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SEC Weekend Preview (March 18th-20th)

The SEC opens up conference play this weekend with four schools ranked in the top seven in the country led by number 1 ranked Vanderbilt. The biggest series of the weekend features the number 2 ranked Florida Gators visiting number 7 ranked LSU. The other weekend matchups sees Georgia going to number six ranked South Carolina, eleventh ranked Arkansas visiting 26th ranked Auburn, Alabama going to Ole Miss, and Tennessee visiting the Kentucky Wildcats. 

Mississippi State at #1 Vanderbilt

Mississippi State enters the weekend with a respectable 14-4 record but have zero quality wins this season while having curious losses against Sacred Heart and Iowa twice. Jarrod Parks has been the top hitter on the squad with a .404 batting average with a homer and 18 RBI. Devin Jones has been the most consistent weekend starter as he is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched.

Vanderbilt is rightfully ranked in the top five in all the major polls including being ranked number one in the country in the most recent NCBWA poll. They enter the weekend with a 17-1 record with the most impressive victories over Stanford in a three game set. Aaron Westlake leads the team in hitting with a .397 batting average as he has hit two homers driving in 12 homers. Anthony Gomez has also been solid in the lineup as he is hitting .347 with 15 RBI. The pitching staff has been led by probable 2011 first round draft pick Sonny Gray who it 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. Relief pitcher Navery Moore has not been scored upon this season as he is 3-0 with two saves while having a perfect ERA.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: MS State Devin Jones (2-2, 1.37) vs VU Sonny Gray ((4-0, 1.71 ERA)
Saturday: MS State Chris Stratton (3-0, 1.65) vs VU TBA
Sunday: MS State TBA vs VU TBA

Predictions
Brian Foley: Vanderbilt Sweep
Mark Rafferty: Vanderbilt Sweep

#2 Florida at #7 LSU

The Florida Gators enter the weekend with a 15-2 overall record after defeating Florida State on Tuesday night 5-4 in extra innings. They have been led by Daniel Pigott at the plate with his .483 batting average, homer, and 18 RBI on the year. Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson have been arguably the best two starting pitching duo in the country. Randall enters the weekend with a 2-0 record and an ERA of 1.08. Johnson is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his first four starts of the year.

The LSU Tigers enter the weekend with an impressive 16-1 record after defeating Nicholls State on Wednesday evening. They picked up an impressive three game sweep over the Cal-State Fullerton Titans last weekend which propelled them to the eighth national ranking by the NCBWA. Jacoby Jones has been leading them at the plate with a .439 batting average while hitting three homers and driving in 16 runs. Ralph Rhymes has also been solid with a .382 batting average with a homer and 19 RBI. The pitching staff has been led by freshman righty Kurt McCune who is 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA while senior RHP Ben Alsup has been solid as he is 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA. Freshman Kevin Gausman rounds out the rotation as he is 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: UF So. LHP Brian Johnson (4-0, 1.12 ERA) vs LSU Fr. RHP Kurt McCune (3-0, 1.11 ERA)
Saturday: UF So. RHP Hudson Randall (2-0, 1.08 ERA) vs LSU Fr. RHP Kevin Gausman (2-0, 3.28 ERA)
Sunday:UF Fr. RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0, 2.21 ERA) vs LSU Sr. RHP Ben Alsup (3-1, 2.01 ERA)

Predictions
Brian Foley: LSU 2-1
Mark Rafferty: LSU 2-1

Georgia at #6 South Carolina

The Georgia Bulldogs enter the weekend with a record of 8-9 with impressive victories over Florida State and Baylor on the year. Levi Hyams leads the offense with a .362 batting average while Chase Davidson has been solid with a .302 batting average including two homers and 13 RBI. Michael Palazzone has been the best weekend starter for the Bulldogs as he is 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in his first four starts.

The South Carolina Gamecocks won the 2010 NCAA Title but have gotten off to a solid start as they have a 12-3 record. Christian Walker leads the offense with a .389 batting average with four homers and 16 RBI. All-American outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is also off to a hot start as he checks in with a .345 batting average with four homers and 15 RBI. Michael Roth has been leading the pitching staff with a 4-0 record and a 0.99 ERA.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday South Carolina Michael Roth (Jr. LHP) 4-0, 0.99 ERA vs Georgia Alex Wood (So. LHP) 1-2, 4.32 ERA
Saturday South Carolina Steven Neff (Jr. LHP) 2-0, 3.07 ERA vs Georgia Michael Palazzone (Jr. RHP) 2-1, 3.13 ERA
Sunday South Carolina TBA  vs Georgia Craig Gullickson (Jr. LHP) 1-1, 4.50 ERA, 12.0 IP, 4 BB, 8 SO

Predictions
Brian Foley: South Carolina sweeps
Mark Rafferty: South Carolina 2-1

#11 Arkansas at #26 Auburn

The Razorbacks head on the road this weekend to Auburn to open up SEC play. They have a 14-2 record with the most impressive victories being a three game sweep over Utah. They are currently lead in hitting by Dominic Ficocielli who has a .426 batting average while driving in 20 runs. Kyle Robinson is also above the Ted Williams mark at .409 while hitting four homers and driving in 22 runs.

