It was a wild holiday weekend in Big 12 play to say the least. With everyone but West Virginia and Oklahoma State playing on short rest in a Thursday-Saturday series format, a couple of surprising results unfolded, while the Cowboys of OSU found their way back to the top of the conference standings. Here is a closer look at the surprises, highlights, and noteworthy performances of the last several days in Big 12 action.
Kansas State shocks No. 21 Texas in Manhattan
In one of the more surprising results of the weekend, Kansas State found a way to beat No. 21 Texas on consecutive days, en route to the Wildcats first Big 12 series win of the year. It was far from the result most would have predicted entering the weekend, with the Longhorns coming off back-to-back series victories over Oklahoma and TCU, facing the last-place Wildcats.
Perhaps the biggest question that stems from Manhattan is whether this result says more about the potential of K-State, or the now-visible struggles for Texas. Because even in the Horns’ 4-2 victory on Sunday, “convincing” would not be the best description.
The loss drops Texas to 6-6 in conference action, and down to No. 21 in CBN’s Top 50, while K-State, playing its best baseball of the year, jumped ahead of in-state rival Kansas, departing the Big 12’s cellar, with a 3-7 league mark.
In the series opener, Texas ace Pete Hansen, who was unstoppable last week in a two-hit shutout against TCU, struggled majorly for the first time all season, giving up eight hits, six earned runs, and two walks. Eight strikeouts failed to make up for K-State’s hot hitting. Wildcat starter Griffin Hassall did not fare much better, with five earned runs, but the bullpen shut out the Longhorns over the final four innings.
For as much as Texas struggled, K-State also deserves plenty of credit, as the Wildcats found ways to score, led by Josh Nicoloff, who was 5-for-10 at the plate, including an impressive 3-for-3 day in Friday’s 8-1 victory. K-State hit .268 for the series, aided by nine walks and a four-homer performance in Thursday’s 8-5 win.
Baylor’s first Big 12 series win comes over Kansas
It had been a long time coming for Baylor. The Bears, despite an even .500 record entering the series against Kansas, lost five straight before Thursday's series opener, and dropped each of their first three Big 12 series. But against the Jayhawks at home, Baylor broke through.
After dropping game one, 3-2, head coach Steve Rodriguez’s squad bounced back in a 19-2 rout on Friday afternoon. Four different players had three hits, including centerfielder Jared McKenzie, whose power-hitting showed in a two-run homer in the first inning, followed by a bases-clearing double in the sixth.
A 6-5 victory in Saturday’s series finale handed Baylor its second win of the weekend, as the Bears put four runs on the board between the fifth and seventh innings. Jack Pineda swatted a solo homer in the seventh, breaking a 5-5 tie, and Kyle Nevin’s blast later in the frame extended the lead to two, as Kansas failed to overcome the deficit.
The Bears’ lineup was what won Baylor the series, hitting .361 (39-for-108), with eight doubles, two triples and five home runs, while demonstrating exceptional strike zone awareness with 12 walks.
No. 19 TCU sweeps No. 20 Texas Tech in surprising result
It has been well-documented that Lupton Stadium is not an easy place to play. But that home-field advantage for TCU, who was coming off a series loss at Texas, was put to the test against the mighty Red Raiders of Texas Tech in Fort Worth. And while a trio of competitive duels unfolded, it was TCU who swept Tech, catapulting the Horned Frogs into second place in the Big 12 standings.
For the first five innings of the series opener, it appeared that the Red Raiders, looking to rebound from Tuesday’s 14-9 loss to Oklahoma, would be the ones challenging the Horned Frogs. They certainly challenged, but not to the fullest extent, as Tech’s 2-0 lead was erased when Tommy Sacco homered in the sixth, tying the score, leading to two more runs in the inning, as TCU took a 7-4 victory.
A narrow 4-3 win for TCU on Friday that saw Tech strand the bases loaded in the ninth was perhaps the best summary of the weekend series. The Red Raiders had scoring opportunities, but were unable to cash in on enough of them for a win. TCU’s 11-3 statement win on Saturday provided a statement conclusion to the Horned Frogs’ first Big 12 sweep of the year.
Following up a four-hit showing in TCU’s lone win in Austin a week ago, Sacco was again a tough out all weekend. He was 6-for-12 at the plate, scoring three runs with three RBIs. TCU starter Brett Walker set a season-high for fewest hits allowed, giving up just three over six innings in Saturday’s win. As a staff, TCU’s pitchers allowed 18 hits over the 27.0 innings, striking out 25 batters in the first two games, and gave up just seven earned runs to a lineup that had scored six or more runs in each of its last five games.
Oklahoma State jumps to No. 2, regains control of Big 12
West Virginia’s run as the Big 12’s top team proved brief, as the Mountaineers ran into their toughest opponent of the season, and Oklahoma State regained control atop the conference standings, taking two of three in Morgantown.
After a series win over Oklahoma last weekend, the Cowboys were more than ready to parlay the momentum, and did so, using strong pitching in game one, and an offensive outburst in the series finale.
Justin Campbell toed the rubber for OSU in game one, and turned in a performance worthy of Pitcher of the Week recognition, helping the Cowboys to a narrow 2-1 victory with seven scoreless innings, eight strikeouts and just seven total baserunners. Nolan McLean picked up the save in a scoreless ninth, firing a three-pitch strikeout for the third out.
A 5-2 win for the Mountaineers on Saturday saw the hosts even the series, but OSU came back on Sunday for the 13-3 victory that ended after eight innings due to a run-rule. WVU turned to almost every option left in the bullpen after starter Zach Bravo exited the contest after a five-run first inning for the Cowboys, but nothing slowed OSU on this particular afternoon. The Pokes’ 11 hits, seven walks, and three errors were enough for the visitors from Stillwater to score 10-plus runs in a game for the first time since an April 1 win over Kansas State.
OSU shortstop Marcus Brown was 5-for-9 in the series, scoring three runs on Sunday and raised his batting average above .300 for the first time since March 2.
It sets the Cowboys up for a must-see showdown at home against second-place TCU next weekend, which begins Friday.