The last push of the regular season began this weekend in Big 12 play, as teams headed into their final two (or in TCU’s case last) conference series of the season. With the Big 12 Tournament now fully visible, and the competition for the league’s regular season title growing tighter by the day, this weekend’s slate did not disappoint. And we cover it all in this week’s Big 12 recap:
Kansas State pulls out consecutive 7-5 wins in series victory over Baylor
The series began by going Baylor’s way, in a 4-2 victory for the Bears. But Kansas State, following the pattern of the previous weekend’s series win at Kansas, responded with back-to-back 7-5 wins on Saturday and Sunday, as the Wildcats closed out their 2022 home slate with clear momentum.
It sets up one final conference duel for KSU, at West Virginia, next weekend.
Baylor simply came out much stronger in Friday’s series opener, scoring the game’s first four runs. Though 1-0 through five innings, the Bears exploded for three runs in the fifth, aided by a season-high five walks in the game from KSU starter Blake Adams, who was tagged with the loss. As Wildcat head coach Pete Hughes noted postgame in a quote from the KSU Athletic Department, “the percentages of scoring when the leadoff runner gets on base in the inning goes through the roof.”
Friday was a perfect example of that, as Baylor’s leadoff hitter reached base in five of the six innings that Adams was on the mound.
But the Wildcats came back in force, evening the series behind Justin Mitchell’s two-out, two-run single in the seventh on Saturday. Mitchell’s decisive base hit proved to be the game winner, but Blake Corsentino, according to Hughes, “was the storyline of the game.”
That was because Corsentino entered the contest with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth, the score knotted at five apiece and Baylor carrying all the momentum after Tre Richardson’s three-run homer earlier in the inning. But Corsentino forced a ground out to get out of the jam and followed that with three additional scoreless innings, allowing just two hits as he picked up the win.
KSU found itself down 5-1 entering the eighth on Sunday, but a rally unlike any other in the Big 12 on this particular weekend saw the Wildcats welcome Baylor reliever Matt Voelker to his first appearance of his Baylor career in Manhattan with an inning to forget. Nick Goodwin’s grand slam, along with an RBI single from Dylan Phillips and a solo homer from Cash Rugley flipped the script, as KSU took a 7-5 lead and shut down Baylor’s potential comeback in the ninth.
Goodwin was hitless for the first two games of the series, but the shortstop made his presence known in a 2-for-3, five RBI effort in the series finale. Jared McKenzie was spectacular for Baylor, hitting safely in all three games, with home runs in two of them.
No. 10 Texas Tech pulls off incredible sweep in Stillwater
It had been two weeks since No. 14 Oklahoma State had faced off against another Big 12 foe. In that span, the Cowboys swept Southeast Missouri State, but fell to Dallas Baptist just three days prior to hosting Texas Tech.
Whatever happened in that time span, the OSU team that took the field against the Red Raiders looked to be far from the same squad that swept Texas on the road two weeks prior. Or maybe Tech has begun its typical late-season rise to success.
Either way, a sweep for the Red Raiders was what played out in Stillwater, with Tech edging OSU 7-6 in the series opener, before 9-3 and 6-4 victories gave the visitors from Lubbock their biggest sweep of the year.
The top 25 matchup was one closely followed across the nation, partially because of the Big 12 standing implications and partially because of the high caliber of play from both teams up to this point. Game one certainly lived up to the hype, ending on one of the wildest plays in college baseball this season.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the ninth, Tech led 7-6, and OSU was looking for any opportunity that presented itself to tie the score. The perceived opportunity that OSU’s Jaxson Crull thought he saw was not a scoring chance at all, as Tech catcher Hudson White cleanly blocked Andrew Devine’s 2-1 pitch in the dirt. But before Crull knew it, he was more than halfway down the third-base line, caught in a rundown. There was little he could do but attempt to dive and evade the tag, an attempt that was unsuccessful as the Red Raiders poured from the dugout in celebration.
That type of finish propelled Tech to its 9-3 victory on Saturday, using a seven-run fifth as the Red Raiders claimed an 8-1 lead. They controlled the game for the next four frames, with starter Brandon Birdsell going 7.0 innings with just three hits and two runs allowed. Devine was called upon for the second straight night, and delivered once again, striking out a batter in a scoreless ninth.
