Saturday's SEC baseball takeaways: Franklin and Fabian surge, Leiter fades, Smith wins and Auburn catches a break
Barry Allen and Chris Lee • 5/1/2021 in Baseball
Here's what's worth noting from SEC Baseball action on May 1, 2021.
Razorbacks' Franklin makes his move
There's still a long way to go, but perhaps Arkansas centerfielder Christian Franklin is making a push to be the 2021 SEC Player of the Year. In the series win at LSU, Franklin went 6-for-11 (.545) with five runs scored, two doubles, one home run and 10 RBIs. He also walked twice and one outfield assist. He single-handedly beat the Tigers in the series opener on Friday. He went 2-for-4 with one home run and 5 RBIs in the 7-0 win. He had two-run single in the seventh inning and added three-run homer in the eighth. He also threw out Gavin Dugas at third base in the seventh inning.
For the season, Franklin is hitting .302 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. He has added 11 doubles, 27 walks and scored 43 runs. He also has eight stolen bases and three outfield assists.
Vandy's Leiter struggles
Jack Leiter was probably the country's best pitcher through his first eight starts, but teams have started to figure Leiter out recently. Leiter allowed three home runs in four innings to Florida in a Saturday evening loss and has now allowed eight in his last three starts after allowing just one for his entire career before that.
Leiter's overall stats--a 2.10 ERA, 106 strikeouts and a .128 average against in 64 1/3 innings--are still special, but the Commodores need a return to form from their Saturday ace soon.
Fabian getting right
Two of those bombs Leiter allowed were to Florida's Jud Fabian, who was striking out at a woeful clip early but is now learning to handle breaking stuff better, as exhibited by one of those coming off a Leiter slider.
The Gator center fielder is now hitting .267/.370/.615 and has 16 homers this season, with seven coming in SEC games.
Smith finally gets a win
We've talked about how Alabama's Dylan Smith has pitched well with nothing to show for it. Well, Smith recorded his first win of the season on Saturday against Missouri. He allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
In 11 starts, Smith has compiled a 1-5 record and 3.20 ERA this season for the Crimson Tide. He has recorded 86 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. Alabama is 5-6 in his 11 starts.
Georgia's NCAA tournament hopes take a hit
Georgia dropped a home series to last-place Auburn this weekend. After winning the opener 4-0 on Thursday, the Bulldogs fell 10-6 in 14 innings on Friday and 9-7 in the series finale on Saturday. Georgia is 27-16 overall and 10-11 in SEC play. The Bulldogs are tied with Kentucky for fifth place in the SEC Eastern Division and ninth in the overall standings.
Prior to the Auburn series, Georgia had three straight SEC series win over Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri. After the Auburn series, Georgia is now No. 40 in the latest RPI rankings, according to Warren Nolan. The Bulldogs last three SEC series are against Arkansas (Fayetteville), Florida (Gainesville) and Ole Miss (Athens). The opportunities are there for the Bulldogs, but will they have enough wins?
Auburn finally caught a break
We've said it all year: Auburn's been more unlucky than bad. Based on the runs the Tigers had scored and given up in SEC games, Auburn should have been closer to a 7-11 team in league play than the 3-15 squad it was. The culprit: a 2-8 mark in one-run SEC games.
Guess what? Those things even out over time, and after losing a shutout (and dropping the game) on one swing of the bat with a grand slam on Friday night, Auburn rebounded to win 10-6 and 9-7 in the last two games. The first was especially satisfying as it came in 14 innings.
Auburn has the league's best schedule coming up with home series with LSU and Texas A&M before a trip to Missouri. The Tigers have the talent, and now, the opportunity, to make a move up the league standings.
Rebels snap skip with sweep of South Carolina
Ole Miss picked up a much-needed series win over South Carolina this weekend in Oxford and the three-game sweep, have the Rebels back in the conversation for hosting and possibly a national seed. The Rebels had lost four straight SEC series (Florida, Arkansas, Miss. State and LSU) but rebounded this weekend for its first-ever sweep over the Gamecocks.
Ole Miss leadoff hitter and shortstop Jacob Gonzalez set the tone for the Rebels, going 6-for-10 with five runs, one home run and five RBIs.
Mississippi State also nets a sweep
The Bulldogs finished off a three-game sweep of Texas A&M on Saturday night in Starkville. It was MSU’s first home series win over Texas A&M since the Aggies joined the league in 2013. MSU recorded its third sweep of the season, tied with in-state rival Ole Miss for the most in the league this season. MSU has swept Kentucky, Auburn and Texas A&M this season.
Clarke ends home run drought
South Carolina designated hitter Wes Clarke belted a three-run home run in the series finale at Ole Miss on Saturday. It was his first home run since April 3 at Georgia. Clarke had gone 48 at-bats in between home runs.
He continues to lead the nation with 16 home runs this season. He belted six home runs in first four games of the season and eight home runs in his first eight games. In SEC play, Clarke is 12-for-73 (.164) with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He has 29 strikeouts in SEC play.
Rocky Top scoring spree
Tennessee has scored double figures in each of its last three wins over Texas A&M and Kentucky. The Vols are averaging 15 runs per game in last three conference wins. UT posted a 14-4 win over Kentucky in the series opener on Thursday and clinched the series with an 11-2 win on Saturday.
Third baseman Jake Rucker drove in five runs in the series finale, including a sixth-inning grand slam. Tennessee leads the SEC with five grand slams this season. Rucker hit his second grand slam on Saturday. In the last three SEC wins, Rucker is 6-for-15 with six runs scored, two doubles, one home run and eight RBIs.