Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
SEC Baseball Report: Coaches differ on clock rules, Vols reinstated
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn speaks Tuesday, March 15, 2022, with umpire Alex Ransom during the inning of play against Grambling at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
Many SEC head coaches have weighed in early this season on the new pace-of-play rules for college baseball.
Their comments range from disdain to satisfaction.
“It’s ruining the game,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Feb. 18. “In my opinion, if a runner’s on, don’t have (the running clock). It takes away from putting in different types of coverages, or if you want to change (coverage) during the bat, you don’t have time. It’s not the same game.”
Van Horn’s comments came in the moments following a game against TCU that included five clock-related infractions. Under the new rules, a pitcher is assessed a ball if he is not in his windup by the expiration of a 20-second clock, including with runners on base. A hitter is assessed a strike if he is not in the batter’s box addressing the pitcher with 10 seconds remaining on the clock.
Other changes meant to speed up the game include a 30-second limit for coaches to visit with pitchers on the mound, a 30-second clock from one batter to the next, and a 2-minute, 30-second clock for pitching changes.
“You’ve got to get used to the rules,” Van Horn said on the Razorback Sports Network on Feb. 25. “When do you start (the clock)? When the pitcher gets up on the mound?
“I think each home person who is working the clock, we’ll figure it out. When we’re on the road, we’ll figure it out how they’re handling it.”
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said Feb. 19 he likes the new rules. The Commodores did not have any clock-related infractions during their three games at the College Baseball Showdown, where Corbin was interviewed.
“I just like the fact that the nature of this game typically would have been a 3-hour, 15-minute game,” Corbin said following a 12-2 victory over Texas that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes. “I think what it does it just keeps the hitter in the batter’s box. Just the dead time that hitters spend getting up to the batter’s box and taking their time to get in — the game is played in the batter’s box and on the mound. Let’s get to that as quick as we can.”
Texas coach David Pierce, whose team will join the SEC for the 2025 baseball season, expressed his frustrations with the clock following a 3-2 loss to Arkansas to open the season. A Longhorns batter was assessed a strike that resulted in a strikeout during the game.
“It’s a joke, just to be honest with you,” Pierce told OrangeBloods.com. “I hate to say it. It’s not the umpires’ fault. We have evaluators here and they’re under scrutiny. The problem with it is — it’s just a frustrating thing for hitters, pitchers, umpires, coaches. The game is what it is. I’m not a proponent of it at all.”
Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis referred to the rules as “a little much” following the Bulldogs’ first series.
“I feel bad for the hitter that gets in (the box) at 18 seconds, and then the pitcher takes it down to two seconds and you’re sitting there stuck, and the hitter can’t call a timeout,” Lemonis told SuperTalk Mississippi.
One such instance occurred during Tennessee’s game against Arizona on Feb. 17. A video shared widely online shows the Vols’ Christian Moore requesting time from the home-plate umpire for approximately seven seconds without it being granted.
Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle shared the video on Twitter and wrote: “Total joke…only college baseball changes the rules EVERY year. Not fair for anyone involved….including umpires, players & coaches…any organization with any sort of FEEL would adjust now!!!!”
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello and shortstop Maui Ahuna were back in the dugout for the Volunteers’ mid-week series against Charleston Southern this week.
Vitello was suspended for the Vols’ series against Dayton last weekend and Ahuna missed the first eight games while he awaited clearance from the NCAA.
Tennessee was vague in its description of Vitello’s suspension, but said it came as a result of a collaboration with the NCAA “to address a violation in the program.”
Outkick.com reported last week that Tennessee was facing an NCAA inquiry for tampering in connection with Ahuna’s transfer from Kansas last year.
On Tuesday, Vitello said he was hopeful his suspension was a contributing factor in Ahuna becoming eligible. Ahuna, a first-round MLB Draft prospect, went 1 for 4 in each of his first two games.
“It was just kind of talking with administration and anyone possible for me to talk to really," Vitello said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "You want to make the right decision, but you are kind of under the gun with the timeline. We — when I say we, I mean anyone you can think of that would be involved in that action — wanted to support the kid and wanted to do whatever we thought was right to get him back on the field.”
Tennessee hitting coach Josh Elander served as the Vols’ acting head coach for the Dayton series. Elander was the volunteer coach at Arkansas in 2017 when Vitello was in his final season as an assistant coach for the Razorbacks.
Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all picked up non-conference series victories over other Power 5 teams last week. All three series were decided on the final day after the teams split their first two games.