The Auburn Tigers enter the opening weekend of SEC play with a 12-5 overall record with the most impressive victories over Arizona State and College of Charleston. The lineup is currently lead by Casey McElroy as he is hitting .386 with two homers and 14 RBI. Dan Gamache is second on the squad with a .349 batting average while hitting two homers and leading the team with 18 RBI. The pitching rotation has been a pleasant surprise this season as Derek Varnadore has been off to a great start with a 3-0 and a 2.79 ERA in four starts.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Ark So. RHP DJ Baxendale (4-0, 0.00) vs. Auburn Jr. LHP Cory Luckie (1-1, 3.63)
Saturday: Ark Fr. RHP Brandon Moore (2-0, 3.27) vs. Auburn TBD
Sunday: Ark So. LHP Cade Lynch (2-0, 1.35) vs. Auburn Jr. RHP Derek Varnadore (3-0, 2.79)

Predictions
Brian Foley: Arkansas 2-1
Mark Rafferty:

Alabama at Ole Miss

The Alabama Crimson Tide head on the road this weekend to visit the Ole Miss Rebels as both schools open up their SEC portion of the schedule.

The Crimson Tide currently have a 11-6 record with the most impressive victory over Troy. They are being led at the plate by Brock Bennett with a .431 batting average and nine RBI in 14 games. Jared Reeves is also above .400 at .421 with a homer and a team high 21 RBI. Nathan Kilcrease is the number one starter as he is 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA while Tucker Hawley has had a good start to the season with a 3-1 record and a 2.16 ERA in four starts.

Ole Miss enters the weekend with a 14-4 overall record with the best victories coming against Houston (twice) and Tulane. Matt Tracy is leading the Rebels at the plate with a .348 batting average with two homers and 10 RBI. Blake Newalu is second on the squad with a batting average of .340 while stealing eight bases in nine attempts. Matt Crouse leads the weekend rotation with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.67 in four starts on the year.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: UA-Nathan Kilcrease (Sr., RHP) 2-0 2.22 ERA vs UM-Matt Crouse (Jr., LHP) 4-0 1.67 ERA
Saturday UA-Adam Morgan (Jr., LHP) 2-1, 3.74 ERA vs UM-David Goforth (Jr., RHP) 0-2 2.42 ERA
Sunday UA-Tucker Hawley (So., RHP) 3-1 2.16 ERA vs UM-Austin Wright (Jr., LHP) (2-1 2.66 ERA)

Predictions
Brian Foley: Ole Miss 2-1
Mark Rafferty:

Tennessee at Kentucky

The Tennessee Volunteers head to Kentucky this weekend for the first weekend of action in the SEC.

Tennessee enters the weekend with a 15-2 overall record with the best wins being over Manhattan and Canisius in which the Vols swept both squads in three game series. They are led by Khayyan Norfork at the plate as he has been one of the best overall hitters in the country. He is hitting .492 with two homers and 19 RBI while having a slugging percentage of .790. Former Vermont standout Matt Duffy is off to a fast start also with a .397 batting average, three homers, and a team high 24 RBI. Steven Gruver leads the weekend rotation with a 3-0 record and an ERA of 1.27 in four starts.

The Kentucky Wildcats got off to a tough start to the year by going 0-3 on the opening weekend but turned things around as they are 10-7 heading into the weekend. Chad Wright leads the everyday players with a .344 batting average while hitting two homers and driving in 15 runs. Luke Maille is also above .300 at .328 with a homer and 9 RBI. Alex Meyer has been outstanding this season in some of his starts as he is 2-2 with a 2.60 ERA in his first four starts.

Friday: UT LHP Steven Gruver (3-0, 1.27) vs. vs UK RHP Alex Meyer (2-2, 2.60)
Saturday: UT RHP Drew Steckenrider (1-0, 4.50) vs UK RHP Jordan Cooper (1-0, 3.13)
Sunday: UT TBA vs. UK LHP Taylor Rogers (1-1, 4.62)

Predictions
Brian Foley: UK 2-1
Mark Rafferty: