By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Texas dominated the Big 12 Conference's regular season, setting records for longest winning streak, conference victories and winning percentage. Now, the question is whether the Longhorns can add a Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship title this week.
Texas (46-8, 24-3) is ranked No. 1 in the nation and has won 28 of its last 29 games. The Longhorns closed out the regular season with a sweep at Missouri over the weekend. UT opens postseason play with a rematch against the eighth-seeded Tigers (27-25, 10-16). Texas will play Missouri at 12:30 p.m. in the second game of Wednesday's four-game set.
No. 4 seed Texas A&M (36-19-1, 14-12-1) faces No. 5 seed Texas Tech (27-27, 13-14) at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Third-seeded Kansas State (35-18, 14-12) plays No. 6 seed Baylor (31-21, 12-13) at 4 p.m. with the final game at 7:30 p.m. matching second-seeded Oklahoma (42-14, 15-10) against seventh-seeded Kansas (31-24-1, 11-15-1). The OU-KU game is also a rematch of the final series of the regular season; the Sooners swept the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
The Longhorns could be without infield anchor Brandon Loy. The junior shortstop saw his starting streak of 119 games end when he sat out the final two games at Missouri. He has a bruise on his left shoulder that limits his range of motion. Loy underwent an MRI Sunday. Texas can afford to be cautious and make sure Loy is healthy for the NCAA Tournament.
"We're not sure what's causing the pain because there's no structural damage," UT coach Augie Garrido told the Austin American-Statesman. "The MRI showed a contusion, and we think the swelling is affecting the nerves and that's what is causing his pain.
"We've got some time here, so that's a good thing. We're going to go with full treatment and wait until the swelling goes down. Obviously we like (having) him in the lineup, but our goal is to have him for regionals. So we're not going to play him this week unless he's 100 percent."
Two teams other than Texas are playing at a high level. Oklahoma has won 15 of its last 18 games while Texas A&M has won 11 of its last 13.
"I'm really proud of the way we finished the regular season, but we leave tomorrow on a business trip," A&M coach Rob Childress said. "We're going up there to win a championship, and come home with a trophy and a ring. Anything less will be disappointing."
Preview capsules for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship starting Wednesday. Teams are listed in their seed order.
No. 1 Texas
Record: 46-8 overall, 24-3 in Big 12, 1st.
Last 10 games: 9-1.
Coach: Augie Garrido.
Top hitters: DH Russell Moldenhauer (.349 average, 6 home runs, 31 RBI), RF Kevin Keyes (.307, 13 home runs, 52 RBI, 12 stolen bases), 3B Kevin Lusson, .259, 12 home runs, 42 RBI), LF Cole Walla (.340, 8 home runs, 37 RBI, 13 stolen bases), 1B Tant Shepherd, .347, 7 home runs, 32 RBI, 14 stolen bases).
Top pitchers: Chance Ruffin (6-1, 0.81 ERA, 13 saves), Cole Green (10-0, 2.08 ERA), Taylor Jungmann (6-2, 2.20 ERA, 110 strikeouts), Brandon Workman (11-1, 3.67 ERA).
Extra bases: Texas is the No. 1 seed for the sixth time, more than any other team. However, three times as the top seed the Longhorns have lost their Big 12 tourney opener. … The Longhorns have won six Big 12 regular-season titles (2002, ‘04, ’06, 07, ’09 and ‘10), including four of the last five. … Texas set a conference record for consecutive victories (17) and for victories (24). The previous record for Big 12 victories was 23 and was shared by three teams in three different seasons. … UT has set a school single-season record with 71 home runs. The previous record of 69 was set in 2007. … For the fourth straight week, Texas is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA and USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ polls.
Big 12 Championship history: Texas will try to match Nebraska’s three consecutive Big 12 Championship titles. The Longhorns have won the event the last two seasons. Texas and Nebraska have each won the championship four times.
No. 2 Oklahoma
Record: 42-14 overall, 15-10 in Big 12, 2nd.
Last 10 games: 8-2.
Coach: Sunny Golloway.
Top hitters: 3B Garrett Buechele (.387 average, 13 home runs, 59 RBI), 1B Cameron Seitzer (.331, 14 home runs, 51 RBI), LF Max White (.321, 14 home runs, 39 RBI), CF Chris Ellison (.347, 20 stolen bases).
Top pitchers: Jack Mayfield (4-0, 2.13 ERA), Zach Neal (8-2, 4.15 ERA), Jeremy Erben (6-1, 3.99 ERA), Ryan Duke (1-1, 11 saves, 3.00 ERA).