Vanderbilt won the league’s most high-profile series of the weekend over then-No. 15 UCLA in Nashville, Tenn. Davis Diaz hit a two-run home run and Devin Futrell pitched five scoreless innings in the Commodores’ 2-1 victory in the series finale.
Ole Miss won its series over then-No. 14 Maryland with an 18-8 run-ruled finale. The Rebels hit five home runs in the final game, including a seventh-inning grand slam by Jacob Gonzalez that initiated the run rule.
Mississippi State lost 13-4 in its opener against Arizona State, but responded with wins of 5-1 and 16-3 to close the series.
LSU went 2-1 against other Power 5 conference teams in the past week. The Tigers defeated Kansas State 7-3 and lost 12-4 to Iowa at the Round Rock Classic, then remained in the Austin area for a game at Texas on Tuesday. Gavin Dugas hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to give LSU a 3-0 victory.
Four SEC teams will be playing in showcase events this weekend.
Vanderbilt and Ole Miss will play at the Cambria College Classic at the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Commodores and the Rebels will not play each other, but both will play against three Big Ten teams — No. 25 Maryland, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Texas A&M will compete in the Shriners College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Aggies are scheduled to play No. 10 Louisville, Rice and No. 16 Texas Tech.
Mississippi State will play Ohio State, Oklahoma and California at the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas.
In other unique scheduling, Georgia and South Carolina will play against in-state rivals at three different ballparks.
Georgia and Georgia Tech will play one game on each campus before a Sunday finale at Coolray Field in Gwinnett, Ga., which is home to the Atlanta Braves’ Class AAA affiliate.
South Carolina’s series against Clemson will begin at the Tigers’ home ballpark and end at the Gamecocks’ Founders Field. The second game will be played at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., which is home to the High-A affiliate for the Boston Red Sox.
Them's the rules
Ole Miss defeated Louisiana Tech despite getting outscored Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to take a 5-4 lead. Then the game was delayed by weather and never restarted.
By rule, the score reverted to the last completed inning — 4-3 in favor of Ole Miss. Because the game lasted at least five innings, it was deemed official.
The fifth-ranked Rebels avoided a mid-week sweep on their home field. Louisiana Tech won the two-game series opener Tuesday by a score of 6-5.
“After retaking the lead, 5-4, and still threatening in the top of the seventh inning, the game went into a weather delay due to lightning in the area. Nearly two hours later, the Bulldogs and Rebels were set to resume play at 7:45 p.m. It was not long after that when the contest was put into a weather delay and ultimately called off.
“Due to NCAA rules, the score reverts to the last completed inning, which was the sixth when Ole Miss was leading, 4-3.
“At no point during the two-plus hour delay were there any plans to tarp the field if heavy rain because an issue. We approached Ole Miss offering to return to Oxford to finish the game at a future date (possibly as early as next week). However, the Rebels head coach said his administration would not allow him to resume to game, according to Bulldog Head Coach Lane Burroughs.
“While we were in total agreement of the decision to delay play due to the weather, we are disappointed our student-athletes will not have a chance to determine the outcome on the field at a later date.”
Last week was a tough one for Texas A&M.
The Aggies lost 7-4 to Lamar during the midweek, then lost the first two games of their weekend series against Portland by scores of 10-3 and 4-1. All of the games were played at Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas.
Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle was ejected during the ninth inning of the series-opening loss to Portland.
“There was a lot of bullets being verbally thrown,” Schlossnagle said afterward in a video posted to Texas A&M’s YouTube page. “I don’t do those things on purpose. There is a lot of emotion in the game. I don’t want our players talking to umpires, and if I feel like things aren’t right, it’s my job to protect them. I’m not proud of that. It wasn’t intentional, but I’m human, too.”
The Aggies avoided the sweep with a 5-4 walk-off victory in the finale. Texas A&M trailed 4-3 entering the inning, but tied the game on Jack Moss’ RBI single, and won when Jace Laviolette doubled to score pinch runner Travis Chestnut.
Texas A&M defeated Houston Christian 23-0 in seven innings Tuesday.
• An injury update on Missouri right-handed pitcher Sam Horn came from Tigers football coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Horn is also a quarterback on the Mizzou football team. Drinkwitz said Horn suffered an upper-arm strain during his outing at Florida International, according to the Kansas City Star. That is expected to sideline him for a couple of weeks on the baseball field, but he is expected to practice football this week.
