SEC Baseball Report: League dominant halfway through regular season

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Thursday, April 6, 2023
LSU outfielder Dylan Crews (3) throws during an NCAA baseball game on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU outfielder Dylan Crews (3) throws during an NCAA baseball game on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Midway through the season, it appears the SEC once again has a stronghold as home to college baseball’s best players and best teams. 

Half of the conference is in the top 10 of this week’s USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll, led by top-ranked LSU. Also in the top 10 are Florida (3), Vanderbilt (4), Arkansas (5), South Carolina (6), Tennessee (8) and Kentucky (10). 

“I don’t think anything really surprises me anymore when it comes to the league,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said this week. “It’s just an older league, and you’ve got to show up and play good every weekend or you’ll get beat.”

SEC teams placed 16 players on the mid-season watch list for the Golden Spikes Award on Wednesday. The Golden Spikes Award is presented by USA Baseball to the best amateur player in the country.

LSU led the way with three players on the list, including two who are among the favorites to win the award, center fielder Dylan Crews and right-handed pitcher Paul Skenes. LSU third baseman Tommy White also made the list. 

Four SEC East teams also placed multiple players on the watch list. Vanderbilt is represented by outfielder Enrique Bradfield and left-handed pitcher Carter Holton; Florida by left-handed pitcher/first baseman Jac Caglianone and infielder Josh Rivera; Tennessee by right-handed pitchers Chase Dollander and Chase Burns; and South Carolina by first baseman Gavin Casas and outfielder Ethan Petry. 

Also on the list from the SEC are Arkansas left-handed pitcher Hunter Hollan, Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, Georgia first baseman/outfielder Charlie Condon, Auburn infielder/outfielder Bryson Ware and Texas A&M infielder Hunter Haas. 

Several of the players on the Golden Spikes watch list were included on mid-season All-America teams released this week by Perfect Game and 

The D1Baseball All-America team also included Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and Vanderbilt relief pitcher Nick Maldonado on the first team, and Arkansas outfielder Jared Wegner on the second team. 

Perfect Game’s second team included relievers Hagen Smith of Arkansas and Garrett Edwards of LSU, and the third team included Tennessee starting pitcher Drew Beam and Kentucky reliever Ryan Hagenow. 

Perfect Game’s Freshman All-America first team included Petry of South Carolina, Auburn first baseman Ike Irish, Florida second baseman Cade Kurland, Alabama third baseman Colby Shelton, LSU designated hitter Jared Jones and Missouri reliever Logan Lunceford. 

In D1Baseball's rankings for the 2023 MLB Draft that were updated this week, the SEC had the top four prospects in Crews, Skenes, Langford and Dollander. Those are also the top four prospects, according to Baseball America. 

Bianco passes Bertman

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco passed his mentor, former LSU coach Skip Bertman, for second place in wins as an SEC head coach Tuesday. 

The Rebels’ 7-2 victory at Memphis was Bianco’s 871st in 23 seasons at Ole Miss. Bertman won 870 games in 18 seasons at LSU from 1984-2001. 

Bianco was a catcher at LSU from 1988-89, and was an assistant for the Tigers from 1993-97. As an assistant, Bianco was part of three of Bertman’s five teams that won a national championship. 

Former Mississippi State and Georgia coach Ron Polk holds the record for wins by an SEC baseball coach with 1,218 between 1976 and 2008. 

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who has won 865 games in 21 seasons, should soon pass Bertman for third place. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has the fifth-most victories by an SEC head coach with 819 in 21 seasons. 

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan has passed three SEC coaching legends — Paul Mainieri of LSU, Jim Wells of Alabama and Hal Baird of Auburn — to move into 10th place this year. 

Here is a look at the SEC’s 10 winningest coaches:

Name, Wins, School(s)

Ron Polk, 1,218, Mississippi State (1976-97; 2002-08), Georgia (2000-01)

Mike Bianco, 871, Ole Miss (2001-present)

Skip Bertman, 870, LSU (1984-2001)

Tim Corbin, 865, Vanderbilt (2003-present)

Dave Van Horn, 819, Arkansas (2003-present)

Ray Tanner 738, South Carolina (1997-2012)

Keith Madison 735, Kentucky (1979-2003)

Rod Delmonico 699, Tennessee (1990-2007)

Roy Mewbourne 655, Vanderbilt (1979-2002)

Kevin O’Sullivan 652, Florida (2008-present)

In-state games

Arkansas’ game against Arkansas State that was scheduled for Tuesday was canceled the day before due to the threat of severe weather. 

