There were a few surprises, as usual, in this weekend’s Big 12 slate, and once again, the competitiveness and parity was displayed. Texas Tech needed a walk-off home run to down Kansas State on Sunday, while Oklahoma State’s walk-off came on a wild pitch to keep the Cowboys’ hopes of a series victory alive in the Bedlam rivalry. And West Virginia is now sitting atop the Big 12 standings. Here is a closer look at how each of those storylines, plus several more, unfolded in the Big 12:
West Virginia sweeps Baylor, ascends to first-place in Big 12 standings
Maybe it is too early to say, but No. 38 West Virginia is looking the part of an NCAA Tournament team. They entered this weekend’s matchups with Baylor looking to parlay last week’s road series win at TCU, and that is exactly what happened, as the Mountaineers pulled off a sweep.
Picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason poll, finding West Virginia alone atop the standings, even this early in the Big 12 schedule, is a surprise.
But the Mountaineers’ sweep came as no surprise with the way they performed in pivotal situations. West Virginia had just nine extra base hits on the weekend, but strung together hits, accompanied by walks, at the right times.
That was put on display from the get-go, as the Mountaineers edged Baylor 7-6 in a walk-off victory on Friday night. With two outs in the ninth, Nathan Blasick drew a walk on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded, bringing the winning run across the plate. It capped a three-run comeback over the final two innings for the Mountaineers, and they came back 16 hours later for a 8-4 win in game two. A six-run outburst over the first two innings in Sunday’s series finale was enough to hold off Baylor’s fifth inning charge for a 7-5 victory.
The Mountaineer pitching staff (Zach Bravo, Noah Short, Chris Sleeper, and Trey Braithwaite) walked seven in Sunday’s win, but held Baylor to a mere three hits, the fewest hits allowed in a game by West Virginia this season.
Austin Davis was huge in that consistent run production, batting 8-for-11 from the leadoff spot for the Mountaineers.
For Baylor, Jared McKenzie continued in his exceptional season at the plate, leading the Bears in a 3-for-4 performance on Saturday.
West Virginia’s rise to the top gives the Mountaineers favorable momentum heading into Tuesday’s non-conference matchup at Penn State and a weekend series at home against No. 3 Oklahoma State. Baylor, now 2-7 in Big 12 play, hosts Kansas next weekend.
No. 8 Texas moves above .500 in Big 12 play with series win over No. 37 TCU
The last time TCU traveled to Austin it was 2018. And the Longhorns, led by the performances of Kody Clemens, swept the Horned Frogs. This time, the highly-anticipated rematch at Disch-Falk Field saw a more evenly-matched series play out, with Texas and TCU splitting the first two, before the Longhorns pulled away for a 7-3 win on Sunday.
Perhaps the best pitching performance this weekend in the conference came on Friday night as Texas ace Pete Hansen delivered in yet another victory, moving to 6-0 on the year. The right-hander shut down a strong TCU lineup in a 2-0 win for the Horns, tossing a complete game shutout, with just two hits and a single walk allowed. 12 strikeouts did not hurt either, as he claimed the Big 12 lead in innings pitched (52.0).
Despite Texas’ series win, much-needed for the Longhorns who are now 5-4 in Big 12 play, TCU did enough to remain fourth in the league standings with a 7-5 mark. The Longhorns travel to Kansas State next weekend with an opportunity for a sweep against the Big 12’s last-place squad, while the Horned Frogs, after consecutive series losses to West Virginia and Texas, host Texas Tech.
No. 6 Texas Tech sweeps Kansas State behind ninth-inning game three rally
West Virginia was not the only Big 12 team that notched a sweep. After letting last weekend’s series finale at Kansas slip away, Texas Tech dominated against K-State, with 14 runs on 10 hits in Saturday’s shutout before walking it off in Sunday’s finale with a 7-6 win.
