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Kelly Barnhill is the ace that Florida will ride throughout the season, but who will be the supporting pitching staff behind her? Photo: Piper Hansen / Florida Softball

Opening week of conference play for the SEC saw five league matchups including 10 teams kicking off their 2019 league slate.

Each series made headlines for various reasons and even opened the floodgates to a large number of questions—some of which don’t have clear, immediate answers.

In this week's Extra Inning Softball/JWOS Power Rankings, nine of the 13 SEC teams are in the Top 25... to see which ones, click HERE!

Let’s look at some of the most pressing issues for the various teams as Week 2 of SEC play gets set to kick off…

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Florida: Can the Gators develop reliable pitching behind Kelly Barnhill?

Barnhill herself did not have a great outing to start last weekend’s series against Tennessee, taking the loss after allowing five runs in four innings. The Gators have seen five pitchers take the circle this season, including Barnhill, but need to develop a solid #2 behind her. Natalie Lugo is the most obvious choice, as she's thrown the second-most innings behind Barnhill and boasts a 1.63 ERA, but she allowed three runs in two innings of work against Tennessee on Saturday and took the loss. Pitching depth is one of the Gators’ most glaring needs, especially after the surprise series loss to the Lady Vols last weekend.

Tennessee: Do the Lady Vols “know how to win?”

Without question, this Tennessee club is one of the top teams in the nation, and they’ve shown themselves worthy of that stature on more than one occasion to start the season. After last week’s series win over Florida, the Lady Vols themselves as the top-ranked team in the SEC East, and second in the league behind only undefeated Alabama. The Lady Vols have maintained their postseason stalwart status for years, but only at times in the post-Monica Abbott era have they been at the league’s peak, a sight that has been even far rarer in the post-Renfroe days on Rocky Top. The Lady Vols are a good team with talent, but need to be consistent even as they sit amongst the rank-and-file of the nation’s elite.

Georgia infielder Alyssa DiCarlo and the Bulldogs open up SEC against a hungry Missouri team this weekend. Photo by Emily Selby, UGA Sports Communications.

Georgia: Are the Bulldogs as good as advertised?


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