Every week, we’re previewing crucial match-ups across the SEC and ranking teams based on their performance and potential. All stats and records are through games on Thursday February 26.
All rankings are provided by D1Baseball.com.
There’s a new number one in the SEC Power Rankings this week. After an impressive series win over #15 Miami (Fla.), Florida has overtaken Vanderbilt for the top spot. It is a reward for how Florida has fared early on and shouldn’t be a concern to Vanderbilt fans, especially with ace pitcher Walker Buehler returning from injury soon.
Teams around the rest of the league continued to roll. Texas A&M and Mississippi State are off to 9-0 starts this year. Scott Stricklin has done wonders with a Georgia team that just took a series win from Florida State last weekend. Even in a series loss, Alabama proved that it will be a force in the SEC West race. The Tide lost the first two games in their series against #6 Houston, but controlled much of the series and could have easily come away with at least two wins.
Let’s get to this week’s games and power rankings.
Baseball Quote of the Week:
Swing hard, in case they throw the ball where you’re swinging. ~Duke Snider
Key Weekend Series:
#5 South Carolina at/vs. Clemson – The Tigers and Gamecocks will renew their rivalry this weekend in a strange series that starts in Clemson, travels to Greenville, and finally ends in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won 13 of 16 since 2010. Clemson enters the series with a 5-2 record after a sweep of Maine last weekend. South Carolina has won their last six since an Opening Day loss to College of Charleston. Offensively, the Gamecocks have found their groove recently, totaling at least eight hits in each of their last six games. The player to watch in this series is South Carolina is sophomore pitcher Wil Crowe. Crowe earned Freshman All-American honors last season after recording an 8-3 record with a sub-3 ERA. In 2015, he has allowed just 1 run over 10 1/3 innings of work in two starts. Expect South Carolina to rely on its arms and take the series this weekend.
Prediction: South Carolina wins 2 of 3
#18 Ole Miss at #24 UCF – Perhaps one of the most important match-ups in college baseball this week. Last season, the Knights were 6-2 before they traveled to Oxford. After losing two close games, they lost the third in blowout fashion. The series set UCF in a spiral that culminated in a seven game losing streak. This year, the Knights are red-hot with wins over Arkansas and #12 Maryland last weekend. They host Ole Miss on an eight game winning streak to start the season. A breakout player to watch in this series is UCF righty Cre Finfrock. The freshman is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA over two starts this season and his fastball can break the mid-90s. Offensively, the Knights will provide a nice test for an Ole Miss rotation that is looking for a third weekend arm. This should be a low-scoring series with a potential for UCF to win big on Sunday.
Prediction: UCF wins 2 of 3
Top 25 Rank: #2
Weekend Series: vs. Stony Brook
The Gators had a statement series win over Miami (Fla.) last weekend. The offense has been slightly hit-or-miss this season, but it is more balanced than last year’s team. Freshman catcher JJ Schwarz has been a nice surprise for Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad. He has three home runs with 12 RBI while hitting .313 in eight starts this season. In the rotation, Dane Dunning has lead the way with a sub-2 ERA and two wins in his lone starts. Expect Logan Shore and AJ Puk to emerge as the front-runners in the rotation as SEC play starts.