The Razorbacks are the only SEC team yet to play an in-state opponent. They have games scheduled against Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and against Central Arkansas on April 18. 

Here is a look at every SEC team’s number of in-state opponents scheduled, and record so far in those games: 

School: Games (Record)

Florida: 16 (9-3)

Texas A&M: 15 (8-2)

Auburn: 13 (5-1)* 

Alabama: 12 (6-0)*

South Carolina: 11 (7-1)

Georgia: 10 (6-2)

LSU: 10 (4-0)

Vanderbilt: 9 (4-0)*%

Tennessee: 8 (1-0)*

Ole Miss: 7 (1-0)*#

Kentucky: 6 (4-0)

Mississippi State: 5 (1-0)*

Missouri: 4 (2-0)

Arkansas: 4 (0-0)^

* Teams play in-state teams in SEC play. In addition to their conference series, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play a neutral-site game in Pearl, Miss., on April 25 that will not count toward their conference records.

^ Arkansas’ April 3 game vs. Arkansas State was canceled and will not be made up.

# Ole Miss’ March 28 game vs. Southern Miss was suspended in the fourth inning and ruled a no-contest due to field conditions. 

% Vanderbilt’s March 21 game vs. Lipscomb was canceled due to weather. 

SEC West standings

LSU 6-3

Arkansas 6-3

Alabama 3-6

Auburn 3-6

Texas A&M 3-6

Ole Miss 1-8

Mississippi State 1-8

SEC East standings

Vanderbilt 9-0

South Carolina 8-1

Kentucky 8-1

Florida 7-2

Tennessee 4-5

Missouri 3-6

Georgia 1-8

Series of the Week — 1 LSU (25-4) at 6 South Carolina (27-3)

South Carolina has college baseball’s best record and LSU has the sport’s best team in the eyes of the pollsters. 

The Gamecocks’ resurgent start has been against a schedule that is ranked 54th nationally. It was lower to start the week, but South Carolina received a boost from a 5-0 victory over No. 15 North Carolina at a neutral field in Charlotte, N.C.

LSU has been battle tested the past two weeks with top-10 matchups against Arkansas and Tennessee. The Tigers won both series 2-1 at their home Alex Box Stadium. 

The series will feature the frontrunners to be SEC player of the year (LSU center fielder Dylan Crews) and freshman of the year (South Carolina right fielder Ethan Petry). Both are among the hottest hitters in the league. Crews has a national-leading .531 batting average and Petry is third in the SEC with a .439 average. 

Both teams are facing key injuries to their pitching staff going into the series. South Carolina could potentially be without senior right-handed starter Noah Hall (back), according to The State newspaper, and LSU freshman right-handed reliever Chase Shores has been ruled out with an undisclosed injury. 

The series is scheduled to begin Thursday.

Other weekend series

3 Florida (25-5) at 8 Tennessee (21-8)*

4 Vanderbilt (24-5) at Missouri (19-9)*

5 Arkansas (23-5) at Ole Miss (17-11)*

10 Kentucky (26-3) at Georgia (16-13)

Mississippi State (17-13) at Alabama (22-8)*

Texas A&M (18-11) at Auburn (18-10-1)*

* - Series begins Thursday

Hitter of the Week — Tavian Josenberger, Arkansas

The Razorbacks’ lead-off hitter had 8 hits, including 4 extra-base hits, scored 8 runs and had 6 RBI last week. 

Josenberger was a “one-man wrecking crew” against Alabama, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said following the series. He was especially good in the second game of the series when he doubled twice and went 3 for 4 at the plate, and robbed the Crimson Tide of a three-run home run with a leaping catch at the center-field wall.

Josenberger also had two other notable defensive highlights against Alabama, including a running catch in right-center field that led to a double play. 

Pitcher of the Week — Paul Skenes, LSU

Neither Skenes nor Tennessee’s Chase Dollander disappointed in the most hyped pitching matchup of the year. 

Skenes allowed 1 run and 1 hit, and struck out 12 during his 7-inning start against the Volunteers last Thursday. It was Skenes’ seventh consecutive game with at least 11 strikeouts.

Skenes took a no-decision as the Tigers won 5-2. 

According to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, 75 scouts requested a credential to the Skenes-Dollander duel.

Stat of the Week

Tennessee is 19-1 at home, but 2-7 in road or neutral-site games. 

The Volunteers lost six consecutive road games prior to a 14-7 victory at LSU last Saturday. Missouri’s home sweep of Tennessee on March 17-19 accounts for the Tigers’ only conference wins this year. 


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