A closer look at SEC baseball

As LSU prepares to play its first home series in Southeastern Conference play, the league finds itself in a familiar spot in the world of college baseball — on top.

Six teams are ranked in the top 21 in the Baseball America poll, the most of any conference, and three — South Carolina, Vanderbilt and LSU — are in the top 10. The Gamecocks are No. 1 in the nation.

The league is poised to match, if not exceed, a 2013 season that saw nine SEC teams get regional bids.

TEAMS TO BEAT

South Carolina: The Gamecocks, the 2010-11 national champs, started this season on a 16-game winning streak. They’ve got a rock-solid defense and some big hitters.

Vanderbilt: A team built around its pitching staff, the Commodores rank second in the SEC with a team ERA of 1.50. They had allowed 33 earned runs in 19 games.

LSU: The Tigers will rely on Aaron Nola and Alex Bregman to book a return trip to Omaha. They have an unproven, inexperienced middle of the lineup.

SLEEPERS

Kentucky: The Wildcats will lean on A.J. Reed in trying to overcome last season’s collapse. UK started the season 22-6 but fell apart down the stretch and missed a regional.

Ole Miss: The Rebels are speedy in the outfield, have a veteran catcher and three upperclassmen in the infield. They entered this week with a team ERA of 2.08.

Tennessee: Coach Dave Serrano’s third season has started well. The Volunteers won 13 of their first 14 games, with a team average of .298 and nine homers.

BIG ARMS

AARON NOLA, LSU junior RHP

The strike-throwing right-hander has allowed one run in his 33.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out 48 and walked four.

TYLER BEEDE, Vanderbilt junior RHP

Thought to be one of the premiere pitchers in the nation, Beede has allowed just three earned runs in 32.1 innings pitched.

DANIEL MENGDEN, Texas A&M junior RHP

Another two-way player, Mengden has 39 strikeouts in 34.2 innings, though he’s sporting a pedestrian 2-3 record.

BIG BATS

A.J. REED, Kentucky junior DH

Maybe the best two-way player in the nation, Reed already has nine homers this year, and as a starting pitcher, he has a 1.91 ERA.

GRAYSON GREINER, South Carolina junior C

A second-team All-SEC selection last year, Greiner is batting .354 through 19 games with a .554 slugging percentage.

WES REA, Mississippi State junior 1B

Part of the power that led the Bulldogs to the CWS finals in 2013, Rea has already driven in 21 runs and has walked 18 times.