The Big 12 continues to impress — and surprise. And it may have a case for having the most parity in a power conference. There were no series sweeps this weekend, but there were plenty of great showdowns, high-scoring duels, and late-game drama that contributed to the third weekend of conference play. So, how did this weekend unfold in the Big 12?
West Virginia defeats No. 24 TCU on the road
In the Big 12 opener for West Virginia, the Mountaineers instantly put themselves into the conversation as one of the conference’s potential dark horse teams. The reason? They took two of three from No. 24 TCU on the road.
Passed balls and wild pitches were the source of scoring for both teams on Friday night; a wild duel that culminated when West Virginia’s Ben Abernathy stole home unexpectedly in the ninth, tying the score at two before Braden Berry slid headfirst across the plate later in the same play, giving the Mountaineers the 3-2 lead.
TCU had an opportunity, with the bases loaded, two outs and a 3-2 count in the bottom of that frame. But Noah Short came up with his biggest strikeout of the season perhaps, striking out TCU’s David Bishop looking, as West Virginia celebrated in Fort Worth.
Saturday’s contest was another one-run victory. But this time for the Horned Frogs, who overcame a 4-0 deficit behind Brayden Taylor’s 2-for-4 day, as Taylor swatted a two-run homer in the sixth. It put TCU up 5-4, which was the final score, as West Virginia was held to just one hit over the final three innings.
The relief pitching of Marcelo Perez, Tommy Vail, Caleb Bolden, and River Ridings in game two helped keep TCU in it, but short on arms Sunday afternoon, West Virginia did enough at the plate for a 5-2 victory. 3.2 exceptional innings of relief from West Virginia’s Trey Braithwaite played no small role in the result, as he did not allow a single base runner while earning the save.
The balance of West Virginia’s lineup made the Mountaineers a force to be reckoned with. Not reliant on any particular stretch of the order, the hitting was evenly distributed. Braden Berry’s 2-for-3 showing in the series opener was the only multi-hit game for the Mountaineers on the weekend, though they tallied 18 hits.
TCU (6-3 Big 12) will look to rebound next week at Texas, while West Virginia (2-1 Big 12) hosts Baylor in Morgantown.
No. 10 Texas uses five-run ninth to upend Oklahoma, win key Big 12 series
Globe Life Field is a neutral ballpark, and placed almost evenly between the University of Oklahoma and University of Texas campuses. But it is still located in the Lone Star State, and the Longhorns made sure to defend their home turf against their Red River rivals, taking the series 2-1.
The importance of Sunday’s 12-8 victory cannot be overstated for a Texas team that began the year No. 1, but dropped series to South Carolina and most recently, Texas Tech, on the road, as well as a single game at home against Texas A&M, and entered the series finale in Arlington 2-3 in Big 12 play.
And adding to the drama, the victory almost did not happen. The Sooners gained a 4-0 lead by the fourth inning, and extended it to 7-1 in the sixth, batting as the designated home team. But Texas displayed its offensive prowess in the seventh, responding with a six-run inning that tied the score, and a five-run ninth all but sealed the win for head coach David Pierce’s squad.
In front of a crowd of 6,518, Texas garnered the come-from-behind victory in impressive fashion, especially considering Oklahoma had successfully ended a comeback bid in Saturday’s 4-2 win for the Sooners. With runners on second and third, down two in the ninth, Texas’ Dylan Cambell lined a ball directly into the glove of Oklahoma left fielder Diego Muniz, earning the Sooners their third conference win of the year.
But perhaps the most notable performance of the series came on the mound in game one, as Texas starter Pete Hansen went eight innings, holding Oklahoma to just two first-inning hits, with a season-high 12 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, the Longhorns rolled to a convincing 7-1 win.
Hansen is now 5-0 on the year, averaging 7.42 strikeouts per start. Hansen is the ace of Texas’ rotation, but the Longhorns were solid on the mound for the series’ first two games, as well as in the late innings of Sunday’s duel, and still hold the lowest team ERA in the Big 12, at 3.49.
The question now becomes how these squads, sitting in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 standings tied at 3-3, move forwards into their third Big 12 series. Texas hosts a dangerous TCU team in Austin, while Oklahoma travels for a series at rival Oklahoma State, currently atop the conference standings.
No. 5 Texas Tech shows signs of unstoppable offense in Lawrence
28-2. It was the final score of Saturday’s game two duel between Texas Tech and Kansas. Yes, you read that right. If that does not sum up the weekend for the Red Raiders, it would be hard to find something else that would. The nation’s No. 5 ranked team did not dominate the Jayhawks by a 26-run margin in all three contests; in fact, the Red Raiders dropped Sunday’s series finale, 8-5, but they showed all the signs of being a dangerous team at the plate in a 2-1 series victory in Lawrence.
