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April 15, 2008

SCS.comAt the midpoint of SEC league play, the standings are beginning to take shape and the better teams are starting to separate themselves from the rest. As was pointed out in last week’s SEC notebook, the SEC East is the dominant division this year. Currently, five of the six teams on that side of the conference have winning records in conference play with the lone losing record belonging to Kentucky, who stands at 7-8.

The best team in the SEC this season by far has been the Georgia Bulldogs, who currently own a 12-3 conference mark and have swept their past two weekend series against South Carolina and Kentucky, respectively. After facing tough competition early on in the year and losing series to Arizona and Oregon State, the Bulldogs are finally beginning to look like the team that some thought could be the best squad in the conference. David Perno’s team has begun to get the respect that a 12-3 SEC squad should get as they are appearing in the top 10-15 in various college baseball polls. Georgia has the runaway SEC Player of the Year in shortstop Gordon Beckham, and trying to win in the 9th inning against UGA has been impossible as closer Joshua Fields hasn’t given up an earned run all year.

There’s currently a three-way tie for second place in the conference, with South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Florida each holding 9-6 conference marks, although due to the fact that Mississippi is leading the West, they would finish in second before the three others. South Carolina is coming off an impressive road sweep at Auburn in which their quartet of offensive stars in James Darnell, Justin Smoak, Reese Havens, and Phil Disher all shined. Mike Bianco’s Rebels won a home SEC series against LSU with the help of Friday night ace Lance Lynn, who went 8 innings, giving up only 1 run and striking out 12 (garnered SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for the impressive outing). The Vols won two out of three against Alabama with the help of centerfielder Kentrail Davis, who has emerged as the lead candidate for SEC Freshman of the Year. For the second straight week, the Gators dropped an SEC series, this one at home to Arkansas, and have gone from 7-2 in the conference to 9-6.

Vanderbilt wasn’t in the SEC East cellar too long, as they swept Mississippi State on the road and have improved to 8-6 in the SEC. The Commodores are beginning to look like a team that could challenge for the second best record in Southeastern Conference play with SEC Preseason Player of the Year Pedro Alvarez back from a wrist injury that prevented him from playing almost half of the season. John Cohen’s Wildcats were swept over the weekend at Georgia and must rebound if they want to finish in the top half of the conference. Kentucky can hit and score runs at a premium, but their problem in conference play has been their pitching.

In the West division, Alabama (6-9) and LSU (6-9) both lost weekend series on the road with Auburn (6-9) and Mississippi State (3-12) being swept at home. The Arkansas Razorbacks had an impressive road series win at Florida, and currently stand at 5-9 in conference play.

Since we’re at the midpoint in conference play, let’s take a look at how preseason predictions saw the SEC to look this year. Prognosticators have been wrong so far as both Tennessee and Florida are in the top half of the SEC and Mississippi State is at the very bottom of the conference. Mississippi and Vandy are beginning to heat up after each squad had a point in conference play where they were below .500 in the SEC. After 5 weeks of conference play, here’s how the All SEC team should look along with a few other awards.

All SEC (after 5 weeks of conference play)

C - Phil Disher, South Carolina (.290, 12 HR, 35 RBI)
1B - Sawyer Carroll, Kentucky (.456, 10 HR, 48 RBI)
2B - Josh Adams, Florida (.372, 6 HR, 40 RBI)
3B - James Darnell, South Carolina (.329, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
SS - Gordon Beckham, Georgia (.432, 16 HR, 39 RBI)
OF - Collin Cowgill, Kentucky (.375, 12 HR, 39 RBI)
OF - Kentrail Davis, Tennessee (.370, 8 HR, 34 RBI)
OF - David Macias, Vanderbilt (.386, 6 HR, 19 RBI)
DH - Rich Poythress, Georgia (.385, 8 HR, 34 RBI)

SP - Trevor Holder, Georgia (4-2, 2.06 ERA)
SP - Bryan Morgado, Tennessee (4-2, 3.04 ERA)
SP - Patrick Keating, Florida (6-0, 2.45 ERA)
SP - Lance Lynn, Ole Miss (5-0, 3.21 ERA)
RP - Joshua Fields, Georgia (10 SV, 0.00 ERA)
RP - Josh Copeland, Alabama (4 SV, 0.82 ERA)
RP - Scott Bittle, Ole Miss (3 SV, 1.83 ERA)
RP - Bryan Woodall, Auburn (8 SV, 2.70 ERA)

SEC Player of the Year - Gordon Beckham, Georgia
SEC Pitcher of the Year - Joshua Fields, Georgia
SEC Freshman of the Year - Kentrail Davis, Tennessee
SEC Coach of the Year - David Perno, Georgia

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