Next Stop for WVU: Big 12 Baseball Championship in OKC
The Mountaineer baseball team heads to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City this week for the 2018 Big 12 Championship.
The league features nine baseball programs (Iowa State does not field a team), and the top eight qualify each year for the league’s postseason tournament. Kansas State did not make it to OKC this year.
West Virginia has earned a spot in the Big 12 Championship every year since it joined the conference in time for the 2012-13 athletic year. As the seventh seed this season, WVU equals its lowest seed, which came in 2015, since becoming part of the Big 12.
The Mountaineers have had success in the Big 12 tournament in past seasons. It advanced to the semifinals last year and made it all the way to the title game in 2016 before falling to TCU in extra innings. WVU didn’t win a game in OKC in 2015, which is the only year it’s been swept out of the tourney. It did taste victories in 2013 and 2014, but was eliminated prior to the semifinal round.
As the seventh seed this year, West Virginia (27-25 overall and 9-15 in the Big 12) will open tournament play against No. 2 seed Oklahoma State (29-22-1/16-8). The two will meet at Bricktown Ballpark on Wednesday, May 23 at 5 p.m. (Eastern time). WVU took two of three games in its series against the Cowboys earlier this year at Monongalia County Ballpark April 13-15. West Virginia won 7-4 and 6-4 in the Friday and Sunday games respectively, while OSU grabbed a 10-7 victory in the middle game of the set on Saturday.
Though Oklahoma State finished second to Texas in the Big 12 standings, the Cowboys come to OKC in a bit of a slump. They’ve lost seven of their last eight games, including being swept in Stillwater in a three-game series by Texas Tech this past weekend.
The Pokes haven’t hit the ball particularly well this season, as their .260 batting average is tied for seventh in the Big 12. And their pitching ERA isn’t great either, just 5.58, which is seventh in the league. OK State does have power, though, as its 65 home runs are the second-most in the Big 12, trailing only Texas Tech’s 71. By contrast, WVU has 46 round-trippers. The Mountaineers are fourth in the Big 12 in batting average (.277) and sixth in pitching ERA (4.76). They do have good speed once they get on the base paths, as their 86 stolen bases are a conference high.
Also part of the Division Two side of the bracket with West Virginia and Oklahoma State are No. 3 Texas Tech (38-15/15-9) and No. 6 TCU (30-22/10-13). The Red Raiders are ranked No. 5 in the country according to the latest RPI, which is the best among Big 12 teams, as only No. 14 Texas is also in the top 25.
TCU and Tech will take the field at the Bricktown Ballpark on Wednesday following the conclusion of WVU-OSU.
The Horned Frogs took two of three games against TTU a few weeks ago in Fort Worth. Until its sweep of Oklahoma State this past weekend, Tech had been on a bit of slide, losing seven of its previous 10. The Red Raiders have the best offense in the Big 12, as their team batting average of .311 is twenty points higher than anyone else in the league. They lead the Big 12 in nearly every offensive category, including slugging percentage (.515), runs (457), doubles (116), triples (23) and home runs (424). Tech’s pitching (4.23 ERA) is in the middle of the pack, placing it fourth in the Big 12, and it has allowed 279 walks, which is the league’s most.
TCU had been on a roll, winning 11 of its last 13, before stumbling at Texas in the final weekend of the regular season. The Horned Frogs were swept in their three-game series in Austin, which allowed the Longhorns to leap over Oklahoma State and win their first league regular season title in seven years.
TCU is traditionally known for its pitching, and that’s the case again this year, as its ERA of 3.50 is the second best in the Big 12. That’s a contrast to its bats, which have produced an average of just .260, which is tied for seventh in the league. And the Horned Frogs’ 36 home runs on the season are the second fewest in the conference.
TCU and Texas Tech each took two of their games from WVU in their series against the Mountaineers.
The winners of the OSU-WVU and TCU-TTU opening round games will meet at 8:30 Thursday night. The losers will face an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
On the Division One side of the bracket at Bricktown, No. 4 Oklahoma (34-21/14-10) will meet No. 5 Baylor (32-19/13-11) in the first game of the Championship on Wednesday, as they will get underway at 10 a.m. No. 1 Texas (37-18/17-7) and No. 8 Kansas (26-28/8-15) will meet right after Wednesday’s first game with the scheduled start being 1:30 p.m. The winners and losers from Division One will face off on Thursday at 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.
Friday will feature two games, as the losers’ brackets are played out in the afternoon. The two teams left in the winners’ brackets get Friday off. The semifinals take place on Saturday, with the championship game involving the winner of each Division on tap for 2 p.m. on Sunday. The championship game will be televised by the Fox Sports Network (FSN), while all other games from OKC will be shown by Fox College Sports (FSC).
Most of the latest bracketology projections feature five Big 12 teams as earning spots in next week’s NCAA Tournament field of 64. Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor all are listed as gaining NCAA berths. But that would leave TCU out of the NCAA field for just the second time in the past 16 seasons. Of course the Big 12 tournament champion earns an automatic berth to the NCAAs, so that’s the one way of bypassing the selection committee.
And West Virginia will probably have to win the Big 12 championship if it hopes return to the NCAA Tournament this spring. The Mountaineers earned an at-large berth into last year’s NCAAs, the first time since 1996 that they had gone to the postseason. WVU was hoping to make back-to-back NCAA trips for the first time since 1963 and ’64, but that will now likely be determined on if it can hoist the Big 12 Championship trophy at Bricktown on Sunday.