With the college baseball season fast approaching. It is time for me to comment on my favorite sport, and in my opinion the best baseball conference in the country, the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The SEC opens up with 5 teams (which I will highlight) in the top 15 in the latest Baseball America polls, including last year’s champion, Vanderbilt, at the top. One could argue that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), is the nation’s best housing 6 of the top 25 in the pre-season rankings, but I’m partial.
Vanderbilt is coming off their first ever national championship. They are led by Tim Corbin, a two-time SEC Coach of the Year. And in my personal opinion one of the best coaches in college baseball, period. His proven track record with the Commodores is justification enough. Since 2003, when he began his career at Vanderbilt, his record stands at 516-250, a .674 winning percentage.
The Commodores are set to be mighty strong yet again this year. Three preseason All-Americans, Walker Buehler, Carson Fulmer and Dansby Swanson will lead their squad as they open up at home against Santa Clara. Santa Clara is looking to improve upon their 26-30 record from last season.
Louisiana State University (LSU) is ranked 2nd according to Baseball America’s pre-season poll. The Tigers came up just short of the College World Series (CWS) last year losing to Houston in the NCAA regional. I imagine they will have a sour taste in their mouths after winning the SEC conference tournament, no doubt they will be looking for retribution.
Two preseason All-Americans, short stop Alex Bregman and outfielder Andrew Stevenson will guide the Tigers out onto the diamond this season. And it looks like there will be more to follow by seasons end. The Tigers open up at home against the Kansas Jayhawks who had a great season in their own right, coming up just short of the CWS, losing to Kentucky in the NCAA regional.
Gator baseball is looking to defend their overall conference title in 2014. But I suppose they are setting their goals slightly higher after missing out on the CWS the past two seasons. After a 6th ranking in the Baseball America preseason poll they are vying for the top spot and will look to move up the polls quickly.
Once again the SEC is riddled with preseason All-Americans. The Gators are no strangers to having high quality talent as two of their players, Richie Martin and A.J. Puk were awarded this prestigious honor. The visiting Rhode Island Rhody’s make their way south from Kingston, striving for improvement on their 12-38 record from 2014.
The team from Columbia, SC has been a part of baseball elite for some time now, with back to back national championships in 2010-2011 and a runner up finish in 2012. The Gamecocks are looking to regain their dominance, after a two year hiatus from Omaha. South Carolina will begin the season ranked 13th after finishing 25th in the final ranking of 2014.
A very talented core of Gamecocks, including true freshman Alex Destino, open up the season against a strong College of Charleston team. The C of C Cougars are coming off one of their best seasons in the history of their program. The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champs are looking to repeat as conference champions and this time come out on top in the Super Regional.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs round out the SEC teams in the top 25 to begin the season. They sit directly behind the Gamecocks at 14. With just two CWS appearances in the previous fifteen years MSU wants to finish what they started back in 2013. I imagine their roster is jam-packed with hungry players, itching to get back to Omaha.
The Bulldogs open in Starkville, against the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati finished last season 22-31 just missing out on the NCAA regional. It should be a tough test for the Bulldogs in their opening weekend.
The Rest of the Pack
Do not count out the remainder of the SEC. Any one of them could surprise you and break into the top 25 after the first weekend of play. The talent runs deep throughout the conference. My pick-to-click this year is going to be, the Arkansas Razorbacks. I know they may be on people’s radar after a 40 win season, but watch for better offense and a continued stout pitching staff. Look for the Razorbacks to contend for the SEC championship and make some noise in the NCAA playoffs.
The University of Kentucky Wildcats are my dark horse. They are loaded with upper-classman who are primed to have another great offensive season. If they can lower their team Earned Run Average (ERA) and WHIP ratio then they could find themselves atop the conference in no time.
This is just a glimpse into SEC baseball. Follow my posts throughout the season as I highlight the some of the best teams in the country. Once again thank you for taking the time to read and God bless.