SEC Notebook: ‘All for Alex’ Weekend Arrives, Florida’s challenges continueTop Stories
Tennessee had a successful trip to Gainesville, Kentucky finished strong and two of last year’s WCWS teams meet in a televised series. That and more in this week’s SEC Notebook.
SEC Power Rankings: Week 7
|Beat UAB 8-1; Beat South Carolina 7-5, 10-2 and 6-1.
|Tide offense produced against South Carolina
|Lost Oklahoma 9-1(6); Beat Auburn 11-3(6) and 5-4; Lost to Auburn 6-3.
|Renee Abernathy had a weekend to remember with two walk-off home runs.
|Beat Western Kentucky 8-1; Beat LSU 8-7 and 7-3; Lost to LSU 7-4.
|Chenise Delce showed mettle by escaping a bases-loaded jam in series finale vs LSU.
|Beat Florida 6-0 and 7-2; Lost to Florida 4-1.
|Ashley Rogers returned to the circle. Great news for Lady Vols.
|Lost to Tennessee 6-0 and 7-2; Beat UT 4-1.
|Challenging stretch of games for Gators.
|Lost to Kentucky 11-3(6) and 5-4; Beat Kentucky 6-3.
|Tigers let a late lead slip away for series-clinching chance.
|Beat Nicholls 12-0(5); Lost to Arkansas 8-7 and 7-3; Beat Arkansas 7-4.
|LSU dug too deep a hole to rally from in rubber match vs. Arkansas.
|Beat Clemson 3-2; Beat Texas A&M 3-1 and 8-7(8); Lost to A&M 16-8(6).
|Clutch hitting helped Dawgs against Clemson and Aggies.
|Beat HBU 5-4; Lost to Georgia 3-1 and 8-7(8); Beat UGA 16-8(6).
|Aggies displayed resilience to win final game over UGA.
|Beat Memphis 13-3(5); Beat Samford 2-1 and 2-1.
|Addison Purvis had 2 HRs, 3 2Bs and 7 RBIs for the week.
|Beat Missouri 5-1, 5-3 and 5-1.
|Pitching staff was great in series sweep of Mizzou.
|Lost to Ole Miss 5-1, 5-3 and 5-1.
|Kendyll Bailey gave Tigers one bright spot in series loss to Ole Miss.
|Lost to Alabama 7-5, 10-2 and 6-1.
|Gamecocks came up just short in series opener vs. Alabama.
Player of the Week: Renee Abernathy, Kentucky
The senior outfielder was 6 for 12 with 12 RBIs and five runs scored in four games against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 17 Auburn. Abernathy hit a home run in four straight games, including two walk-offs against Auburn. She hit a walk-off grand slam to secure a run-rule win in the opener and capped the series with a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the series win. Her grand slam was part of a program single-best six RBI performance.
Pitcher of the Week: Anna Borgen, Ole Miss
The senior lefthander picked up two wins to help the Rebels sweep Missouri. Borgen had a 0.78 ERA and limited Mizzou hitters to a .161 batting average in 9.0 innings pitched.
Freshman of the Week: Kacie Hoffman, Arkansas
The outfielder/DP batted .625 in a series win over LSU. Hoffman finished with five hits, three RBIs and a run scored.
What we learned
Tennessee had a successful trip to Gainesville. Although they would have loved getting a sweep – which would have been the first in program history in Gainesville – the Lady Vols have to be happy about what they accomplished against Florida. Not only did they win the series, they got Ashley Rogers back in the circle. Granted, it was only for a few innings. But even Rogers on a pitch count bodes well for the future. Rogers threw 3.0 hitless innings in Game 2 in her first appearance since March 4th. Given her injury history, the Lady Vols weren’t going to rush their senior ace back. They are playing the long game and making sure Rogers doesn’t suffer a greater setback. But her absence paved the way for UT’s other pitchers to showcase their strength and make steady improvement. Graduate senior Erin Edmoundson has been rejuvenated since transferring from Texas Tech to UT, and Bailey McCachren provided some solid relief in the Game 2 win. UT’s offense has power up and down the lineup, and the Lady Vols will be a major player in the conference and postseason if Rogers can get back to full strength.
Missouri’s momentum has turned the wrong way. The Tigers seemed to have found their identity after the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. But the momentum has quickly evaporated as the Tigers have struggled since the start of SEC play. Mizzou has lost eight of their last 11 games, including getting swept by Ole Miss over the weekend to fall to 0-5 in the SEC. It was the program’s first time being swept in an SEC series since 2019. The Tigers have been without leading hitter and defensive game changer Casidy Chaumont for the last two weeks. The Tigers have the offensive power to regroup and make a run, but it’s never easy in the SEC. The errors, walks and wild pitches they committed against Ole Miss won’t help turn the tide either.
