The final weekend of the Big 12 season seemed like a simple proposition: West Virginia was in control, leading by two games over Oklahoma State and three games over Texas, and needed to win one of three games in Austin over the weekend to stand alone atop the league, supposing Oklahoma State also lost a game this weekend as well.
When all was said and done on Saturday afternoon, three teams were able to claim the conference title as their own.
Action got underway on Thursday this weekend ahead of the Big 12 Conference Championship which opens on Wednesday morning at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
In Norman, the Sooners welcomed state rival Oklahoma State to town for the Bedlam Series. The Cowboys took the Thursday opener with a 13-2 drubbing of the Sooners. Perhaps the oddest stat of the weekend: Oklahoma out-hit their rival 12-10 in the game. The Cowboys got all the offense they needed from designated hitter Colin Brueggemann drove in five runs, four of them on a third inning grand slam.
Nolan McLean made the Thursday night start for the Cowboys and he allowed just one run and striking out five. Evan O’Toole followed with five shutout innings and picked up the win to improve to 6-1 in 2023.
Meanwhile, down Interstate 35 just a handful of hours away, Texas was making a statement against West Virginia in their series opener and setting the tone for the weekend ahead.
The duo of Lucas Gordon and Porter Brown led the Longhorns to a resounding 12-2 victory over the Mountaineers. Brown was the star of the show going 4-for-5 with three home runs and eight runs driven in. Gordon went seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and improved his record to 6-1 with the win.
As Oklahoma has done in seven out of eight conference series this season, after losing the opening, they bounced back to win Friday’s middle game. The story Friday was Braden Carmichael who tossed a four-hit complete game shutout as the Sooners took game two 5-0. Two RBI by catcher Easton Carmichael was more than enough offense for the Sooners in getting the series back to even.
In Austin, the Longhorns topped the Mountaineers 10-4. Texas got two-hits games out of the first three batters in the lineup to lead the offense. Jared Thomas, Dylan Campbell, and Trey Kennedy each drove in two runs. Right-hander Lebarron Johnson threw 5 1/3 innings for the Longhorns and allowed just two runs and had eleven strikeouts.
After being shut out on Friday, Oklahoma State once again got going offensively and wiped out the Sooners 11-1 to take the Bedlam Series in the Saturday finale. Nolan Schubart led the way for the Cowboys going 3-for-4 with five runs driven in, and two doubles to go along with a two-run home run. Ben Abram was solid on the mound for Oklahoma State as he went five innings and allowed just one earned run before giving the ball to the bullpen.
The Sooners only mustered six hits in the contest. The Cowboys scored two or more runs on four of the six Oklahoma pitchers that took the mound on Saturday. Oklahoma State got a strong relief outing from Isaac Stebens who went 3 1/3 innings in his final tune-up before the conference championship. Stebens was very effective and allowed just two hits and added two strikeouts.
Texas jumped out to a 6-0 lead after three innings on Saturday on their way to a 7-3 victory to complete the series sweep. Texas shortstop Jalin Flores had two hits and three RBI in the Saturday win. Tanner Witt tossed three scoreless frames for the Longhorns and looks to be gaining strength just as Texas hopes to make another run into late June.
Texas head coach David Pierce, whose team had the steepest hill to climb to the championship entering the weekend, summed up his team's season and mental toughness after completing the sweep Saturday.
“We kind of went from the impossible to the improbable to the champions,” Pierce said. “They never listened to the distractions, never gave in.”
Noting his team's level of confidence right now and heading into the conference championship, Pierce added, “That lineup that we’re putting out there right now is very confident.”
That is not good news for the rest of the eight team field headed to Arlington to take on the top seed in the Longhorns.
Looking Ahead to Arlington
When the dust settled late on Saturday afternoon, Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State were able to make a claim on the Big 12 regular season title.
with Texas as the top seed when the Championship gets going in Arlington on Wednesday.
Championship seeding was determined by team records among the three tied teams against each other. Texas, having gone 4-2 against the Cowboys and Mountaineers, took the top spot. Oklahoma State was 3-3 against the field, good enough for the second spot. West Virginia was 2-4 to take the third seed.
Texas heads to Arlington with the most momentum after their sweep, and Oklahoma State enters having won a road series, including the final game of the season. West Virginia limps into the championship having been swept and having seen their top spot result in a three seed in the span of 48 hours. The Mountaineers might have also seen their chance at hosting a NCAA regional go up in smoke in south Texas heat.