SEC Midseason Report; National Notes

The second half of the SEC baseball schedule begins this weekend. The first half had many compelling story lines and the second half should be just as entertaining.

The SEC has 10 teams in the Top 40 of the latest NCAA RPI rankings. Seven teams are in the Top 25. Kentucky is the only SEC team with a Top 10 RPI.

Arkansas (29-8, 11-4 SEC), Auburn (27-11, 10-5 SEC), Kentucky (25-12, 10-5 SEC) and Miss. State (25-13, 10-5 SEC) appear to be the midseason favorites to host NCAA Regionals. LSU (25-12, 9-6 SEC), Florida (24-12, 8-7 SEC), South Carolina (22-13, 8-7 SEC) are certainly in the mix for host sites.

The SEC had an NCAA record four national seeds and seven NCAA hosts sites in 2016.

Arkansas is looking to give the SEC its second straight worst-to-first story. The Razorbacks own a one-game lead in the SEC standings over Auburn, Kentucky and Miss. State. Last year, Arkansas finished 8-22 in the SEC with a 10-game conference losing streak. Arkansas leads the SEC with 54 home runs after hitting just 49 home runs last year. The Razorbacks rank fifth in the SEC with a 3.35 ERA this season. UA was last in the league with a 5.02 ERA in 2016.

Auburn, like Arkansas failed to make the SEC Tournament last season, but is also having a great rebound season. The Tigers have ridden the arms of sophomore RHP Casey Mize (9 G, 6-1, 1.23 ERA) and junior RHP Keegan Thompson (8 GS, 4-1, 1.29 ERA), who rank first and second in SEC in ERA this season.  Thompson is the favorite to win SEC Pitcher of the Year honors at the midpoint of the season.

Kentucky has had an amazing turnaround under first-year head coach Nick Mingione. The Wildcats opened the season with a four-game losing streak, its worst start since going 0-5 to open the 1999 season. UK is 25-8 in its last 33 games. The Wildcats lead the SEC in batting average (.306), slugging percentage (.477), on-base percentage (.417), runs scored (282), RBI (258) and doubles (90).

Miss. State (25-13, 10-5 SEC) is in the hunt for its second straight SEC Championship. MSU (44-18-1, 21-8 SEC) won the league title last season, its first since regular-season title 1989. MSU has not won back-to-back SEC championships since 1970-71.  The Bulldogs are paced by National Player of the Year and SEC Player of the Year Candidate Brent Rooker. The junior first baseman leads the SEC with a .432 batting average, 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. MSU’s Rafael Palmeiro was the SEC’s last Triple Crown winner in 1984. Palmeiro batted .415 with 29 home runs and 94 RBIs.

Alabama (14-22, 2-13 SEC) is making history in the wrong direction under first-year head coach Greg Goff.  Alabama is 2-13 in SEC play at the midway point and is only pace to finish with the worst record in SEC history under the current 30-game format. The Crimson Tide is on pace to finish with a 4-26 record. Vanderbilt owns the worst 30-game record in league history. The Commodores finished with a 5-24 record in 2000. Ole Miss (1997), Vanderbilt (1998), Kentucky (2002), Miss. State (2010) and Missouri (2014) all finished with a 6-24 SEC record.

Morehead State posted one of the most impressive weekends in school history after scoring 60 runs in a three-game sweep of SIU-Edwardsville. The Eagles posted a 16-3 win in Thursday’s opener and followed with a 16-4 series-clinching win on Friday. MSU capped the weekend with a 28-15 win on Saturday.

The Eagles batted .424 in the series with 11 doubles, 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. Morehead State set school records with 28 runs and eight home runs in the series finale on Saturday.

The Eagle offense is once again at the top of the charts in Division I. Morehead State leads the nation in batting average (.334), hits (446) and on-base percentage (.431), and the team ranks second nationally in scoring (8.9/game) and slugging percentage (.527).

Individually, sophomore outfielder Niko Hulsizer ranks second in the nation (only one behind national leader Ben Fisher of EKU) with 16 home runs. Hulsizer was part of a club that smacked 16 home runs in the three games this past weekend against SIUE. He has also reached base in 20 straight games.

Junior second baseman Braxton Morris leads the OVC with 19 multi-hit games and ranks second on the team with a .405 batting average. The team leader in batting average is junior third baseman Eli Boggess, who is hitting .411 this season.

Morehead State has an NCAA-best 17-game home winning streak following the sweep over SIU-Edwardsville.

The Mercer Bears may be the best team in the nation that no one is talking about this season.

Mercer (32-6, 11-1 SoCon) owns the nation’s longest winning streak (11 games) and the nation’s longest road winning streak (14 games) entering Tuesday’s game at Georgia Tech.

Mercer leads the NCAA in walks (232) and sacrifice bunts (56) this season. The Bears are second in the nation in slugging percentage (.535) and third in doubles (90), home runs (67) and on-base percentage (.427). Mercer is fifth in the NCAA with 321 runs scored.

Jackson Ware leads the nation with 18 sacrifice bunts.  Charlie Madden leads the Southern Conference and ranks fifth in NCAA with 14 home runs. J.T. Thomas leads the Southern Conference and ranks eighth in NCAA with 48 RBIs. Ryan Hagen leads the Southern Conference and ranks ninth in NCAA with 43 runs scored.

St. Pater’s (0-18; 19-game losing streak dating back to 2016) and New Jersey Tech (3-28; 16-game losing streak) put the nation’s longest two losing streaks on the line today at 5 p.m. (CT) at Riverfront Stadium in Newark, New Jersey.

