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: HR numbers high, marathon games, ballpark renovations
Florida utility Jac Caglianone (14) runs to first base during an NCAA regional championship baseball game against Central Michigan on Friday, June 3, 2022 in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Baseballs are flying out of SEC ballparks at a high rate early this season.
According to NCAA data, SEC teams are hitting a home run in 5.3% of at-bats through three weeks of non-conference play. By comparison, SEC teams homered in 4.3% of at-bats over 20 weeks last season.
One would expect for the home-run rate to fall once league play begins and hitters see better pitching, but that might not be the case. Last year SEC teams homered slightly more often — every 4.4% of at-bats — during regular-season games against conference opponents.
SEC teams have hit 331 home runs entering Friday’s games. The ACC is the next-closest conference with 285 home runs, or a home run in 4.7% of at-bats.
SEC teams also lead the NCAA in triples with 64 and runs scored with 1,729. The SEC's 386 doubles rank second to the ACC’s 413.
Several of the nation's top home-run hitters come from SEC teams. Jac Caglianone of Florida is tied for the national lead with 11 homers. Alabama’s Colby Shelton (9) and South Carolina’s Gavin Casas (8) are also among the seven individuals with the most home runs.
Three SEC hitters — Tennessee’s Blake Burke, Florida’s Josh Rivera and Auburn’s Bryson Ware — are tied for eighth with seven home runs apiece.
Florida (40), South Carolina (38) and Alabama (34) rank first, second and tied for third, respectively, in team home runs. Georgia is tied for ninth with 29.
Texas A&M’s 4-2 victory over Texas Tech in 16 innings at the College Classic last Sunday was the longest SEC game of the year.
Then Vanderbilt and Evansville played a 17-inning game three days later that the Commodores won 2-1 at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn.
RJ Schreck doubled to lead off the bottom of the 17th and scored on a one-out RBI single by Parker Noland. The Commodores failed to score with runners in scoring position in the 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th innings.
Three days after Vanderbilt threw a combined no-hitter against Minnesota, its pitching staff notched another high-water mark with a school-record 24 strikeouts against Evansville. The Commodores held the Aces to six hits.
Playing at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas A&M escaped bases-loaded jams in the ninth and 10th innings, and stranded the Red Raiders in scoring position in the 11th. Texas A&M also failed to score with the bases loaded in the ninth.
The Aggies broke through in the top of the 16th when Hank Bard led off with a single. He scored unearned after he advanced on a wild pitch and two fielding errors.
Texas A&M won despite recording seven hits. A 15th-inning single was the Aggies’ first hit since the fifth inning.
The Texas Tech-Texas A&M game lasted 5 hours, 34 minutes and did not end until 12:39 a.m. The Vanderbilt-Evansville game, which had a 4:30 p.m. first pitch, lasted 4 hours, 44 minutes.
In another extra-inning game of note, Boston College won 7-6 in 10 innings at Tennessee on Tuesday.
The Eagles switched to a five-infielder, two-outfielder formation after the Vols put the go-ahead run on third base with no outs in the ninth inning.
Boston College forced extras when Tennessee pinch runner Ethan Payne was thrown out at home plate on a left field-to-third base-to-catcher relay following a fly out by Jared Dickey.
Boston College left fielder Cameron Leary then homered in the top of the 10th inning to score the winning run.
OU renovation approved
Add Oklahoma to the list of SEC ballparks in line to receive a makeover. The Sooners will join the league for the 2025 season.
According to The Norman Transcript, Oklahoma regents approved $390 million this week for renovations or new builds in preparation for the Sooners’ move to the SEC, including $45 million for a baseball stadium renovation. At least two of the nine building projects will be completed by the time Oklahoma makes the move, according to The Transcript, but it was unclear which ones will take precedence.
The 3,180-seat Mitchell Park has been home to Oklahoma’s baseball team since 1982 and has not been renovated since 2012. The facility pales in comparison to most SEC ballparks, and the Sooners must also recruit against in-state rival Oklahoma State, which opened the $60 million O’Brate Stadium in 2021.
As the Sooners advanced to the championship round of the College World Series last season, the school announced it had secured more than $10 million in funds for the renovation, according to the Tulsa World. The school announced the renovations will “transform the look of the ballpark from both the interior bowl and the exterior of the stadium.”
The Tulsa World reported “new locker rooms, training areas, team rooms and offices, an updated entry to the team facility and a state-of-the-art performance and player development center” are part of the planned improvements at Mitchell Park.
Tennessee and Texas A&M are other SEC teams preparing to renovate their ballparks.
The Bryan Eagle reported last year the Aggies plan $60 million in renovations to Olsen Field that will begin in the school's fiscal year 2025. Several areas of the 6,100-seat park, including day-to-day areas for players and coaches, will be renovated, according to The Eagle.
Olsen Field previously underwent a major renovation in 2012.
GoVols247 reported in February that around $56 million has been earmarked for a renovation to Tennessee’s 4,283-seat Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The makeover will add seats, suites and other features over the course of around five years.
Week 3 outcomes
• Florida won two of three games over Miami at home, including a 14-4 run-rule victory in the finale.
• Texas A&M went 2-1 at the College Classic in Houston with wins over Rice (13-1 in 7 innings) and Texas Tech (4-2 in 16 innings) following a 14-5 loss to Louisville.
• Vanderbilt went 2-1 at the Cambria College Classic in Minneapolis. The Commodores lost 5-3 to Nebraska on Friday before winning consecutive games against Maryland (8-7) and Minnesota (4-0).
• Ole Miss went 3-0 at the Cambria College Classic with victories over Maryland (5-1), Minnesota (9-7) and Nebraska (14-5).
