The SEC has 7 of the top 20 in the RPI going into Friday and probably four protected-seeds in Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. And like many nights before it in this strange season, the league provided a ton of highlights Thursday:
Mississippi State 6, Florida 3
Monceaux: Tommy Mace took the ball for Florida and made his case to be the 3rd starter going forward (6.1 IP, 3H, 1ER). The 6’6″ phenom put the Gators in position to win but the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. State scored 2 in the 7th and 4 in the 8th to take the lead and Riley Self closed it out. You don’t see a lot of unbridled joy from a team winning a single game but it was fun to watch in Starkville Thursday night.
Arkansas 8, Georgia 6
Monceaux: The Hogs rallied to score 6 in the 7th to win this one in Athens. Arkansas has now moved to #3 in the RPI (which is where they’ll likely finish the regular season). They are a no-doubt national seed. Georgia has done enough to cement themselves as a national seed as well. This will be a fun series the rest of the way.
Towns: Blaine Knight did what he does best. He pitch efficiently, kept his team in the game, and he won. Knight doesn’t light up the stat sheet and isn’t going to pop flashy numbers on the radar gun. But, he is going to go head-to-head against the best pitchers in the best league and he always gives Arkansas a chance to win.
As the “Friday Night guy,” Knight has faced the SEC’s best each week. He has squared off against a who’s who of elite prospects in Sean Hjelle, Brady Singer, Ryan Rolison, Casey Mize, Konnor Pilkington, Mitchell Kilkenny, and Zach Hess. He’s faced some of the nation’s best teams on the road against #1 RPI Florida, #4 Georgia #8 Ole Miss, #27 Mississippi State and at home against #12 Auburn, #13 A&M and #20 Kentucky. And through all of that he has gone undefeated finishing the regular season with a pristine 9-0 record.
Auburn 11, LSU 4
Monceaux: Auburn jumped out fast on Zack Hess who didn’t have it again. He couldn’t locate his curve and was punished anytime he threw inside.
Towns:: Hess has struggled his last 4 of his last 5 starts. His ERA over those last 5 starts has ballooned to 6.58 as he’s given up 33 hits and 14 walks in that stretch. He does have 26 strikeouts during this run but you cannot put that many runners on base in this conference.
But I don’t place all of LSU’s woes on Hess. He is just a casualty of circumstance. Hess is a natural closer but Eric Walker’s injury last summer forced him into a starting role. LSU no longer has a proven lock-down arm at the back of the pen and a starter not comfortable in his role. Because of that, LSU is looking at the real possibility of missing the NCAA tournament.
MonceauxAt this point, I don’t see LSU getting into the field of 64. The numbers just aren’t there.
The RPI is 47 while the non-conference SOS is 100. The road record is an abortion (3-13). And the Tigers are just 21-21 against top 100 teams. Many analysts will tell you there’s a magic number of SEC wins that gets you into the tourney (15) and LSU is just one short. The Tigers might test that formula.
A win in Auburn and one in Hoover puts LSU in, though.