St. Peter’s (0-18, 0-9 MAAC) is the only winless team in Division I baseball. The Peacocks were swept by Fairfield in a three-game Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference series this past weekend, losing 7-1, 3-2 and 6-4. St. Peter’s (RPI: 295) also owns the nation’s longest home losing streak at 13 games this year. St. Peter’s has had nine games postponed this season and played only one game from March 13-29. St. Peter’s plays five road games this week against New Jersey Tech (Tuesday), Fairleigh Dickinson (Wednesday) and Quinnipiac (Saturday and Sunday).

New Jersey Tech (3-28, 0-9 A-Sun) has the nation’s second-longest losing streak. The Highlanders have not won since an 11-5 win at James Madison on March 18. NJIT has the longest conference losing streak (27 games) and second-longest home (10 games) and road losing (23 games) in the nation.  NJIT is 0-3 at home this season and lost its last 10 home games dating back to last season.

St. Peter’s and New Jersey Tech are among the five NCAA Division I teams still seeking its first conference win of the season.

St. Peter’s                                           19
New Jersey Tech                              16
Abilene Christian                            13
Alabama A&M                                  12
Mount St. Mary’s                             10

East Carolina (American)              0-9
New Jersey Tech (A-Sun)               0-9
St. Peter’s (MACC)                           0-9
Illinois St. (MVC)                             0-6
Georgetown (Big East)                   0-3

Ball State second baseman Sean Kennedy hit three home runs and collected nine RBIs in the Cardinals 23-5 win over Bowling Green.  He hit a 3-run home run in the first inning, 2-run home run in fourth inning and 3-run home run in fifth inning. He added a 2-run triple in the seventh inning. He finished the game 5-for-5 and scored four runs.

Eastern Illinois shortstop Jimmy Govern went 3-for-6 with two home runs and eight RBIs in the 18-11 win over Illinois-Springfield on April 11.

Eastern Michigan swept Ohio in a three-game MAC series over the weekend. The two teams combined for 54 runs in the series. EMU posted 8-2, 12-9 and 12-11 wins over the Bobcats.

Evansville swept a three-game series at Illinois State over the weekend.  The Purple Aces won the series opener 12-9 in 11 innings.  Evansville scored five runs in the 11th inning for the win.  The game was tied 5-5 after one inning as the teams combined for 10 runs in 42-minute first inning.

Hartford scored 51 runs in four games last week against Marist and UMBC. Hartford scored double figures three times last week, including an18-16 midweek win over Marist. In the win over the Red Foxes, the two-hole hitters were a combined 8-for-11 with four runs scored, two doubles and three RBIs in the game. Hartford posted a 16-7 win over UMBC in the series opener before dropping the final two games of the series, including a 13-12 setback in Saturday’s finale.

Illinois-Chicago catcher Rob Calabrese went 5-for-6 with three runs, one double, two home runs and eight RBIs in the Flames 17-3 win at Northern Illinois on April 11.

Indiana won two of three from Big 10 leader Minnesota over the weekend.  The Hoosiers were blown out 11-0 in the series opener on Friday but rebounded to take the series with a 12-11 win on Saturday and a 4-0 shutout win on Sunday.

Lafayette (3-26, 1-11 Patriot) has the nation’s longest road losing streak with 24 consecutive losses.

Liberty had two double-figure scoring innings in its 26-1 blowout win over James Madison on April 11. Liberty scored 10 runs in the second inning and added 14 runs in the fourth inning against the Dukes. The game was called after seven innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Middle Tennessee has won five straight games and has scored double figures in all five games. The Blue Raiders have scored 69 runs in those five games, an average of 13.7 runs per game. Middle Tennessee scored 42 runs in its three-game sweep of UAB over the weekend.

Monmouth overcame a 7-run deficit to defeat Columbia 17-12 on April 11. Centerfielder Tom Jakbowski had six RBIs in the win for the Hawks.

Rutgers scored at least six runs in four different innings in a 28-4 win at Lafayette. After a seven-run first inning, the Scarlet Knights added six runs in the second and third innings to take a 19-1 lead. Rutgers added six more runs in the eighth inning. Five different players scored at least three runs for the Scarlet Knights.

San Diego State won a pair of lopsided games with UNLV this past weekend.  After losing the series opener, 7-3, on Thursday, SDSU rebounded for 20-6 and 16-3 wins in the final two games to take the road series. SDSU catcher Dean Navarez wet 6-for-8 with five runs scored, three doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBIs in the two wins.

St. John’s posted a 12-3, 11-inning win over Butler on April 15. The Johnnies scored nine runs in the top of the 11th inning for the win.  Gui Gingras stroked a 3-run double and Anthony Brocato added a 2-run home run in the decisive frame.

St. Mary’s scored at least five runs in three separate innings in the 24-7 blowout win over Cal on April 11. St. Mary’s scored five runs in both the first and fourth innings and tacked on nine runs in the seventh inning in Moraga, Calif.

Toledo swept Buffalo in three-game MAC series this weekend, winning three 1-run games. Toledo posted a 21-20 victory in game two of the series on Saturday, April 15. The two teams combined to score 22 runs in the fifth (11) and sixth innings (11). Toledo and Buffalo combined for 41 runs and 46 hits in the game. The two teams have also combined for 45 losses.

UMass shortstop Ryan Lever went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two home runs and six RBIs in the 15-0 win over Central Connecticut State on April 11.

Wake Forest center fielder Stuart Fairchild went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, two home runs and seven RBIs in the Demon Deacons 19-6 win over Coastal Carolina on April 11.

Wofford used a 12-run fourth inning to defeat UNC Asheville 17-8 on April 11.











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