Extra bases: Oklahoma’s sweep of Kansas over the weekend was the Sooners’ first Big 12 series sweep this season. … The Sooners finished second in the Big 12 regular-season standings, matching their 2009 finish. It’s the first time OU has had consecutive top-two finishes in the Big 12. The last time the Sooners had back-to-back top-two regular season finishes as in 1994 and 1995 in the Big Eight Conference. Both of those OU teams reached the College World Series. … Oklahoma’s 42 regular-season victories is the most since 1989. … The Sooners have won 15 of their last 18 games. … Junior Ryan Duke is 11-for-11 in save opportunities and his 11 saves are second in the Big 12. He needs two more saves to set the OU career record; Duke has 28 career saves.
Big 12 Championship history: Oklahoma won the first Big 12 Championship in 2007. The tournament then was a double-elimination format with six teams and the Sooners came back through the loser’s bracket to win the title.
No. 3 Kansas State
Record: 35-18 overall, 14-12 in Big 12, 3rd.
Last 10 games: 4-6.
Coach: Brad Hill.
Top hitters: SS Carter Jurica (.368 average, 16 doubles, 11 home runs, 65 RBI), CF Nick Martini (.417, 16 doubles, 51 RBI), 1B Kent Urban (.274, 4 home runs, 38 RBI), 3B Adam Muenster (.389, 18 doubles, 32 RBI).
Top pitchers: Evan Marshall (5-3, 3.74 ERA), Kyle Hunter (8-2, 4.19 ERA), Justin Lindsey (4-3, 5.68 ERA), James Allen (5-0, 2.20 ERA, 7 saves).
Extra bases: The Wildcats’ 14 Big 12 victories matched the school record set last season. … Senior catcher Daniel Dellasega has been hit by a school- and Big 12-record 26 pitches this season. The NCAA single-season record for HBPs is 35. … The Wildcats have recorded 101 hit batsmen this season. Kansas State leads the Big 12 in hitting with a .324 average. … The Wildcats’ 35 home runs are the fewest in the Big 12 but they’re second in runs scored. … Nick Martini was named Big 12 co-player of the year. He’s the first Kansas State player to receive that award. The Wildcats’ A.J. Morris was named pitcher of the year last season.
Big 12 Championship history: Kansas State qualified for the Big 12 Championship for the fourth consecutive year. In the first 10 seasons of the Big 12, the Wildcats participated just once. Their No. 3 finish in the standings and their No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Championship are school records. Kansas State reached the Big 12 Championship game in 2008.
No. 4 Texas A&M
Record: 36-19-1 overall, 14-12-1 in Big 12, 4th.
Last 10 games: 8-2.
Coach: Rob Childress.
Top hitters: SS Brodie Greene (.376 average, 15 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBI, 20 stolen bases), 1B/DH Joe Patterson (.364, 7 home runs, 39 RBI), 3B Caleb Shofner (.333, 6 home runs, 31 RBI).
Top pitchers: John Stilson (7-1, 0.98 ERA, 9 saves), Michael Wacha (7-2, 2.41 ERA), Barret Loux (9-2, 2.53 ERA), Ross Stripling (6-3, 3.86 ERA).
Extra bases: Texas A&M is 12-3 in May, a school record for victories in the month. During the month, the Aggies are hitting .326, averaging 7.3 runs per game and fielding at a .978 clip while the pitching staff has a 3.31 ERA for the month. … A&M has hit 22 of its 50 home runs during its last 15 games. … In his last four starts, freshman pitcher Michael Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA He has fanned 19 and allowed 22 hits over 27.2 innings in those four starts. … The Aggies are 6-8 in games against ranked teams this season. Texas A&M has won 11 of its last 13. … In Big 12 play, the Aggies have chalked up 251 strikeouts. That’s the second-most in school history in league play (the 1998 team had 275 Ks in 30 Big 12 games).
Big 12 Championship history: Texas A&M won the Big 12 Championship in 2007. The Aggies were a No. 5 seed that season. A&M lost in the championship game in 1998 and 2001.
No. 5 Texas Tech
Record: 27-27 overall, 13-14 in Big 12, 5th.
Last 10 games: 3-7.
Coach: Dan Spencer.
Top hitters: LF Michael Reed (.343 average, 20 doubles, 38 RBI), 1B Barrett Barnes (.338, 18 doubles, 12 home runs, 50 RBI), 2B Jamodrick McGruder (.331, 7 home runs, 32 RBI, 23 stolen bases), DH Scott LeJeune (.330, 27 doubles, 57 RBI).
Top pitchers: Bobby Doran (5-3, 4.61 ERA), Chad Bettis (6-4, 4.71 ERA, 10 saves), Ben Flora (3-2, 5.12 ERA).
Extra bases: In the preseason coaches’ poll, Texas Tech was picked to finish last in the standings. … The Red Raiders will be without Chad Bettis, their top reliever, in their Big 12 Championship opener. Bettis is serving the final game of a four-game suspension levied by the Big 12 after he threw at a Baylor hitter. … First baseman Barrett Barnes was the Big 12’s freshman of the year. In addition to hitting .338, he had 18 doubles, two triples, 12 homers and 50 RBI. … Sophomore designated hitter Scott LeJeune leads the Big 12 with 27 doubles and his 57 RBI is tops for Texas Tech. He also brings a 17-game hitting streak into the conference tournament.