• Ole Miss left-handed ace Hunter Elliott has a strained ulnar collateral ligament, Rebels coach Mike Bianco said Wednesday, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger. Bianco said Elliott’s target date for a return is mid-April. Arkansas plays at Ole Miss on April 6-8.
Alabama and South Carolina are the SEC’s final undefeated teams.
The Crimson Tide improved to 9-0 with a 17-3 victory over Jacksonville (Ala.) State on Tuesday. That followed a weekend sweep of High Point, which included a comeback from a six-run deficit to win 10-6 in the second game.
Alabama was originally scheduled to play at Pepperdine, but the series was canceled due to the winter storm in Southern California.
South Carolina is also 9-0 following an 11-3 victory over North Carolina A&T on Tuesday. The Gamecocks swept Pennsylvania last weekend.
Alabama is scheduled to host Illinois-Chicago this weekend. South Carolina will play a three-game series against Clemson at three different in-state ballparks.
In the polls
There are nine SEC teams ranked in the latest USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll:
5. Ole Miss
18. Texas A&M
23. South Carolina
Auburn, Georgia and Missouri also received votes in the coaches poll, but were unranked.
Series of the Week: No. 19 Miami at No. 6 Florida
The Gators have been one of the SEC’s hottest teams through two weeks with a strong rotation and solid hitting. Florida outscored Cincinnati 39-16 during a three-game series last weekend.
Miami is 7-2 with series victories over Penn State and Dartmouth. The Hurricanes were predicted to win the ACC Coastal Division by league coaches.
The series will feature three players who will potentially be drafted in the first round of this year’s MLB Draft — Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and pitcher Hurston Waldrep, and Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales.
The first two games of the series will be streamed by SEC Network-Plus, and Sunday’s game will be televised by SEC Network beginning at 11 a.m. Central. All three games will be played at the Gators’ Condron Family Ballpark.
Hitter of the Week — Dylan Crews, LSU
Crews went 10 for 14 with 3 doubles, 7 RBI and 9 runs scored during the Tigers’ games against Grambling, Kansas State, Iowa and Sam Houston State.
The center fielder did much of his damage during the game against Sam Houston State when he was 5 for 6 with 3 doubles, 4 RBI and 4 runs. He tied the program record for doubles in one game.
Pitcher of the Week — Noah Hall, South Carolina
The senior right-hander recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts and did not walk a batter in an 8-inning, 98-pitch outing against Pennsylvania. The Gamecocks won 1-0 in the second game of the series.
Hall worked around runners at third base with inning-ending strikeouts in the second and seventh innings.
Stat of the Week
According to a tweet from Florida beat reporter Nick de la Torre, right-handed pitcher Brandon Sproat is 7-0 with a 2.32 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 16 walks in 50 1/3 innings since he became the Gators’ No. 1 starter last April. Florida has not lost a game he started since Sproat moved into the role.
Soundbite of the Week
“We’ve got our own fans yelling at our players over the dugout. I don’t know what kind of place this is, but I thought there was some Aggie loyalty around here.”
— Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle on fan reaction during the Aggies’ series loss to Portland.
• Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and Missouri coach Steve Bieser reached milestone victory totals last week. Van Horn won his 800th game in 21 seasons at Arkansas. Bieser won his 300th career game. He has coached 11 seasons — 4 at Southeast Missouri State and 7 at Missouri.
• Florida’s Jac Caglianone homered five times during a three-game span against Cincinnati and Jacksonville. Three of Caglianone's home runs were hit during the finale of the Cincinnati series when he also started on the mound and pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowed 3 runs and struck out 6.
• Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep, an All-American at Southern Miss last season, struck out 13 during the second game of the Cincinnati series.
• LSU right-hander Paul Skenes struck out 12 Kansas State batters to bring his season total to 23 strikeouts in 12 innings.
• Mizzou’s Hank Zeisler homered once in all four games at Florida International, and South Carolina’s Ethan Petry homered four times during the week in games against Winthrop and Pennsylvania.
• Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield broke the program record with the 97th stolen base of his career during the Commodores’ series finale against UCLA.
• Mississippi State scored four runs in the eighth inning to rally for a 10-9 victory over Southern Miss on Tuesday during a neutral-site game in Pearl, Miss.
• Georgia left-hander Liam Sullivan struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings against Princeton.
• Kentucky catcher Devin Burkes doubled 7 times, homered once and had 10 RBI during the Wildcats’ series against Wright State.
• Southern Cal appeared to score the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of its final game at Auburn, but it was called off because Carson Wells did not touch home plate. The game ended in a 12-12 tie due to a travel curfew.
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