2022 SEC Baseball Season Review and Stock Watch
The case was settled long ago that the SEC is the best baseball conference in the nation, but never has it been more clear than in 2022.
Four teams from the league—Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Auburn—made it to the College World Series and that number balloons to six if you include Oklahoma and Texas, which are set to join in the next several years. Ole Miss lifted the trophy when it was all said and done, giving the SEC its third straight national championship and fourth in the last five tournaments.
All the SEC has done since the season ended is have 83 players drafted, 25 more than the ACC, which had the second most players drafted.
And if that’s not enough evidence, just look at the flow of players this offseason. In our recent list of the top 50 committed transfers in college baseball so far, 29 of them were transferring to an SEC program. Some of those players have since been drafted and won’t make it to campus, but it still sends a message about where top talents want to go when they transfer.
It’s not just the perennial national title contenders that are playing that game, either, as the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky are included in that group bringing in big-time transfer talent.
With the question of the best conference in college baseball having long ago been settled, it’s perhaps now a better question to ponder just how far the league can stretch its dominance in the coming years.
- Trey Lipscomb, 3B, Tennessee - After waiting for three years behind the likes of Andre Lipcius and Jake Rucker, Lipscomb took over at third base last season and ran with the opportunity, batting .355/.428/.717 with 19 doubles, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. After the season, he was selected in the third round of the draft and got the full slot value bonus upon signing, which is rarified air for a fourth-year college player.
- Sonny DiChiara, 1B, Auburn - DiChiara isn’t necessarily a breakout player in general, as he was a very accomplished hitter at Samford for three seasons, but his 2022 season does qualify as a breakout within the context of the SEC. He batted .383/.549/.777 with 15 doubles, 22 home runs and 59 RBIs, earning SEC co-player of the year honors. He was a fifth-round pick of the Angels, and as a testament to his advanced skills at the plate, will begin his pro career at Double-A.
- Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee - A transfer from Georgia Southern, Dollander showed elite stuff from the start with Tennessee on the way to going 10-0 with a 2.39 ERA, a .175 opponent batting average and a 108-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 79 innings, an innings total that would have been higher had he not missed a couple of starts after being hit with a line drive in mid April. The righthander will go into 2023 as a potential first-round pick.
Most surprising team: Texas A&M
Auburn also deserves mention here, but Texas A&M gets the nod as the most surprising team because not only did it have modest outside expectations going into the season but it was also doing so with a new coaching staff led by former Texas Christian coach Jim Schlossnagle. As it turns out, after an uneven start that included the Aggies losing a series to Pennsylvania at home and dropping games to Wichita State and Washington State, not only did they win the SEC West but they made it all the way to Omaha with a roster that was primarily built through the transfer portal. Program success isn’t linear and nothing is guaranteed from year to year, but it certainly bodes well that year one of this era of Texas A&M baseball went as well as it did.
Most disappointing team: Mississippi State
Unfortunately for Mississippi State, a season-opening series loss to Long Beach State was a sign of things to come. After those losses to the Dirtbags, the Bulldogs lost a head-scratcher of a game to Northern Kentucky, lost ace righthander Landon Sims to a season-ending injury and dropped a series to Tulane, all before SEC play got underway. And things certainly didn’t get any better once SEC competition started, as MSU went 9-21 to finish with the worst record in the conference and miss the SEC Tournament. The smart bet is on Mississippi State bouncing back quickly, but there is no way around the fact that 2022 was filled with jarring results for a team that won the national title in 2021 and was ranked in the top five to begin the season.
Team-by-team stock watch
Florida (42-24, 15-15), reached regionals, ⬅️➡️ - After an uneven start to SEC play, Florida got hot down the stretch to win its final four conference series and get to the finals of the SEC Tournament, which was enough to host a regional, but the for the second straight season, the Gators were eliminated at home as a host.
Georgia (36-23, 15-15), reached regionals, ⬅️➡️ - Georgia fought through myriad pitching injuries to finish 15-15 in SEC play and earn the program’s third regional appearance in four full seasons, but the Bulldogs are still searching for their first super regional since 2008.