Big 12 Championship history: Texas Tech won the title in 1998 after losing to Oklahoma in the championship game the previous year. The Red Raiders last qualified for the Big 12 Championship in 2006.
No. 6 Baylor
Record: 31-21 overall, 12-13 in Big 12, 6th.
Last 10 games: 6-4.
Coach: Steve Smith.
Top hitters: 3B Joey Hainsfurther (.354 average, 12 doubles, 45 RBI), CF Brooks Pinckard (.323, 25 RBI, 17 stolen bases), LF Logan Vick (.335, 51 runs, 20 RBI), 1B Max Muncy (.305, 11 home runs, 45 RBI).
Top pitchers: Logan Verrett (5-3, 2.98 ERA), Craig Fritsch (1-3, 3.34 ERA), Willie Kempf (7-2, 3.53 ERA), Shawn Tolleson (2-6, 4.67 ERA).
Extra bases: Baylor’s Brooks Pinckard was a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a utility player and he has some remarkable numbers. He has 17 steals and seven sacrifice bunts while also record 10 saves as a pitcher. … Baylor is coming off a sweep of Oklahoma State – the Bears’ first sweep of a Big 12 series since brooming Kansas on April 6, 2008. … Baylor pitchers have held opponents to five or fewer runs in 12 of its last 13 games. … The bullpen has a 19-5 record with 16 saves and a 3.06 ERA. Opposing hitters are hitting .248 against Baylor relievers. … Baylor is one of only two teams (Oklahoma is the other) to qualify for every Big 12 tournament.
Big 12 Championship history: The Bears have reached the championship game five times and came up short on each occasion. Baylor lost to Nebraska in the title games three times – in 1999, 200 and 2005. The Bears last played on the final day in 2007 when they lost to Texas A&M, 14-6.
No. 7 Kansas
Record: 31-24-1 overall, 11-15-1 in Big 12, 7th.
Last 10 games: 5-5.
Coach: Ritch Price.
Top hitters: CF Brian Heere (.403, 13 doubles, 6 home runs, 51 RBI), 2B Robby Price, .342, 19 doubles, 48 RBI), 3B Tony Thompson (.324, 6 home runs, 37 RBI), LF Jimmy Waters (.319, 9 home runs, 61 RBI).
Top pitchers: T.J. Walz (5-3, 5.19 ERA), Cameron Selik (2-2, 5.03 ERA), Tanner Poppe (1-1, 5.63 ERA), Travis Blankenship (1-4, 6.31 ERA).
Extra bases: Over its last four games (one win, three losses) Kansas has allowed 19 ninth-inning runs while scoring zero runs in the ninth. … The Jayhawks will face Oklahoma in their first Big 12 tourney game; the Sooners swept KU in Lawrence last weekend. Before the sweep, Kansas had won 10 of its last 12 games with the Sooners. “We don’t have the same swagger we had five weeks ago, and you can feel it,” KU coach Ritch Price said after his team lost late leads in all three losses. … Junior outfielder Brian Heere leads the Big 12 with 89 hits, is third with a .403 batting average and fifth with a .481 on-base percentage.
Big 12 Championship history: Kansas won the Big 12 championship in 2006. The Jayhawks were a No. 6 seed that season. Kansas failed to qualify for the first six Big 12 Championships before breaking through in 2003. This is the second time the Jayhawks have made the eight-team field in consecutive seasons.
No. 8 Missouri
Record: 27-25 overall, 10-16 in Big 12, 1st.
Last 10 games: 4-6.
Coach: Tim Jamieson.
Top hitters: 1B Aaron Senne (.410 average, 21 doubles, 16 home runs, 56 RBI), C Brett Nicholas (.365, 11 home runs, 62 RBI), SS Michael Liberto (.330, 30 RBI).
Top pitchers: Nick Tepesch (5-6, 4.42 ERA), Jeff Scardino (2-3, 4.78 ERA), Phil McCormick (6-1, 4.61 ERA).
Extra bases: A No. 8 seed has never reached the Big 12 Championship title game since the pool format was adopted in 2006. The Tigers grabbed the eighth and final seed and probably need to win the tournament and the Big 12’s automatic bid in order to reach the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive season. Missouri finished second, fourth and third in the Big 12 standings over the last three seasons. … Missouri senior first baseman Aaron Senne was named Big 12 co-player of the year and is the first Mizzou player to win the honor. … The Tigers will face Texas in their first game. The Longhorns swept Missouri in Columbia over the weekend and also beat Missouri 8-5 in the Houston College Classic earlier this season.
Big 12 Championship history: Missouri has reached the title game twice but has yet to take possession of the trophy. The Tigers lost to top seed Texas, 12-7, in last year’s championship game lost to Oklahoma State, 10-9, in 2004. That game took 13 innings and is the longest in Big 12 Championship history.