Kansas is now 1-5 in Big 12 play, and just 10-16 overall. The Jayhawks are far from the Big 12’s top team, but the Red Raiders were incredibly impressive in their consistency all the plate throughout the weekend, tallying a total of 47 hits, seven home runs, and outscored the opposition 41-12.
Sunday’s loss, especially after Saturday’s unstoppable display of extra base hitting (Tech had four homers, nine doubles and one triple), hurt their bid at regaining the Big 12 lead-they sit one game back of Oklahoma State-but Tech showed the depth of its lineup in 8-2 and 28-2 victories that began the weekend.
Tech’s Kurt Wilson was exceptional, hitting his fourth homer in six games, and went 3-for-6 on Saturday. On the weekend, the shortstop was 5-for-16, with seven RBIs, as his hitting streak lengthened to five games. Also tallying a hit in all three games was catcher Hudson White, whose 5-for-6 day in Saturday’s win led the team, and powered him to an eye-popping 9-for-11 weekend at the plate.
On the mound, it was much of the same. Andrew Morris turned in his longest outing of the season with an 8.0 inning performance (5 H, 2 ER, 6 K), moving to 3-0 on the year. Brandon Birdsell came up with an equally strong start on Saturday, shutting out the Jayhawks over five innings, as he did not allow a single base runner, while striking out eight.
Kansas’ Ryan Vanderhei, who started Sunday’s win for the Jayhawks, had remarkable control on the mound, limiting the Red Raiders to three hits and two runs over the game’s first six innings. He struck out nine batters, before Stone Hewlett was called on to close the victory.
The good and the bad: No. 8 Oklahoma State remains in first place after series win at K-State, but has perfect conference record snapped
For the second straight weekend, No. 8 Oklahoma State won a series over a Sunflower State opponent, and those victories added up to the claiming of first-place in the Big 12 standings, as the Cowboys took the series from Kansas State on the road.
Riding an 11-game win streak before in-state rival Oklahoma snapped it in non-conference action Tuesday, the Cowboys entered the weekend with an added determination to win, as a series against the Sooners looms ahead. Oklahoma State did just that, powered by its bats, rolling to 12-9 and 8-6 victories on Friday and Saturday. K-State took Sunday’s duel 7-2 in a notable win for the Wildcats, but the Cowboys were convincing nonetheless.
Jake Thompson and Caeden Trenkle each swatted home runs in the series opener, with Thompson’s leading off the game in the first for an early 2-0 lead, while Trenkle’s also brought home Hueston Morrill and David Mendham, pushing the advantage to 12-2.
Saturday’s contest was not nearly as dominant, a credit to K-State’s lineup, who scored the game’s final three runs in the eighth, cutting the deficit to two as Oklahoma State went to the bullpen four times over the final 3.1 innings.
Perhaps that contributed to Sunday’s five-run victory for the Wildcats. Oklahoma State brought in four relievers after Bryce Osmond exited the game in the fifth, but none was able to fully slow K-State’s lineup. Homers from Nick Goodwin, Orlando Salinas, and Justin Mitchell in the seventh and eighth innings sealed the Wildcats’ victory as the Cowboys’ perfect 5-0 Big 12 record fell.
But Friday and Saturday’s wins for the Cowboys kept the nation’s No. 8 team in control of the standings, and in a good position heading into Tuesday's road matchup at Wichita State, which will be followed by a home series against the Sooners, who took one, and nearly another, from Texas in Arlington this weekend. K-State, now 1-5 in Big 12 play, faces Texas Tech on the road next weekend.
Baylor regains momentum after shaky start to Big 12 play
After the parity of the conference was shown, the lone Big 12 team not facing a conference opponent this weekend managed a sweep, and now holds the longest win streak of a Big 12 program, at five games.
That would be Baylor, who swept East Tennessee State in Waco, pulling out a 7-4 victory in Sunday’s series finale that improved the Bears’ record to 16-11. It was a needed weekend rebound for Baylor who is just 2-4 in conference action after suffering defeat at the hands of TCU and Oklahoma on consecutive weekends.
Jack Pineda was excellent for Baylor from the leadoff spot, scoring twice in the 8-7 series opener on Friday, before a 4-for-5 performance in Saturday’s 15-1 rout of ETSU. He walked twice and came around to score once in game three, capping off Baylor’s 3-0 weekend. In fact, he scored the go-ahead run in the opener, as Jared McKenzie hit a long drive to center field, allowing Pineda to tag from third in the eighth inning.
The Bears’ bullpen was also sharp, especially on Saturday as Adam Muirhead, Cole Stasio, and Henry Cone combined to hold ETSU to just two hits, a walk, and zero runs over the game’s final four frames.
With momentum on their side, the Bears continue the non-conference schedule against Dallas Baptist on Tuesday before taking the long trip east for a Big 12 series at West Virginia next weekend.