Kentucky ends the week on a high note. The Wildcats rode an emotional roller coaster last week – from a midweek run-rule loss to No. 1 Oklahoma in front of a sellout home crowd to a dramatic walk-off series-clinching home run against Auburn. Renee Abernathy prolonged her impressive run at the plate by belting a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Kentucky the series win over Auburn. The Wildcats trailed 4-1 entering the seventh, and their big hitters came up big. Lauren Johnson, Kayla Kowalik and Erin Coffel all set the stage for Abernathy’s heroics. It was the second walk-off home run of the series for Abernathy, who hit a walk-off grand slam in the opener to secure a run-rule win. The momentum didn’t carry to the midweek as the Wildcats lost to Ohio State 3-0 on Tuesday night when they looked out of sorts from the start.
What we are watching
Will the SEC set a record for losses by a regular-season champion? The most losses by a regular-season SEC champion is six. That’s happened five times (Georgia, 2003; LSU, 2004; Alabama, 2011; Florida, 2013; Alabama, 2019). Last season, Arkansas and Florida tied for the title with 19-5 records. But at the rate of competitiveness this season, the champion could exceed that number. There are a jumble of teams with three conference losses already (Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky, LSU). Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi State have the least amount of losses with two through only six games.
Florida’s challenging schedule. The Gators are in the midst of a defining stretch of games. Coming off a series loss to Tennessee, Florida hosts UCF on Wednesday night, plays a three-game series at Auburn beginning Friday, hosts Florida State on April 6th and hosts Alabama in a three-game series April 9-11. Not surprisingly, Skylar Wallace has been a big addition for the Gators now that she’s eligible to play. The redshirt junior scored three of Florida’s four runs in the final game against Tennessee to help the Gators avoid being swept and improved to 28 of 28 in stolen bases this season. Against Auburn, Florida will need more pitching like it received in that series finale, when Elizabeth Hightower and Natalie Lugo combined to allow just two hits and one run. Auburn is coming off a mixed performance against Kentucky. The offense produced runs, but errors and some shaky pitching stretches hindered the Tigers. After getting knocked around in the opening game, Shelby Lowe pitched better in the series finale. She gave up two earned runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. But Maddie Penta couldn’t close the door against UK’s powerful lineup, giving up two earned runs on two hits in the walk-off loss.
Georgia travels to Alabama. Two teams that advanced to last year’s WCWS will get the big stage on ESPN2 on Saturday and the SEC Network for the Sunday and Monday games. Georgia had an up-and-down series against Texas A&M, winning the first two games to clinch the series before suffering a 16-8 six-inning loss in the finale. The Dawgs are still trying to find consistency in the circle to back their typically-prolific offense. Sophomore Madison Kerpics and senior Lauren Mathis threw some good innings last week for UGA before the A&M loss. Alabama swept South Carolina on the road. Kaylee Tow had a strong series at the plate for the Tide and sophomore KJ Haney’s pinch-hit grand slam saved the Tide in the opener (both of Haney’s career home runs have been pinch-hit homers). Montana Fouts struck out 27 batters in two wins, including a career-high 16 in the series finale. She gave up nine hits and five earned runs in the opener, but only two hits and one earned run in the final game.
Kentucky vs. LSU. LSU will be glad to be home for a weekend series after losing two of three at Arkansas. The weekend prior, the Tigers were swept by host Texas. Getting a series win over Kentucky would be a huge boost and amplify the series win over Alabama that opened SEC play. LSU’s offense scored enough runs against the Hogs, but the pitching couldn’t keep pace. The Tigers will see another prolific offense in Kentucky, which is coming off a series win over Auburn (see above).
All for Alex weekend. The 13 SEC softball programs will join together to honor the legacy of Mississippi State’s Alex Wilcox in the second annual “All for Alex” weekend. Wilcox was a member of the 2018 Mississippi State softball team who inspired the nation with her courageous fight against ovarian cancer before she passed away in the summer of 2018. The SEC programs will wear teal or teal accents on Saturday to recognize Wilcox’s impact on the softball community and the fight against ovarian cancer. The campaign is a joint effort between LSU head coach Beth Torina and MSU head coach Samantha Ricketts. Wilcox’s No. 8 jersey was retired by MSU in 2018, making her the first female athlete in MSU history to receive the honor.
Tennessee honors Ralph Weekly. The Lady Vols will be celebrating Weekly on Sunday during their series finale against Mississippi State at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. Weekly retired last season after 35 years coaching, including the final 20 alongside his wife and now solo head coach, Karen, at Tennessee. UT will honor Weekly with a pregame ceremony and recognize his achievements throughout the game. He remains a special assistant to the program.