Four Big 12 baseball teams have earned top 25 preseason rankings in the USA Today Coaches’ Preseason Poll. Oklahoma State (18), Kansas State (21), Texas (22) and TCU (23) made the list, while Baylor and Oklahoma are receiving votes.
The four teams are also ranked in at least one other preseason poll with TCU and Texas among the top 25 in four preseason baseball polls entering the 2014 campaign.
Oklahoma State matches its Collegiate Baseball ranking of No. 18. OSU advanced to the NCAA Championship field last season under first-year head coach Josh Holliday. The Cowboys welcome back seven pitchers and also have a strong recruiting class, which was ranked fourth by Baseball America and fifth by the NCBWA.
Defending Big 12 champion K-State welcomes reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Ross Kivett back for his senior season along with 18 other letterwinners from its 2013 team, which advanced to the Super Regional field. The Wildcats .322 batting average in 2013 was the second-best in the nation with eight players ranked in the Big 12’s top 15 for batting average. Of those eight, six return for 2014, including Kivett, Austin Fisher, Clayton Dalyrymple, Shane Conlon, Blair DeBord and RJ Santigate. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jake Matthys will be embarking on his sophomore campaign after posting a perfect 5-0 record in 16 games against league opponents last season along with nine saves in all games.
Despite finishing 2013 last in the league, Texas earns the conference’s highest preseason ranking as the Longhorns return seven position starters and eight pitchers from last year’s team. Senior outfielder Mark Payton, who led the league with a .393 batting average last season, is among 19 lettermen returning for head coach Augie Garrido. Garrido enters his 18th year in the league 13 conference wins shy of 300. Joining Payton as key returners to this year’s UT squad are right-handers Dillon Peters and Nathan Thornhill, who both logged over 80 innings pitched last season. UT also earned a No. 2 ranking on the Baseball America recruiting class list for 2014 recruits.
TCU finished its first season in the Big 12 with a 29-28 mark and a 12-12 record in conference play, but returns seven position players from 2013 as well as pitchers Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison. Morrison posted a 7-3 mark and 1.51 ERA in 107 innings pitched a year ago, while Finnegan recorded a 3.18 ERA. Both have earned preseason All-America distinctions.
The 2014 Big 12 baseball season kicks off on February 14, with conference play beginning a month later on March 14.
BIG 12 BASEBALL IN THE PRESEASON RANKINGS
K-State: 22 - Baseball America, Perfect Game, USA Today; 28 - Collegiate Baseball
Oklahoma: RV -USA Today; 32 - Collegiate Baseball
Oklahoma State: 18 - Collegiate Baseball, USA Today; 23 - Perfect Game
TCU: 19 - Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball; 23 - USA Today
Texas: 18 - Baseball America; 20 - Collegiate Baseball; 22 - USA Today; 25 - Perfect Game