing one run against Rice on opening weekend. The Longhorns also boast an experienced, potent lineup led by power hitting first baseman Ivan Melendez, who just happens to have the best nickname in college baseball, "The Hispanic Titanic."
No. 2 Arkansas at the Round Rock Classic
Arkansas, which took two of three from Illinois State last weekend, will face Indiana, No. 6 Stanford, and Louisiana-Lafayette. While the offense wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders just yet, that’s no reason for concern: this club will hit.
What was encouraging was the performance of the pitching staff without Peyton Pallette. Starters Connor Noland, freshman Hagen Smith, and Jaxon Wiggins went a combined 16 innings with three earned runs to open the contests.
The opponents are highlighted by Saturday’s game against 2021 CWS participant Stanford and consensus first-team All-American outfielder Brock Jones. Friday, the Razorbacks face a projected regional team in Indiana, and then wrap up the weekend with Louisiana, which is fresh off of a series win over then-ranked UC Irvine.
Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State attempt to bounce back
The Gators, Commodores, and Bulldogs lost series to Liberty, Oklahoma State, and Long Beach State, all of which are now ranked as Liberty joined the rankings following its series win in Gainesville.
Florida will meet Georgia State in Gainesville where it hopes to get a better performance than last weekend. While Friday arm Hunter Barco was fantastic and won SEC Pitcher of the Week, the Gators need better performances out of lefty starters Pierce Coppola and Timmy Manning in their second weekend.
Army travels to Nashville to face Vanderbilt where each squad will look to rebound after opening series losses. The ‘Dores dropped the deciding game against Oklahoma State last Sunday after being tied in the ninth inning. They’ll switch the order of the rotation but keep the same three arms, looking for more consistent outings from freshman Carter Holton and closer-turned-starter Nick Maldonado. The Black Knights are the coaches' preseason pick to win the Patriot League.
Winless Northern Kentucky will travel to Dudy Noble where Mississippi State will aim to get back on track. Ace Landon Sims pitched well in his debut as a starter, while State will insert its best bullpen performer of the weekend, Preston Johnson, into the Saturday spot of the rotation.
New skippers look to continue winning ways
LSU started red hot by pounding out a record 51 runs on opening weekend against Maine. The Tigers cooled off in the midweek where they went on the road to Louisiana Tech. Couple the hostile atmosphere with bad weather and LSU fell 11-6 committing five errors. LSU has four contests this weekend as they’ll play a pair against both Towson and Southern, which includes a Sunday twin-bill.
Penn will be making its season debut at Texas A&M, which swept Fordham on a Logan Britt walk-off home run and topped Lamar handily its first midweek. The Aggies' pitching was exceptionally strong between Nathan Dettmer and Texas Tech transfer Micah Dallas.
Auburn looks to build on opening weekend statement
The loudest statement in the conference was made by Auburn and its pitching staff in the trip to Arlington, Texas it won two of three, including topping ranked Texas Tech. Adding in Wednesday’s midweek against Troy and the Tigers have only allowed six runs across four games.
After starting slowly offensively, Auburn has scored double-digit runs in its last two games, led by transfers Sonny DiChiara and Blake Rambusch. The Tigers look to continue the success against Yale, the projected Ivy League winner, which is starting its season this weekend.
Tennessee and Ole Miss work to stay dominant
The Volunteers are expected to be without Blade Tidwell for an extended amount of time, but the rest of the pitching staff has been lights out, allowing just four runs in four games. Highly touted freshman Chase Burns had a strong first start, and bullpen flamethrower Ben Joyce took the internet by storm once his 100+mph fastballs hit the Pitching Ninja Twitter feed. Look for the Vols to continue their success against an Iona team that was picked at the bottom of the MAAC by the league’s coaches.
Ole Miss quietly bludgeoned Charleston Southern and found itself at the top of our Week One power rankings. The Rebels will get a bit tougher test in Week Two as they’ll host VCU, the preseason pick to repeat as Atlantic 10 champs and earn another postseason berth. The Rebels have an average margin of victory of nine runs in their four games. Only one of those has gone the full nine innings.
SEC East squads look to ride opening series success
Georgia will face the Akron Zips who are traveling to Athens following a 1-2 start against Lipscomb. The 4-0 Bulldogs will look to ride their talented pitching staff which has posted an even 3.00 ERA to start the year, headlined by junior ace Jonathan Cannon. Expect Georgia's bats to have a strong weekend as well as they face an Akron club picked to finish last in the MAC.
South Carolina scored seven runs in its Week One rubber game to avoid disaster which was capped by an Andrew Eyster grand slam. Gamecock freshman shortstop Michael Braswell made quite a debut as he picked up the game-winning RBI and his first career win on the mound en route to SEC Freshman of the Week honors. This weekend’s opponent George Washington is projected to finish in the middle of the pack among the A10 and offers the Gamecocks a chance to have momentum heading into big showdowns against Clemson and current #1 Texas.
Kentucky returned to Lexington for its home opener against Bellarmine after winning a series at Jacksonville State to open 2022. The 'Cats walked off their first game at Kentucky Proud Park via an Oraj Anu walk-off double to improve to 4-0. Like Carolina, the series against Western Michigan, plus a pair of midweeks after, could give Kentucky a chance to develop some serious momentum before a big home series against a ranked TCU squad.
Mizzou is 4-1 for the first time since 2018 and will continue its run through Louisiana with a series at ULM. They opened with a four-game set at Nicholls, plus a midweek against Southern. The Warhawks finished at an even .500 in the 2021 campaign and dropped their opening series to Southern Illinois. Mizzou is in position to have a strong start to its 2022 season.