SEC East at the Midway Point

The midway point of the SEC schedule passed over the weekend, and the story in the SEC East isn't a surprise to many. It looked like a three-team race before the season started, as Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt would battle it out for the title. Halfway through the conference schedule, that is still the case.

South Carolina (28-7/12-3 SEC)-

Good news:
There was uncertainty around the South Carolina pitching staff coming into the season. Michael Roth was dominant in two starts at the College World Series last year, and he would be trusted to do it over the course of the season. Roth has been better than expected, now 8-1 with a 1.24 ERA. The best news for the Gamecocks has come from Forrest Koumas and Colby Holmes. Koumas is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA, the sixth best in the conference. Holmes was the SEC Pitcher of the week two weeks ago and is 3-1 with a 4.18 ERA. No. 2 South Carolina looks to have found the answers behind Roth in the rotation, and that has been bad news for the rest of the SEC since, as the Gamecocks already have series wins over Florida and Vanderbilt.

Bad news: It's hard to find a glaring weakness in this team. The biggest flaw might be South Carolina's .287 batting average, good for eighth in the conference. However, the team is built around pitching and defense (they also boast the league's top fielding percentage) and usually finds a way to score enough runs to win the low scoring matchups. The conference leading 32 home runs have helped out, too.

Vanderbilt (32-5/11-4 SEC)-

Good news:
It starts on the mound for the Commodores. Vanderbilt leads the SEC with a 2.35 staff ERA, led by ace Sonny Gray's 1.79 ERA. Head coach Tim Corbin runs power arm after power arm out of the bullpen to play matchups in late game situations. Once the starting pitcher is out, that doesn't mean the strikeout potential is gone. The Commodores pitching staff has struck out 342 hitters, 48 more than second place Mississippi State. The high strikeouts combined with the third fewest walks in the SEC are a recipe for success.

Bad news: The power from the lineup hasn't been there. The Commodores have hit 17 home runs, putting them tenth in the conference. Two players, Aaron Westlake (6) and Jason Esposito (5), combine for 11 of the home runs. Curt Casali is the only other player with multiple home runs. With the new bats hurting the power of every team this season, another long ball threat stepping up in the Vanderbilt lineup would help the offense.

Florida (29-9/11-4 SEC)-

Good news:
The Gators' weekend starting pitchers have been consistent since opening weekend. Brian Johnson, Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson have started every weekend game this spring, and all three pitchers have a top-nine ERA in the conference. The three starters have been charged with two losses, coming when South Carolina beat Johnson on March 25 and when Mississippi State beat Randall on April 8.

Bad news: The consistency from the starting pitching has been impressive, but the offensive inconsistencies have been frustrating for head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. It's no more evident than what the Florida offense has done in the last two weekends. The Gators put up 14 runs on Sunday at Georgia, but they were held to seven runs in the first two games that they split with the Bulldogs. The previous weekend, Florida put up 18 runs on Saturday at Mississippi State. The offense was held to eight runs in the other two games.

Georgia (19-18/9-6 SEC)-

Good news:
The Bulldogs started the season with plenty of uncertainty on the mound, but they have found two reliable arms in the weekend rotation. Left-hander Alex Wood (4-4, 4.02) and right-hander Michael Palazzone (6-1, 2.13) have given the Bulldogs a chance to win every SEC series. They are 9-6 in conference with series wins over Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State. Their only series losses came against Florida and South Carolina, and the Bulldogs won a game in each series.

Bad news: Behind Wood and Palazzone, it gets ugly in a hurry. The Bulldogs have the 11th best ERA in the SEC at 4.76. Sunday starter Craig Gullickson has a 6.67 ERA and closer Tyler Maloof, who has recorded 12 saves already, had his ERA inflated to 9.45 after a disastrous outing Sunday.

Tennessee (21-15/4-11 SEC)- Good news: The Volunteers have a veteran offense that has posted the conference's fifth best batting average at .290. Senior Khayyan Norfork got off to a hot start and has maintained a .378 batting average while also stealing 22 bases. Zach Osborne (.360), Matt Duffy (.344) and Josh Liles (.268) have anchored the aggressive Tennessee lineup. Freshman Andrew Toles, who was a fourth round selection by the Florida Marlins in 2010, is hitting .285 with 25 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.

Bad news: Behind ace Steven Gruver (4-4, 2.60) on the mound, the cupboard has been bare all season. Rob Catapano (2-3, 4.70) has produced some strong starts recently for the Volunteers, but the Sunday starter has been a revolving door all season. Not many of head coach Todd Raleigh's choices to pitch on Sunday have worked, either. If Tennessee wants to make the SEC Tournament in late March, it needs to find more consistency behind Gruver.

Kentucky (17-20/2-13)-

Good news:
The Wildcats' 2-13 conference record has given them sole possession of last place in the conference by two games, but the Kentucky offense has actually been good this season. The unit's 30 home runs are good for second place in the conference, and the Wildcats are hitting .294 to put them fourth in batting average. The power isn't coming from just a few players. Five Wildcats have hit at least four home runs.

Bad news: When the offense can get the team a lead, the pitching staff usually gives them away. Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson has recruited multiple pitchers to Lexington with MLB bodies that are usually highly regarded in the draft. This year, ace Alex Meyer will be a high pick, potentially even first round. They haven't pitched to that level this season, as the 4.35 staff ERA makes them 10th best in the conference.


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