Camaraderie. Competitiveness. Depth.
Three words that all the Big 12 Baseball coaches at the Big 12 Tournament used to describe the field this weekend at the Big 12 Media Luncheon on Tuesday. On-the-field, the coaches know what is at stake. However, off-the-field, they know how crucial the performances of the entire conference on the field have been. Every team in the Big 12 has a record above .500, including Kansas State who did not qualify for the Big 12 Tournament. The league has six teams inside the RPI Top 25, giving the Big 12 the crown as the toughest RPI conference in the country.
Depth. That is what this conference has. That is what makes the Big 12 Tournament a “must-watch”.
Wednesday, May 24
Game 1: No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 5 Baylor – 9:00 a.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Texas Tech vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State – 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 2 TCU vs. No. 7 Kansas – 4:00 p.m.
Game 4: No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Texas – 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 25
Game 5: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser – 9:00 a.m.
Game 6: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser – 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner – 4:00 p.m.
Game 8: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner – 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 26
Game 9: Game 7 Loser vs. Game 5 Winner – 3:15 p.m.
Game 10: Game 8 Loser vs. Game 6 Winner – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 27
Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner – 9:00 a.m.
Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner – 12:30 p.m.
*Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11, If Necessary – 4:00 p.m.
**Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12, If Necessary*** – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 28
Game 15: Championship Game – 1:00 p.m.
WHO: #4 West Virginia (32-22/12-12) vs. #5 Baylor (34-19/12-12)
WHEN: 9:00 AM CT
The Mountaineers took two out of three from the Bears during conference play. Statistically, the two could not be anymore alike.
The ‘Neers bring an injured group to OKC and have felt that they have been playing “Survive and Advance” all year. These injuries include their ace pitcher, Michael Grove. Although it seemed improbable, West Virginia is already a lock into the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com before playing a game in OKC this weekend. The Mountaineers will give the ball to freshman pitcher, Isaiah Kearns in their first game of the Big 12 Tournament today. Kearns has a 5.60 ERA with a 4-0 record in 6 starts.
Big 12 Coach of the Year, Sean Rodriguez, brought in 19 new players this year, yet coached his team to 34 wins, the most at Baylor since 2012. The Bears are hot at the plate, scoring more than 8 runs a game in seven of their last nine games. Although their pitching staff has struggled as of late, they have boasted six shutouts on the year. The Bears are also in the field of the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com before they play a game this week in OKC. A starting pitcher as yet to be announced.
WHO: #1 Texas Tech (42-13/16-8) vs. #8 Oklahoma State (26-25/8-14)
WHEN: 12:30 PM CT (30 minutes after conclusion of WVU/Baylor if their game goes long)
Oklahoma State was able to take two out of three from Texas Tech back in late April. However, the Red Raiders come in winning their last three Big 12 series.
For Texas Tech, they have made their name at the plate. They hit for over .300 as a team, and lead the Big 12 in RBI’s and HR’s. They are lead by senior and Co-Conference Player of the Year, Hunter Hargrove. Hargrove has started in all 55 games this season, hitting .347 and slugging .546. What makes Texas Tech so unique is that they do start three freshman on the field, and two of their starting pitchers are sophomores. The Red Raiders are locked in as a national seed in the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com. They have elected to start Davis Martin over Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Steven Gingery. Martin boasts a 4-1 record with a 2.57 ERA in 6 starts.
For Oklahoma State, it could not be any different. They needed two wins over in-state rival Oklahoma on Saturday to even make it to the Big 12 Tournament. The Cowboys rank 8th in the conference in pitching, and 7th in the conference in hitting. However, they do have the conference’s best statistical hitter in junior outfielder Garrett McCain. McCain is hitting an astonishing .395, and also leading his team in runs scored, hits, triples, and slugging percentage. The Cowboys will need a huge weekend to give themselves a chance at the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com. A starting pitcher has yet to be announced.
WHO: #2 TCU (39-14/16-8) vs. #7 Kansas (29-26/11-13)
WHEN: 4:00 PM CT
TCU and Kansas opened up Big 12 against each other, with the Horned Frogs taking two out of three in late March.
For TCU, it is all about their ability to find ways to win. The reigning Big 12 Tournament Champs do not lead the Big 12 in hitting or pitching, ranking 6th and 5th respectively. Co-Conference Player of the Year, Evan Skoug, leads the TCU bats with 16 home-runs this season. The hero of last year’s Big 12 Tournament will be watching from the dugout as Luken Baker has been sidelined for maybe the rest of year with an injury. The interesting part of TCU’s team is that seven of their fifteen pitchers have never been to the Big 12 Tournament before, and four others are only making their second trip. The Horned Frogs are projected to be a National Seed in the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com. A starting pitcher has yet to be announced for TCU.
For Kansas, it is about their magical run this season. The Jayhawks will be making their first trip to the Conference Tournament since 2014. A lot like TCU, Kansas is in the bottom tier of the conference in pitching and hitting. They have won six conference games by at least one-run this season thanks to 1st Team All-Big 12 Closer, Stephen Villiness. Just like Oklahoma State, Kansas will need a big week at the Big 12 Tournament to implement themselves in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks will be throwing southpaw Taylor Turski against TCU. Turski has a 3-4 record with a 3.57 ERA in 12 starts this season.
WHO: #3 Oklahoma (34-20/12-11) vs. #6 Texas(34-20/11-12)
WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
Texas was able to take the baseball side of the Red River Rivalry as the Longhorns took two out of three in Austin in early April.
For Oklahoma, timely hitting and senior leadership has been their calling call from day one. Two walk-off wins clinched their series win over TCU, a walk-off win in the rubber match against Texas Tech clinched that series, and they have won eight 1-run games this season. Sooners are led on offense by sophomore Steele Walker, who is hitting .341 and is sixth in the conference in RBI’s with 48. Their starting pitching may not blow anyone away, but relievers JB Olson and Connor Berry have ERA’s of 1.70 and 1.40 respectively in 47 combined outings. Oklahoma is locked into the NCAA Tournament according to D1Baseball.com, and can push for a regional hosting bid with a big week. Pete Hughes is starting Freshman Nathan Wiles, who is 4-3 with a 4.47 ERA in six starts.
For Texas, it has been about their pitching and defense all year. The Longhorns pitching staff boasts a 3.14 ERA, good for first in the Big 12, and ninth in the country. It is not just that their pitching has been spectacular, David Pearce will be returning all three of his weekend pitchers next year. That defense, too–The Longhorns have a .984 fielding percentage, which is only good for first in the Big 12, and second in the entire country. On offense, Senior Kacy Clemens leads Texas in all offensive stat categories. The Longhorns are also comfortably into the NCAA Tournament before this weekend according to D1Baseball.com. Southpaw Nick Kennedy will get the start for Texas against Oklahoma. Kennedy holds an 8-1 record with a 2.36 ERA.