5 SEC teams poised to challenge No. 1 LSU baseball entering conference play

Koki Riley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE – Finally, Southeastern Conference play is here. Because for No. 1 LSU baseball, a shakeup in the competition is needed.

The Tigers (16-1) have dominated nonconference play after winning six of their last eight games via the 10-run rule and outscoring opponents 195-38 through the first 17 games.

However, that level of dominance from LSU should dissipate soon with SEC play beginning for the Tigers this weekend at Texas A&M.

Here are five SEC teams poised to give LSU a run for its money this spring.

South Carolina

South Carolina (17-1) has become a surprise contender in the SEC this season after posting a 27-28 record a year ago.

The Gamecocks are the only team in the conference, other than LSU, to have one loss. They've blasted an SEC-leading 48 home runs and are third in the conference with a 2.55-team ERA.

First baseman Gavin Casas already has 10 home runs, while right fielder Ethan Petry boasts a .800 slugging percentage and .486 on-base percentage. On the mound, Will Sanders, Jack Mahoney and Noah Hall have combined to allow just 23 earned runs in 66⅓ innings pitched.

A relatively easy nonconference schedule has helped fuel their early success, but the Gamecocks still have a series victory over Clemson under their belts.


It's been a strong start to the season for Arkansas (15-2), as the Razorbacks already have wins over Louisiana Tech (a series sweep), Oklahoma State and Texas. They've maintained their status as a top-10 team in the country and have hit the ball well, posting a .425-team OBP and .566 slugging percentage thus far.

But injuries have plagued Arkansas already. Projected ace Jaxson Wiggins and reliever Koty Frank are both out for the season, while top reliever Brady Tygart is on the shelf for the next five-to-six weeks with a UCL sprain.

As a result, the Razorbacks have struggled on the mound. Through 16 games, they hold a 4.74 ERA.


Only Mississippi State has lost as many games as Vanderbilt (13-5) this season. The Commodores have struggled at the plate, posting only a .247 batting average.

But no club in the SEC had nearly as difficult of a nonconference schedule as Vanderbilt. And although it lost its fair share of games, it also has wins over UCLA (two), Texas, Oklahoma State and Maryland.

The Commodores' pitching has also more than held its own against the tough competition. Carter Holton, Devin Futrell and Hunter Owen all hold ERAs under 3.25.

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Ole Miss

Ole Miss (14-3) lost to Jacksonville State on Tuesday, but the Rebels are still defending national champions and a top-5 ranked team for a reason.

Outfielder Kemp Alderman has led the way at the plate with eight home runs. Additionally, star shortstop Jacob Gonzales has continued to produce with a .524 slugging percentage. Ole Miss has seven players with at least a .340 batting average who have made 14 or more starts.

The Rebels haven't been as prolific on the mound. Although the bullpen has performed up to standard, Ole Miss has just one starter with at least three starts this season who has an ERA below five.


The only team in the SEC with an ERA better than LSU's is Tennessee (15-3). Thanks to the three-headed monster of Chase Dollander, Chase Burns and Drew Beam at the top of the rotation, the Volunteers have a 2.05 team ERA and 219 strikeouts in 158 innings pitched.

Its offense has had some ups and downs, but Tennessee still has three players with five or more home runs, including first baseman Blake Burke who already has eight home runs and a .877 slugging percentage.

Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.