10 predictions for the rest of the SEC baseball season
With the SEC baseball season heading down the stretch run, it’s time to pull out the crystal ball and predict what’s left to come. Here are 10 predictions for the rest of the SEC baseball season.
1. Tennessee will lose a series — this weekend at Florida
There’s a lot to unpack here, but it feels unlikely that UT can run the table in terms of SEC series play. And the Vols have just 3 road series matchups left — this week at Florida, at Kentucky, and then to close league play, at Mississippi State. Of those, the Gators are the most likely to spring the upset. So picking UF to beat UT in a series somewhat makes sense, especially since my other prediction is …
2. Florida finishes 2nd in the East
While UT has the SEC East all but locked up, 2nd place is still very much in play. Georgia has a 2-game lead over Vandy and a 3-game lead over Florida and South Carolina. But Georgia’s pitching has been in recent disarray and UF, mediocre as they have been, has played a tough schedule. UF has played 20 of its 36 games against Top 25 teams. By comparison, Georgia has played 9 and Tennessee has played 10. Add in that, aside from that upcoming series with Tennessee, UF’s remaining SEC series matchups go Kentucky, at Mississippi State, at Mizzou, and home against South Carolina.
3. Auburn finishes 2nd in the West
Similarly, Arkansas is in a pretty solid spot on top of the SEC West, with Auburn, Bama, and A&M tied for 2nd. LSU is a game back of that trio. But of those teams, Auburn seems most likely to end up 2nd to the Hogs. Auburn leads that 2nd-place group in batting average, runs and fewest errors. LSU has the talent to overtake the field, but its defense has been ragged and is likely to cost them some close games in the next month.
4. Jud Fabian leads the SEC in HRs
Well, yes, he is in the lead with 16 — 1 more than Tim Elko (Ole Miss) and Trey Lipscomb (Tennessee). But see the comments above on Florida. Look for Fabian to up his production and finish regular season play with 24 homers. The Gators will need his bat, too, to overcome the injury to ace Hunter Barco and finish 2nd in the East.
5. Trey Lipscomb is SEC Player of the Year
LSU transfer Jacob Berry is all he was expected to be. Auburn transfer Sonny DiChiara is the surprise of the year, but all in all, Tennessee’s slugging third baseman is the power behind the league’s best offense.
Lipscomb enters the weekend series 6th in the SEC in average (.365), 2nd in slugging (.810), 1st in RBIs (57) and tied for 2nd in homers (15).
6. Connor Noland is the Pitcher of the Year
On the other hand, all of those phenomenal Tennessee arms make it hard to differentiate for a single award winner among them. Drew Beam, Chase Burns, (if he’s healthy) Chase Dollander, they’ve all been great. But Noland is unique for Arkansas — and not just because he’s a former QB. His power arm is perhaps the difference between the Hogs and the rest of the West. How else is a team that’s 12th in the SEC in batting average the clear 2nd-best team in the league?
7. National Coach of the Year Tony Vitello gets an extension to his extension
Vitello’s work in Knoxville has been nothing less than phenomenal. How phenomenal? Well, he earned an extension after UT’s excellent 2021 season, but the guess here is that in a league where a coach like Vitello is seriously coveted, UT will give him yet another extension. How much does excellence cost? As much as Vitello wants.
8. The SEC puts 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament
Last year, the SEC sent 9 teams, but despite the league being (UT aside) not quite as strong at the top, the middle of the pack will be hard for the selection committee to leave out. UT, Arkansas, Auburn and Florida will get hosting gigs, and Vandy, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State will make the field, with MSU earning its way in during the week at Hoover.
9. But only 2 teams make it to Omaha
As intriguing as the other teams in the SEC are, it’s Tennessee and Arkansas who will end up in Omaha. Florida’s lack of contact will doom them. Auburn doesn’t have the pitching depth to survive in regional play. Georgia is probably the best chance for a 3rd team, but again, that whole pitching depth thing is a concern.
10. UT wins it all
Surprising? Not really. The Vols have never won one — but when was a team this dominant in this league? It’s their year. The rest is just details.
For the 2nd time in 2 years, an SEC team will win their first College World Series crown.