We are getting down to the nitty gritty with only 2 weekends left in college baseball regular season. I wrote a blog last Friday highlighting the top 5 series of the weekend so let’s do it again this week.
- Alabama at LSU
This series makes the cut because it is a battle of two teams fighting for their lives on the NCAA Tourney bubble in Baton Rouge. Alabama comes in at 11-12 in SEC play after losing two at #2 Vandy last weekend and needs to make a statement down the stretch. The Tide are led by 3B Zane Denton (.331 8 HR 34 RBI) and power hitting C Sam Praytor (.280 12 HR 41 RBI) and closer Chase Lee (6-0 6 Saves 1.33 ERA 39 K).
LSU is 9-15 in SEC play but has a high RPI because of a brutally tough schedule. The Tigers are also heating up down the stretch as is tradition late in the season under Paul Mainieri. LSU defeated #14 LA Tech 16-8 on Tuesday in a key midweek game after winning 2 of 3 in Auburn last weekend. The Tigers are led by star freshmen 1B Tre Morgan (.375 5 HR 35 RBI 13 SB) and RF Dylan Crews (.350 11 HR 29 RBI 11 SB) as well as Friday night ace Landon Marceaux (5-4 2.33 ERA 91 Ks).
Prediction: LSU wins 2 of 3 to keep momentum rolling towards sneaking in the back door of the NCAA Tourney
- Clemson at #17 Florida State
Clemson comes into this series on the NCAA Bubble at 15-15 in the ACC. This team swept #7 Louisville at home 2 weeks ago but then followed that up by getting swept at Georgia Tech. The Tigers did get a solid midweek win over #25 South Carolina on Tuesday. They are led by 1B Caden Grice (.321 12 HR 44 RBI) and P Geoffrey Gilbert (1.66 ERA 3 SV 47 Ks).
Florida State (17-13 ACC) is riding high after winning 2 of 3 games in South Bend against #7 Notre Dame last weekend. The Notes are led by slugging C Matheu Nelson (.325 20 HR 58 RBI) and Friday Night Ace and big man Parker Messick (6-2 2.37 ERA 99 Ks).
Prediction: Florida State sweeps the enigmatic Clemson Tigers who struggle on the road.
- #21 Indiana at Michigan
It is quite the battle at the top of the Big 10 with Indiana (23-10) slightly leading Nebraska (23-11) and Michigan (23-12). This league is only playing conference games in 2021. Indiana went 3-1 in a 4 game round robin against Rutgers and Nebraska last weekend and comes in with momentum. The Hoosiers are led by 3B Cole Barr (.322 9 HR 29 RBI) and SP Gabe Bierman (5-2 2.26 ERA 62 Ks) who pitched a gem against Nebraska last week.
Michigan won 2 of 3 from rival Michigan State last weekend but did struggle against Illinois (split 4 games) and Rutgers (lost 2 of 3). Michigan is led by SS Benjamin Sems (.344 5 HR 25 RBIs) and has solid starters in Cameron Weston and Steven Hajjar.
Prediction: Indiana wins 2 of 3 on road to extend lead in Big 10.
- #2 Vandy at #18 Ole Miss
There are lots of storylines in this SEC series at Swayze Field in Oxford. This series features one of the best Friday night pitching matchups of the 2021 season in Vandy ace Kumar Rocker (11-1 2.31 ERA 110 Ks!) and Rebel lefty Doug Nikhazy (6-2 2.47 ERA 84 Ks). This will be Nikhazy’s last regular season start ever at Swayze and I expect it to be emotional. He has been phenomenal the last 3 seasons and I will never forget his 1 hit 12 K shutout in Starkville last month against #4 Miss State.
Vandy’s other ace Jack Leiter will be returning for Vandy on Saturday after being held out last weekend vs. Alabama. Leiter was having an all-time season before 3 bad outings in the last month. He is still 7-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 106 Ks…. Not too shabby. Vandy is being careful to protect him for post season and I expect him to be on a pitch count.
Ole Miss's season is on the precipice. The Rebels got awful news on Tuesday when it was announced that Friday night ace and projected 1st round pick Gunner Hoglund has a torn UCL and is having Tommy John surgery. I wish Gunner a healthy recovery and look forward to following him in the pros. Ole Miss got gutted last Sunday in College Station blowing a 5-2 lead in the 7th and Coach Bianco made some interesting decisions to put it mildly in the 8th in the 6-5 loss. The Rebels have lost 5 of last 6 SEC series but still are 14-10 in SEC play and have an outside shot to host a regional if they can right the ship. The Rebel bats better come to play this weekend.
Prediction: Vandy wins 2 of 3 in Oxford. (I hope I am wrong!)
- #1 Arkansas at #4 Tennesee
Tennesee just announced they are back to 100% capacity in the stands for this Goliath of a series. Tickets are hard to come by and expensive. I hope Tennesee expands their stadium capacity soon after this big season.
#1 Arkansas is 17-7 in SEC and has a whopping 5 guys with 10 homers or more. This lineup is deep and has a ton of power. Friday night ace Patrick Wicklander is 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 58 Ks. Kevin Kopps is the top reliever in the country (7-0 0.73 ERA 7 Saves 83 Ks) and has a 22 innings scoreless streak. This team is loaded and Coach Van Horn has the Razorbacks primed for another trip to Omaha.
Tennesee has been one of the top stories of the 2021 season and is coached by former Ark assistant Tony Vitello. The Vols are also 17-7 in SEC after sweeping Mizzou on the road last weekend. They are led by 3B Jake Rucker (.342 7 HR 46 RBIs) and have a pretty deep lineup. They also have 3 quality starters in Chad Dallas, Blaide Tidwell and Sean Hundley.
Prediction: Arkansas wins 2 of 3 on road to continue to assert themselves as top team in the county.