Kentucky (33-26, 12-18), no postseason, ⬅️➡️ - With a roster supplemented aggressively through the transfer portal, Kentucky kept its head above water in the SEC for the most part and made a deep run in the SEC Tournament but ultimately fell short of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Missouri (28-23, 10-20), no postseason, ⬅️➡️ - Missouri was competitive throughout the first half of its SEC slate and piled up a number of tough-luck losses but seemed to lose steam over the second half on the way to finishing last in the SEC East and just one game up on Mississippi State in the overall SEC standings.
South Carolina (27-28, 13-17), no postseason, ⬇️ - South Carolina had plenty of good moments in 2022, including series wins against Texas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss but wasn’t quite consistent enough to end up in the postseason, as the Gamecocks missed a regional for the fourth time in the last seven full seasons.
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Tennessee (57-9, 25-5), reached super regionals, ⬆️ - Tennessee was dominant from wire to wire during the regular season, with a series loss to Kentucky the only series loss on its resume, and went into the postseason as the prohibitive favorite to win the national title before being upset by Notre Dame in super regionals.
Vanderbilt (39-23, 14-16), reached regionals, ⬇️ - The No. 2 team in the country going into the season, Vanderbilt never quite seemed to hit its stride during the 2022 campaign, but it speaks to the talent level and consistency in Nashville that even with that being the case, the Commodores advanced all the way to a regional final.
Alabama (31-27, 12-17), no postseason, ⬅️➡️ - Alabama put some quality wins on the board, including series wins over Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas, on the way to going 12-17 in SEC play, and while that was enough to get the Crimson Tide in the field in 2021, it wasn’t enough this time around as the at-large bubble tightened significantly.
Arkansas (46-21, 18-12), reached College World Series, ⬆️ - Arkansas won a lot of games ugly early in the season and looked like the class of the SEC West before stumbling down the stretch by losing its last two SEC series and going 0-2 in the SEC Tournament, only to pick it up again in the postseason to get to Omaha for the third time in the last four full seasons.
Auburn (43-22, 16-13), reached College World Series, ⬆️ - Auburn blew modest outside preseason expectations out of the water by going 16-13 in SEC play, hosting a regional for the first time since 2010 and advancing to Omaha for the second time in three full seasons.
Louisiana State (40-22, 17-13), reached regionals, ⬅️➡️ - With a dynamic lineup ready to go from day one, LSU slowly but surely figured some things out on the mound on the way to going 17-13 in the SEC and advancing to a regional final, setting the stage for a 2023 season where there will be much higher expectations for the Tigers.
Mississippi (42-23, 14-16), won national title, ⬆️ - In one of the best stories in college baseball history, Ole Miss went from No. 1 in the country early in the season to out of the postseason picture when it was 7-14 in SEC play to national champions as it got hot at the right time and a fresh set of program legends emerged.
Mississippi State (26-30, 9-21), no postseason, ⬇️ - From losing non-conference series to Long Beach State and Tulane to losing ace Landon Sims to injury three weeks into the season to going 9-21 in SEC play, it was a tough follow-up season to Mississippi State’s 2021 national title.
Texas A&M (44-20, 19-11), reached College World Series, ⬆️ - Leaning heavily on roster reinforcements from the transfer portal, Texas A&M bounced back from some tough early-season losses to win the SEC West and end up as one of the last four teams standing in Omaha.
Offseason questions to answer:
- With a whole host of high-profile transfers arriving, plus a top-flight recruiting class, how does the LSU roster take shape as it heads into a 2023 season where expectations will be ratcheted up?
- With several holes left by players headed to professional baseball, a strong transfer class of its own and young players like Christian Moore and Blake Burke likely ready to take on starring roles, how does Tennessee fit the puzzle pieces together in the lineup ahead of next season?
- With SEC teams up and down the standings once again going all in on building through the transfer portal, will fall baseball provide any clues as to whether there will be another Texas A&M-like rebound in the SEC?