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Sunday takeaways: Hogs continue to lead SEC; final weekend offers post-season drama

 Barry Allen   in Baseball

Arkansas Seeks SEC Championship

Arkansas won its ninth straight SEC series with 3-2 win at Tennessee to move into sole possession of first place in the league standings with one weekend remaining.

The Razorbacks bested the Vols in the league most dramatic series of the season. Both teams came through in high-drama situations and all three games were decided by one run.

Kevin Kopps picked up his ninth win on Sunday, but proved he was human, as he allowed a ninth-inning run. It was just his fifth run allowed all season.

Arkansas scored single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to spoil a fantastic outing by UT Blade Tidwell, who at one point retired 14 straight Arkansas batters.

The Razorbacks scored 16 runs in the series, with eight of those runs coming in the seventh inning or later.

Arkansas (19-8), Tennessee (18-8), Vanderbilt (17-8), Florida (17-10) and Mississippi State (17-10) are all still in contention, but only the Razorbacks control their own destiny.

Arkansas can clinch the SEC title and No. 1 seed at SEC Tournament with a home series win over Florida next week.

Tennessee has a one-half game lead over Vandy and one-game lead over Florida in the SEC East.

Vanderbilt can still win the SEC Eastern Division and overall title but needs help. The Commodores host Kentucky, while Tennessee plays at South Carolina.

The Battle for Hoover

Georgia and Kentucky locked up an SEC Tournament berth on Sunday. The Bulldogs defeated Florida 6-1 to avoid the sweep. UK was swept at home by South Carolina but still clinched a spot in Hoover.

LSU appears to be in good shape to claim one of the three remaining spots, but if the Tigers were to get swept at Texas A&M this weekend, they could get left out.

Auburn and Texas A&M are currently tied for 12th with identical 8-19 records. The Tigers won two of three from the Aggies this weekend, it first home series win this season, and holds the tie-breaker with the Aggies.

Missouri (7-20) is currently last but can still make it to Hoover. Missouri hosts Auburn this weekend and series win would leave both teams at 9-21. Missouri would hold the tie-breaker in that scenario.

If Texas A&M only wins one with LSU, then the Aggies, Missouri and Auburn would all finish 9-21. Missouri would win the tie-breaker with series wins over both teams and advance to Hoover.

Gamecocks Offense

South Carolina scored 32 runs in its three-game sweep at Kentucky. The Gamecocks scored 12, 9 and 11 runs in the three games.

The 32 runs against Kentucky were more runs than the Gamecocks scored in their previous nine SEC games. The Gamecocks tallied only 26 runs in series losses to Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi Stare.

The Gamecocks averaged 10.7 runs and 12 hits per game en route to its second sweep of the season. South Carolina has won four straight SEC games for just the second time this season.

Andrew Eyster had eight hits and nine RBIs in the series. He had five RBIs in the 9-0 win on Saturday and added four RBIs in Sunday’s finale.

If the offense stats hot and Brett Kerry has another solid start, the Gamecocks could make a push at a Regional host.

Preilipp Returns

Alabama left-hander Connor Preilipp started the series finale at LSU. It was just his third start of the season and second in SEC play.

He tossed five scoreless innings in his first start of the season against McNeese State before an injury sidelined him for the next seven weeks. He started the series finale against Auburn and pitched one inning. He missed the next three weeks before returning to the mound on Sunday.

He threw one inning and his velocity was good (94 mph fastball, 89 mph slider), but his location was not always there as he gave up a 2-run homer to Cade Doughty in the first inning. He left after throwing 22 pitches.

Hunter Ruth followed Prelipp and allowed five runs in one inning as the Tigers built an 8-3 lead. LSU hit four home runs in the 13-5 series-clinching win.