The Red Raiders entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-4, but matching the heat on this particular afternoon in Lubbock, the bats found fire. Zac Vooletich swatted a solo homer that led off the inning, just before Cole Stilwell singled. Jace Jung then sent a 2-2 pitch deep to right center field after fouling off three straight pitches, bringing the crowd of nearly 4,000 to its feet as Tech earned the come-from-behind win. Even against the conference’s last-place team, there are no easy days in Big 12 play.
Jung had just one hit in the series entering that at-bat, but made up for it with his late-game heroics, and each win on the weekend was critical for the Red Raiders, who came in hungry after dropping back-to-back games to Grand Canyon earlier in the week.
Andrew Morris took the mound for Tech in the opener Friday night and kept his undefeated record alive, moving to 4-0 in a 7.0 inning, nine-strikeout outing. The Red Raiders sealed a 6-3 win, as relievers Derek Bridges and Trendan Parish fired two innings of scoreless work in relief.
Stilwell led Tech at the plate, with multi-hit performances in all three contests. He capped the series with a 3-for-4 mark on Sunday, which was preceded by two 2-for-4 days, as his batting average rose from .302 to .313.
Tech battles conference foe Oklahoma in non-conference action in Amarillo on Tuesday, before traveling to Fort Worth for a weekend series at No. 37 TCU. K-State will not have it easy on this holiday weekend, but the Wildcats are at home, against No. 10 Texas.
No. 3 Oklahoma State battles past No. 46 Oklahoma in thrilling rivalry weekend
There are few Big 12 rivalries like Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, and the series did not disappoint in the least, though Oklahoma State proved why the Cowboys are now the nation’s No. 3 team, earning a 2-1 series victory with a 9-4 win Sunday afternoon.
The weekend result was key for the Cowboys, who now sit tied for second in the standings with Texas Tech. After dropping a non-conference matchup to the Sooners on March 29, it was clear Oklahoma State had something to prove against its in-state rival, who is far better than its 4-5 Big 12 record.
Playing in Stillwater, the Sooners did what only one other team, Gonzaga, had done this season: they beat the Cowboys on the road. An 8-7 victory on Friday saw Oklahoma push two across in the top of the ninth, taking the lead, before Trevin Michael struck out two in the bottom of the frame. Catcher Jimmy Crooks then caught Oklahoma State’s Zach Ehrhard stealing and ended the game with a brisk throw to second base for the final out.
But the next two meetings swung in favor of the hosts, who won by the identical score, 8-7, on Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma State’s Roc Riggio, who went 3-for-4 with two homers in that one, had a solid performance at the plate, batting 5-for-13 with five RBIs. Marcus Brown won game two for the Cowboys in the ninth in a thrilling finish, scoring the game-winning run on a wild-pitch.
The Cowboys went deep into their bullpen in all three contests, particularly in game two, in which seven pitchers took the mound, none except for starter Victor Mederos and Mitchell Stone throwing more than an inning. Having that depth will be critical as the conference schedule continues, with West Virginia next on the slate.
Oklahoma plays four non-conference games against three different opponents this coming week, including a Tuesday duel in Amarillo against Texas Tech.
Kansas sweeps Illinois State in non-conference action
Desperately needing to get back in the win column, Kansas earned every bit of its home sweep of Illinois State, as the Jayhawks bounced back from Tuesday’s 14-6 loss to Missouri and the series loss to Texas Tech last weekend.
In a high-scoring series opener, Kansas led off with a five-run first inning, winning 13-9. A 6-2 win on Saturday soon followed, before Ryan Vanderhei picked up the win with a 7.0 inning start in Sunday’s 10-5 win, Vanderhei struck out nine, and allowed a total of 10 baserunners, with three earned runs.
Shortstop Maui Ahona led Kansas at the plate, going 5-for-11 with five runs scored. That included a 3-for-3 performance in the series finale, raising his batting average to .431, which ranks second in the league.
The Jayhawks (1-5 Big 12) resume Big 12 play at Baylor beginning on Thursday.