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Check Swing - SEC Week 3

Sorry, I know Check Swing was gone from your life for a couple weeks, but never mind that now, let’s focus on how good Mississippi State is at baseball.

When you realize tomorrow is Friday.

Welcome, folks, to week 3 of the SEC baseball season. There are currently nine SEC teams ranked in the top 25 and five of those teams are in the top 10. Given that as the state of SEC baseball in 2019, the rest of the season should be full of massive series’. Some weekends will even feel like NCAA tournament warm-up games, just a cool five weeks before conference tournaments start.

I, for one, am excited.

We’re going to do things a little differently here at Check Swing now that SEC play is underway, each team will be talked about in its respective match-up, rather than individually. I’ll touch on the first two weeks of action, since I have left you to fend for yourselves thus far, as well as any notable midweek action from around the league. I’m also only going to post each team’s SEC record because, let’s be honest, that’s what you’re here for, right? Bottoms up!

(Reminder: all Top 25 rankings are from because their poll is the best.)

Alabama (2-4) vs #23 Florida (1-5)

If Alabama was fortunate enough to play baseball in the East, they would be tied for third through six SEC games, but they don’t. After being unable to take either of their first two series’ against Ole Miss and Arkansas, the Tide welcome in a struggling Florida team. Alabama was able to capitalize in a midweek game versus Auburn in Montgomery, toppling the Tigers 6-3, to give them some momentum into a series that both teams will be desperate to win to keep their season from nearing a collapse.

Florida beat #20 FSU in Jacksonville on Tuesday night giving them a midweek pick-me-up as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s road trip to Vanderbilt, which resulted in a deflating sweep for the Gators. Florida has started out the season with two tough weekends in a row with State dismissing them 2-1 in their league opener. A sweep in Tuscaloosa puts the Gators back towards contention as we near the halfway mark of SEC play.

#4 Georgia (5-1) vs Kentucky (0-6)

A scorching-hot Georgia team is probably the last thing that Kentucky wants to see this weekend. The other Bulldogs got a running start with a sweep of South Carolina and kept the ball rolling last week, taking two from LSU. Georgia also boasts the fifth-best team ERA in the nation with an impressive 2.54. Their most recent hiccup came this past week in Atlanta, where they lost to Georgia Tech 11-2. A sweep over the Wildcats would make Georgia the undisputed team to beat in the East.

No one in the league has started as poorly as Kentucky has, getting swept by both LSU in the SEC opener and by A and M the following week. Taking even one game versus Georgia could be a huge boost for a team that is looking for just about anything to jump-start the squad into winning some games. The Wildcats’ statistical highlight of the season is that they currently lead the SEC in stolen bases with 50 through 21 games. This is one of two series getting off to an early start on Thursday, wrapping up on Saturday.

#15 Auburn (4-2) vs South Carolina (1-5)

Coming off of a series loss in the nicest ballpark in America, Auburn is looking to get back atop the West with a weekend series versus South Carolina. Sophomore Jack Owen will look to continue his impressive 2019 campaign as he carries the nation’s second-best individual ERA of 0.31 into Columbia. While the Tigers dropped 3 spots in the rankings this week, they are still tied for second in the West, making this weekend some very important, winnable games for Auburn.

The once-powerhouse of SEC East baseball seems to have fallen on hard times as South Carolina is looking for only their second win of league play this weekend. The Gamecocks were unfortunate to face one of the hottest teams in the SEC in opening weekend and did not get much of a breather in week two, managing to only take one from Tennessee. Stealing at least one win this weekend would be big for a team that may be looking to move on to 2020 earlier than hoped for.

#17 LSU (4-2) vs #2 Mississippi St (4-2)

LSU is still looking to find who they are as a squad after having a roller coaster first two weeks of league play. The Tigers opened with a quick sweep of Kentucky and were instantly humbled last weekend, dropping two versus Georgia and getting shut out on Tuesday by McNeese St. This is the weekend’s other early start with game one on Thursday, so it’ll get some special treatment from ESPNU. Plans are set for the broadcast to be from the top deck of the Left Field Lofts.

The second-ranked team in the nation but the top-ranked team in our hearts, THE Mississippi State University, is looking to lock up their third series win in as many weeks. After opening the season with two wins in Gainesville and two more back home over Auburn, the Bulldogs now occupy the #2 spot for the second straight week. State currently has the nation’s fourth best batting average (.323), have more doubles (73) than any other team, are tied for second in total runs scored (227) nationally and average the most strikeouts per 9 innings (11.8) in the country. The Dawgs are damn good.

Tennessee (2-4) vs #6 Vanderbilt (4-2)

After a very impressive run through non-conference play, Tennessee has struggled to find that same success in league play. The Vols were swept opening weekend by Auburn, but bounced back with a strong showing over South Carolina, taking two from that series. Tennessee still owns the nation’s best team ERA, an elite 2.37. This weekend’s trip to Nashville could pull the Vols back into the rankings if they can manage to take the series from a team that spent much of the early portion of the season at #1.

If Vanderbilt wants to retake its claim as the premier team in the league, this is a perfect weekend to do so. A sweep over a team with the pitching staff that Tennessee boasts would essentially narrow it to a two-team race in the East, likely would pushing the Commodores back into top five territory come Monday’s rankings as well. An early series loss to A and M was quickly remedied the following weekend by sweeping the sliding Gators. Another sweep this weekend and the A and M series will be long in the rearview for this squad.

Missouri (2-4) vs #10 Texas A and M (5-1)

Mizzou opened SEC play by going 0-3 versus Arkansas, putting the Tigers dangerously close to a very early 10-loss mark on the season. Alas, they rallied after week one and took two from Ole Miss to bring them right back in the mix for the East. The Tigers need to take at least one this weekend if they don’t want to go right back to the fringe in an extremely top-heavy league.

Currently tied for first in the West and up three spots from last week’s rankings to #10, Texas A and M is rolling at the perfect time. The Aggies pitching staff is seventh in the nation with a 2.61 ERA, making this a very dangerous team going into the meat of SEC play. If A and M pulls off a sweep this weekend, the Aggies will instantly push themselves into regular season title contention.

#24 Ole Miss (3-3) vs #8 Arkansas (5-1)

Ole Miss beat Alabama opening weekend, then was swept by Mizzou and now they make the trip to Fayetteville for three.

Hosting the the second of two top 25 teams this weekend, Arkansas is looking to take a firm hold on the West coming off of an opening weekend sweep of Mizzou and last week’s series victory over Alabama. Freshman Jacob Nesbit was named SEC Freshman of the Week after extending his hitting streak to a team-high 14-straight games, on top of his 21-game on-base streak. A sweep over the Black Bears(?) this weekend makes the target on the back of the first-place Razorbacks even bigger.

See y’all next weekend to talk another action-packed week of college baseball in the nation’s best conference.