• Mississippi State went 1-2 at the Frisco (Texas) College Baseball Classic with losses of 8-3 to Ohio State and 15-9 to Oklahoma before an 8-4 victory over California.
• South Carolina went 2-1 in its traveling series against Clemson. The Gamecocks lost the opener 5-2 at Clemson, then won 11-9 in Greenville, S.C., and 7-1 at the Gamecocks' ballpark in Columbia.
• Georgia went 2-1 in its traveling series against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs won the first two games by scores of 7-2 and 16-6 at the teams’ home ballparks before a 4-1 loss at a minor-league park in Lawrenceville, Ga.
• Arkansas (over Wright State), Tennessee (Gonzaga), Alabama (Illinois-Chicago), Auburn (Lipscomb), Kentucky (Indiana State) and Missouri (Texas Southern) swept series on their home fields. LSU also went 4-0 at home with two wins apiece against Butler and Central Connecticut State.
In the polls
There are 10 SEC teams ranked in the latest USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll:
5. Ole Miss
19. Texas A&M
20. South Carolina
Georgia and Missouri also received votes in the coaches poll, but were unranked.
Series of the Week — Louisiana Tech at No. 8 Arkansas
This matchup stands out on a weekend when almost every SEC team scheduled an opponent from a non-Power 5 conference.
Louisiana Tech has played in the NCAA Tournament the past two years, hosted a regional in 2021 and split a controversial series at Ole Miss last week. The Bulldogs won their first game over the Rebels and led 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning of Game 2, but a rain delay and a decision not to tarp the field led to the game being called and the score reverting to the last completed inning, with Ole Miss ahead 4-3.
Louisiana Tech coach Lane Burroughs reportedly said he would not schedule Ole Miss again.
Burroughs is a branch to the coaching tree of Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn, though they never coached a game together. Van Horn hired Burroughs at Northwestern (La.) State following the 1997 season. They worked together that offseason, but Van Horn was hired away by Nebraska in December 1997.
Arkansas and Louisiana Tech have played entertaining games since Burroughs was hired as the Bulldogs’ head coach in 2017. The teams split a mid-week series that year in Ruston, La., when the Bulldogs won 6-1 in the first game and the Razorbacks rallied from a 9-run deficit to win 13-10 in the finale.
Arkansas won two of three in hotly contested series in 2019 and 2021.
Louisiana Tech’s roster includes two-way player Ethan Bates, a Hot Springs native who spent the 2021 season at Arkansas. Bates has a .313 batting average, 1.015 OPS, 2 home runs and 18 RBI from the left side, and as a right-handed pitcher has not allowed a run, has a 0.67 WHIP and .105 batting average against in 6 innings of relief.
The Bulldogs were the projected Conference USA champion during the preseason.
Other Week 4 Series
Samford at No. 1 LSU
Morehead State at No. 2 Tennessee
Purdue at No. 5 Ole Miss
Siena at No. 6 Florida
Loyola Marymount at No. 9 Vanderbilt
Columbia at No. 18 Alabama
Northern Kentucky at No. 19 Texas A&M
Bethune-Cookman at No. 20 South Carolina
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 25 Auburn
Charleston Southern at Georgia
NJIT at Missouri
Kentucky at Southern Illinois
Lipscomb at Mississippi State
Hitter of the Week — Colby Shelton, Alabama
The freshman homered five times over four games against Jacksonville (Ala.) State and Illinois-Chicago. Two of Shelton’s home runs were grand slams during the UIC series.
Shelton, who also doubled once, finished last week 7 for 15 with 12 RBI and 7 runs scored.
Pitcher of the Week — Paul Skenes, LSU
The right-handed transfer from Air Force struck out a career-high 13 during a six-inning start against Butler. Skenes retired the final 16 batters he faced.
The 13 strikeouts were the most by an LSU pitcher since Zack Hess struck out 13 Toledo batters in 2018.
Skenes has upped his strikeout total in each start this season and has 36 strikeouts through 18 innings.
Stat of the Week
Kentucky right-hander Darren Williams has not allowed a run and has a 0.18 WHIP in 11 innings out of the bullpen. Opponents are batting .029 against him.
Williams, who was the Ohio Valley Conference pitcher of the year in 2021 at Eastern Kentucky, underwent Tommy John surgery last April. He was 3-0 with 1 save and a 0.93 ERA in 29 innings for the Wildcats prior to his injury.
• Ole Miss’ 5-1 victory over Maryland at the Cambria College Classic was the fourth game between the teams this year. The Rebels won two of three against the Terrapins the week before in Oxford, Miss.
• Florida set a three-game attendance record of 22,830 at its third-year Condron Ballpark during last weekend’s series against Miami. The Gators won the series 2-1.
• Alabama hit a grand slam in four consecutive games beginning Feb. 28 with a game against Jacksonville (Ala.) State. The Crimson Tide also hit a grand slam in all three of their games against Illinois-Chicago.
• LSU’s Paul Skenes (pitcher) and Florida’s Jac Caglianone (hitter) were named national players of the month for February by the Dick Howser Trophy.
• Ole Miss outfielder Ethan Groff was the MVP of the Cambria College Classic after going 7 for 14 with 8 RBI, 5 runs and 2 stolen bases in games against Maryland, Minnesota and Nebraska. Groff also homered.
• Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield became the seventh SEC player with 100 career stolen bases during a game against Minnesota last Saturday. Bradfield is the first SEC player to accomplish the feat since teammates Chris Burke and Stevie Daniel of Tennessee in 2001. The SEC record for career steals is 145 by Tennessee’s Mike Basse from 1989-91.
• Georgia first baseman Charlie Condon homered twice two times in the past week in games against Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern.
• Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford had six extra-base hits, including three home runs, during the Gators’ series against Miami.
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