South Carolina has won the College World Series the past two years. LSU won the year before that.
If not for Fresno State’s improbable ousting of Georgia in the 2008 CWS finals, the Southeastern Conference would enter college baseball’s postseason next month looking to finish on top for the fifth year in a row.
Last year, as South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt went deep in the tournament, the SEC became the first conference in CWS history to have three teams among the final four standing.
South Carolina and Florida met for the national title in an all-SEC best-of-three.
And the league may be even stronger this year.
LSU, South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky entered the weekend ranked among the nation’s top 10 in all three major polls. Arkansas was ranked among the top 20 in all three and Mississippi State and Ole Miss were among the top 25 in one poll apiece.
Florida catcher Mike Zunino is a candidate to go with the No. 1 pick of the MLB amateur draft. LSU pitcher Kevin Gausman could go in the top five.
SEC baseball could be on the verge of becoming what the Pac-12 has long been in softball. Or what the SEC is in football.
During their podcast earlier this week, Baseball America writers Aaron Fitt and John Manuel debated whether every one of the SEC’s big four deserves a top-8 national seed in the NCAA tournament.
Florida is No. 1 in the NCAA’s RPI report. LSU and South Carolina are the co-leaders of the nation’s strongest conference. Kentucky has taken series from LSU and South Carolina and has lost only two all season.
All of those teams are capable of making noise in Omaha next month. But they’re hardly alone.
If you’re a top seed in this year’s field, how amped would you be to see Georgia or Vanderbilt come to town as a three? Probably not very. The league’s top-to-bottom strength showed last year when Mississippi State made it to the super regionals while Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama all reached the final day of their respective regionals. This year, the conference should have its usual army of CWS contenders.
In its latest projections, the website ChasingOmaha.com has eight SEC teams among the field of 64: LSU, Florida and South Carolina as national seeds, Arkansas and Kentucky as No. 1 regional seeds playing at home, Ole Miss and Mississippi State on the road as two seeds and Georgia on the road as a three.
Vanderbilt has a healthy RPI position, but the Commodores must finish above .500 overall or win the SEC tournament to become postseason eligible.
Last year, the SEC had only seven teams selected to play in regionals — the fewest for the conference since 2007. As recently as 2008, the league had nine.
Expect the strong to get stronger in 2013 when Texas A&M, ranked as high as 8th in the national polls, joins Missouri in growing the conference to 14 teams.
By then, the SEC could have four straight CWS titles to celebrate.