NCAA regional weekend proved SEC baseball is best in nation – SECcountry.com

SEC baseball is still the best in the country.

Sixteen teams are left in the NCAA Tournament. This past weekend began with 64. Of the 16 teams still with a shot to win the national championship, six are from the SEC.

Six out of 16. Almost half. Incredible. Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State advanced to the super regional round.

Alas, six cannot continue beyond this weekend. LSU and Mississippi State will play a best-of-three series in Baton Rouge with the winner heading to the College World Series. One of them has to lose.

As for the rest of the SEC, Kentucky heads up the road to Louisville, Texas A&M will host tourney Cinderella Davidson, and Vanderbilt goes to Corvallis, Ore., for a series against top-ranked Oregon State.

This is how the SEC fell this year.

Still playing

LSU: 46-17

Maybe the hottest team in the country outside of Oregon State entering the postseason, LSU looked like it.

The Tigers swept through the Baton Rouge Regional with ease. The Tigers went 3-0 and scored 31 runs. Theirs was largely considered one of the two “easiest” regionals, for what it’s worth. But there’s nothing to indicate LSU will slow down against Mississippi State.

Texas A&M: 39-21

A bit of an upset down in Houston. Texas A&M won every game it played in the regional host city. Rob Childress’ team may have been a bit up-and-down during the regular season, but it’s clearly peaking at the right time.

And with Davidson, one of the worst teams (on paper) to make it to a super regional in a long time, the College World Series is more than a realistic possibility.

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Texas A&M outfielder Nick Choruby and the Aggies host Davidson in a super regional. (Courtesy Texas A&M athletics)

Mississippi State: 40-25

Other than the first series of the SEC season and the last, Mississippi State was the best team in the league. A fair SEC Tournament carried over into a solid regional and the Bulldogs came out of Southern Mississippi.

Now it’s LSU. The Tigers took all three games in the regular-season series. And it wasn’t that long ago — the last series of the season. Mississippi State has the stuff to win, but it’s going to take something different than before.

Vanderbilt: 36-23

Vanderbilt eliminated Clemson, the last team to earn a national seed. A big help has been third baseman Will Toffey. He flashed All-American stuff his freshman year but was mostly middling in the year-plus since. He’s broken out in big in this tournament.

Beating an overrated Clemson team is one thing. Knocking out Oregon State is quite another. But why not, right?

Florida: 45-17

The Gators got a scare from Bethune-Cookman, but Florida is sticking around for another weekend. No team in the country has the top-end pitching to match the Gators. The question is whether they’ll hit.

Upstart Sam Houston State definitely can hit. The series is in Gainesville, which leans everything Florida’s way. But don’t be surprised if this is one that goes three games. Depends on which Gators team shows up.

Kentucky: 43-21

This is the best Wildcats season in memory. Kentucky is off to its first super regional in school history. It’s a success already no matter what happens. Going through the stretch they did in the SEC baseball season is what prepped the Wildcats for this.

But, man, oh, man, how sweet would Big Blue Nation feel with a super regional win over Louisville? Kentucky can rake with the best teams in the nation. One hot streak from the bats is all it would take. Cardinals star Brendan McKay takes the mound in the opener.

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Kentucky first baseman Evan White is a beast. (UK Athletics)

Eliminated

Auburn: 37-26

Auburn’s postseason surge finally ran out of gas. But like Arkansas, the Tigers weren’t expected to be where they finished. Picked dead last in the SEC, Auburn finished in the middle of the pack and made a regional final. Not shabby.

Arkansas: 45-19

The way the Arkansas season ended, in the middle of the night, has to sting. And the Razorbacks will lose a boatload of their best players to the draft next week. But if you take a look at the meat of the roster, what returns next year for Dave Van Horn’s team could be even better. The pitching will be scary-good.

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Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight likely pitched in his final game in an Arkansas uniform. (Courtesy Arkansas athletics)

Didn’t make tourney

Alabama: 19-34

Greg Goff is out as coach after one season. Brad Bohannon is in. Alabama was the worst team — by far — in the league. Bohannon has a big turnaround job on his hands. Goff found out that SEC baseball is difficult.

Tennesee: 27-25

Dave Serrano is out at Tennessee. Knoxville is known, nowadays, as a town where you can kill your career. Whoever is next is inheriting the most consistently bad program in the SEC over the last dozen years.

Georgia: 25-32

Georgia also has a ways to go to get back to decency. Doesn’t appear it will come anytime soon. But at least in Athens…

Missouri: 36-23

The Tigers have not had a winning conference record since 2009. That includes their time in the Big 12. Not an easy place to win, but Missouri did give itself a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth this year. Just missed.

Ole Miss: 32-25

It was a disappointing year — big time, actually — in Oxford. Don’t expect Ole Miss to stay down for long.

South Carolina: 35-25

Some parts of the fan base want Chad Holbrook out as coach. He should have at least one more season. Injuries rattled the heck out of this year’s team and it still almost made the tournament.

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