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Sunday's SEC baseball takeaways: Arkansas the clear No. 1, Gators getting right at the right time

 Barry Allen and Chris Lee   in Baseball

Arkansas ends the weekend in sole possession of first, while Florida is finally looking more like what was expected coming into the season

Jud Fabian photo courtesy of the University of Florida

Arkansas takes over first place

Arkansas (34-18, 15-6) took over sole possession of first place in the league standings on Sunday. The Razorbacks have a one-game lead over Eastern Division leaders Vanderbilt (32-9, 14-7 SEC) and Tennessee (14-11, 14-7 SEC), and Western Division rival Mississippi State (32-10, 14-7 SEC). 

However, the Razorbacks missed a golden opportunity to put more distance between themselves and the pack, as LSU managed a one-run win in the middle game of the series after Arkansas posted seven-run wins the other two games. The Razorbacks--who have four players (Matt Goodheart, Robert Moore, Christian Franklin, Brady Slavens) with double-digit homers now--uncharacteristically managed just one extra-base hit off three LSU pitchers in that one.

Arkansas will play Georgia (home), Tennessee (away) and Florida (home) to close out the regular season. 

Vols' offense leads late surge

Tennessee is off its best 21-game start in the league since Todd Helton and R.A. Dickey led the Vols to a 15-6 mark in 1995. 

A key to Tennessee's recent success is an offense that's plated 47 runs in its last four league games.The Vols may not quite be Arkansas in the power department, but their balanced power attack (61 home runs, and six players with at least five) is a nightmare to pitch to right now. 

Vanderbilt and Tennessee are tied for first place in the SEC Eastern Division. The Commodores hold the tie-breaker following its series win in Knoxville (April 16-18). 

Gators top Vandy in Gainesville--but can they win on the road?

Florida has been the SEC’s best home team this season. The Gators are 10-2 in SEC home games and have won all four series with Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  

The Gators are coming off a home series win over the Commodores this weekend. After dropping game one, Florida rebounded to win the next two games and take the series. The Gators hit three home runs off Jack Leiter in Saturday’s 11-8 win. Florida centerfielder Jud Fabian hit two homers in the win. On Sunday, the Gators bullpen tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings, including 2 2/3 innings from starter-turned-closer Jack Leftwich.

Overall, the Gators are 25-6 at the new Florida Ballpark, but just 5-7 on the road. The Gators will need to change their road fortunes in a hurry with a series at Kentucky this weekend, followed by a trip to Arkansas to end the regular season. 

'Bama bullpen shines

The Alabama bullpen put together 13 scoreless innings in the three-game sweep of Missouri. The Tide relievers were responsible for two wins and three saves on the weekend. They held the Tigers to one hit and struck out 14 in the series.

William FreemanLandon Green and Chase Lee combined for five scoreless innings in the opener. Freeman allowed one hit in three scoreless innings for the win. Green pitched a perfect eighth and Lee added a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.

Green earned his second save with a perfect ninth inning in game two.

The Crimson Tide used four relievers to complete the sweep on Sunday. Hunter Ruth, Jake Eddington, Freeman and Lee tossed seven scoreless innings in the win.

Ruth allowed four hits in three scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Eddington wriggled out of trouble to record a scoreless sixth inning.

Freeman retried all six batters he faced, with three strikeouts for his second win in three days.

Lee worked a three-up, three-down ninth for his sixth save of the year, and second of the weekend.

Mississippi State sweeps, again

Mississippi State is coming off a sweep of Texas A&M, its third conference sweep of the season. However, it wasn't as decisive as you'd expect, with the Bulldogs winning a pair of one-run games over the struggling Aggies, who are now tied for last place with a 5-16 SEC mark.

Once again, Landon Sims was a difference-maker in this one. MSU's super reliever fired three scoreless innings to finish, striking out seven and allowing a lone walk, keeping the Aggies at bay until State scratched out a 12th-inning run in Friday's win. 

It's crowded at the bottom

Auburn (19-21, 5-16 SEC), Missouri (12-29, 5-16 SEC) and Texas A&M (24-22, 5-16 SEC) are all tied for last place in the SEC standings.  

The Tigers are coming off their first series win of the season at Georgia and put themselves in position to make the SEC Tournament. Auburn plays LSU (home), Texas A&M (home) and Missouri (away) in the final three weekends, making for the easiest-possible schedule since the Tigers can't play themselves.

Texas A&M has dropped six of its seven SEC series (and its last five). The Aggies lone series win came against Georgia in week two. A&M closes out the season with Ole Miss (home), Auburn (away) and LSU (home).

Missouri was swept by Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa, despite having the lead in all three games. The Tigers have lost six of seven SEC series this year, with its lone win coming at home against Texas A&M.  Mizzou closes the season with Tennessee (home), Miss. State (away) and Auburn (home).

LSU (26-17, 7-14 SEC) has a two-game lead in the SEC standings over Auburn, Texas A&M and Missouri. The Tigers close out the year with Auburn (away), Alabama (home) and Texas A&M (away). LSU seems to be in pretty good shape to make the SEC Tournament heading into the final three weeks.

SEC schedule (May 6-9) 

Alabama at Vanderbilt

Georgia at Arkansas

LSU at Auburn

Florida at Kentucky

Ole Miss at Texas A&M

Mississippi State at South Carolina

Tennessee at Missouri