The hitting was there in a much larger quantity on Sunday, as OSU attempted to salvage the series with at least one victory. They nearly did too, scoring the game’s final three runs, but the Red Raiders’ early 6-1 lead was just too much to overcome. Jace Jung went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs while Chase Hampton fanned nine over 5.0 innings on the mound. OSU, who pounded out 10 hits, was hurt by a lack of pitching, as five different relievers were called upon after starter Trevor Martin’s departure in the third inning.
Tech moved into second in the Big 12 standings, while OSU, in first-place entering the weekend, dropped down to third.
No. 27 TCU rebounds in dominant sweep of Kansas
After two losses at Florida State and a series loss last week to Oklahoma at home, TCU desperately needed a weekend to regain its rhythm. And the Horned Frogs certainly found that in Lawrence, Kansas this weekend, sweeping the last-place Kansas Jayhawks handily. With this sweep and Texas Tech’s sweep of OSU, TCU jumped ahead of both of those teams into first place in the Big 12 standings.
A 17-hit showing in Friday’s 15-6 victory was the first sign of a lopsided series result. Kansas actually held a brief 5-3 lead, going on a tear in a five-run second inning that knocked TCU starter River Ridings out of the game. But Cam Brown, Caleb Golden, and Austin Krob combined for just one earned run over the next 7.1 innings, as Kansas did not keep up with the offensive prowess of the Horned Frogs. TCU scored in every inning from the fifth to the ninth, including a five-run eighth that saw David Bishop and Luke Boyers each send homers over the outfield wall.
But that was not the top offensive showing of the weekend. Saturday’s 30-3 rout was. And that contest was practically over before it even began, as TCU picked up where it had left off the night before with seven runs in the first inning. Aided by an incredible 17 walks from the Kansas pitching staff, as well as 18 hits, the Horned Frogs could do no wrong at the plate, tying the program record for the most runs scored in a game. Porter Brown was on fire, swinging with tremendous confidence, as he hit a pair of home runs in a 4-for-6 performance that saw him record a school-record 10 RBIs.
Dominant through the middle innings in game three, TCU’s final Big 12 contest of the season was yet another victory, as the Horned Frogs finished the conference schedule at 16-8. Tommy Sacco, Luke Boyers, and Gray Rodgers each stole two bases, as Sacco extended his streak to 12 consecutive games having reached base.
No. 24 Oklahoma run-rules West Virginia for series win
A crowd of 1,584 turned out in Norman, Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon, eager to see if Oklahoma would pull out the series win in the Sooners’ final home series of the year after dropping game two by a one-run margin. Head coach Skip Johnson’s team provided a statement answer to that, run-ruling West Virginia, 17-7, in seven innings, as the Sooners continue to build momentum heading into next weekend’s must-see series at Texas Tech.
While two high-scoring games closed out the series, Friday’s opener went Oklahoma’s way at nearly every turn, as the Sooners claimed a 15-1 win. Jake Bennett’s 6.0 innings with just three hits and a run allowed helped save the bullpen for Saturday and Sunday, while Wallace Clark led the OU offense with a 2-for-3, four RBI performance.
But West Virginia countered with a win of its own in game two, extinguishing a late rally from OU in the ninth. WVU took a 9-6 lead in the ninth on Braden Barry’s two-run homer, but OU countered with back-to-back hits with one out in the bottom of the inning, leading to a pair of runs. After Brett Squires RBI groundout made it a one-run game with two outs, the Sooners had a runner 90 feet away, but that was as close as they got, as the game ended on a groundout and forced both squads to begin preparation for Sunday’s critical series finale.
Though a run-rule victory for OU in game three, the final score is misleading. It was back-and-forth for the game’s first five innings, with the Sooners’ lead cut to just a single run following Grant Hussey’s RBI double down the right field line. Then one play seemed to change it all. Clark led off the fifth with a single, and advanced to third, where he then stole home on an attempted pickoff throw to first base. His heads-up baserunning gave OU a much-needed insurance run and the Sooners then scored the game’s next eight runs en route to the dominant victory.
The consistent hitting made OU dangerous in the same way it has made WVU a challenging opponent for much of this season. Both squads found surges at the plate throughout the weekend, but OU had far more such moments and in much larger quantities.
The play of OU leadoff hitter Tanner Treadaway is a shining example of the consistency of the Sooner lineup on a game-by-game basis. Treadaway has reached base in 24 straight games, recording a hit in 23 of those.
OU scored in double-digits in the run column in seven of its last 12 games, and will look to continue that trend in Lubbock next weekend, as the regular season draws to a close.