Opening Weekend in college baseball has officially come to a close. What started out as a slow Day One transpired into a productive start for the Big 12. Seven out of nine teams took their opening series, two by way of the sweep and one by way of a four game two-way split. Here is how opening weekend treated all nine Big 12 programs, in order of record.
Before we get into things, many people reading this may not know me. My name is Nick Cooper, and I write about all things Big 12 baseball over on my blog big12roundup.wordpress.com and post anything and everything on my Twitter @NickCooperCBSB. Game recaps, frequent updates, stats, standings, and everything in-between. Make sure to follow me to stay informed on everything happening within the Big 12 and on Big 12 Roundup!
#1 Texas Tech (4-0)-
There’s one word to describe how Texas Tech started the season: hot. Tech outscored opponents Houston Baptist and Northern Colorado 65-11 over the three day stretch and were led by a mix of veteran returners and impressive freshmen. One name that stands out in particular is Nate Rombach. The true freshman DH/Catcher is hitting .500 (7-14) with 5HR and 15RBI to lead the conference throughout the first series. As a team, the Red Raiders hit .438 and slugged .792 with 12 long balls. Needless to say, you’ll need to throw everything you have their way to have a chance to catch them. Also, all four starting pitchers earned a W to boost their confidence heading into a profound period in their schedule at the Round Rock Classic. Tech has lived up to the hype so far, but did they use it all up in the first weekend? Time will only tell.
#25 TCU (3-0)-
TCU was an unpredictable team heading into the new year. Many people had their doubts that the Horned Frogs wouldn’t show out and that they would have a fluke season. The exact opposite occurred. Three strong victories (the sweep) over SEC contender Kentucky proved to silence critics and put an even bigger chip on their shoulder. Junior Gray Rodgers led the way on offense, totaling a .543 average and slugging 1.000. Senior Gene Wood hit two clutch long balls as well to power TCU past the Wildcats. Although not one starting pitcher recorded a W, Charles King and Johnny Ray looked solid in their first two starts respectively. An upcoming road series at Minnesota will have a lot to say about this sneaky hot TCU team moving forward.
Out of all of the teams I thought would sweep opening weekend, Texas certainly wasn’t one of them. The sweep of the C-USA’s Rice Owls made a statement for Texas baseball. Led by a silent attack of Duke Ellis and Zach Zubia at the plate. Bryce Elder and Ty Madden were shutout on the mound, along with Donny Diaz’ two saves completely locked up Rice’s hitters. As well as being on the road, this opening series sweep looks even more impressive. After this weekend, Texas has drawn me in and has left me wanting to watch more. Wanting to really figure out the true identity of this team. In a little under two weeks, Texas will travel to Minute Maid Park in Houston to compete in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic alongside OU and Baylor to face LSU, Arkansas, and Missouri. I will 110% be paying attention to those three games, as should you. If they can make it out of that weekend with a positive record, look for Texas to stand out.
It’s a brand new year to prove yourself. Big 12 Preseason POTY on your side, leading you against a challenging Power 5 opponent. In the first inning Friday, Baylor surrendered 11 runs to Nebraska in what would be a 19-9 defeat. The Bears settled down and took control of the series, behind some clutch offense. Other than that first inning, Baylor would use hits from Nick Loftin and Jared McKenzie to carry themselves over a valiant Nebraska squad two games to one. Pitching has been subpar so far, so the Bears need to find someone to rely on in the bullpen going forward. With a team ERA average of 10.42, Baylor has some work to do before they can distinguish from themselves. The Shriners Hospitals for Children for College Classic looms in the distance for Baylor, giving them a big stage to prove how good they really are.
The Jayhawks opened up the season with a series win at Belmont. There is more to the story, however, as KU is only hitting .161 as a team. Ryan Cyr struggled on opening day behind only three hits from the offense… Kansas had a lot of work to do. Winning games two and three (5-1 and 7-6) surely picked up what could’ve been a rough series opener against a Belmont team who was 27-30 in the OVC a year ago. Brenden Sems hasn’t quite caught a break yet either, stunting Kansas’ production. Without a true home game until March 4th, Kansas might be in for a little slower start than the opening series showed.
#24 Oklahoma (2-1)-
Oklahoma fell victim to yet another opening day loss for the Big 12. And, like many others, stepped up and won two straight for the series. For the Sooners, it was Virginia. Cade Cavalli fell short in his first start of the season, but still put up some good numbers. Other than that day one, the Sooners offense thrived behind Brady Lindsly, Peyton Graham, and Tyler Hardman. Dane Acker had one of the more impressive opening weekend lines, only allowing 1H, 1ER, 0BB, and 6K over just 5.0IP. Oklahoma marches onward to two straight home series before representing the Big 12 alongside Baylor and Texas in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic. After that is no joke either, as series against San Diego State and Cal Poly also leaves a lot of room for OU to impress.
West Virginia (2-1)-
Other than giving up a late game go-ahead HR to Jacksonville on Saturday, WVU controlled their opening series. Not much else to say for the Mountaineers, as their starting pitching gave Jacksonville all they could handle. Braden Zarbnisky is seemingly doing it all for the Mountaineers, holding a .462 batting average and recording the lone two saves. True Freshman LHP Jake Carr was the workhorse of the weekend, only allowing 3H and 1ER over 5.0IP in his college pitching debut. Still a lot more to come for Randy Mazey’s young and talented group. Looking ahead, WVU has a great opportunity to gain traction in the standings, with a spot in the Brittain Resorts Invitational against Kennesaw State, Saint Joseph’s, Illinois, and Coastal Carolina.
Kansas State (1-2)-
Not the start to the year that K-State envisioned. The Wildcats dropped two out of three games (still one to play) to UT-Rio Grande Valley. UTRGV is coming off an impressive 34-21 record from a year ago, so K-State definitely didn’t have it easy. The one thing that has really plagued them has been their lack of offense. Hitting a sparse .132 as a team, The Wildcats need leaders like Caleb Littlejim and Cameron Thompson to step up. On a positive note, Jordan Wicks looked remarkable as always in his Sunday start, only allowing 4H and fanning 7 over 7.0IP, allowing 0ER. The Cats will close out the four-game road set today, with a chance to even the score. A few key upcoming games against Wichita State and Stanford could get K-State back on their feet, but it’s going to take some heart and grit.
Oklahoma State (1-2)-
I think I speak for everyone when I say I was shocked to see Oklahoma State drop their opening series to Grand Canyon. Like UTRGV for K-State, Grand Canyon is a solid team coming out of the WAC. They posted a 36-24 record last season and appeared in the WAC Championship game. The Pokes’ pitching staff had a rough weekend, but starter Parker Scott and reliever Brett Standlee posted some solid numbers. Offense was active, posting a .260 average and tallying 11 runs on 27 hits. Everybody doesn’t have to start out 30-0 to be a national champion. Selections aren’t being made tomorrow, so there’s way more than enough time for Oklahoma State to shake off the opening series and keep grinding it out; it's the first series! People will be critical, but the sky's the limit for a deep and seasoned Cowboys roster.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @NickCooperCBSB and my blog big12roundup.wordpress.com for everything Big 12 baseball!
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