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Previewing the 2016 Big 12 Baseball Tournament



While every team heads into the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City at a different stage, each team is just four wins away from a coveted automatic regional bid.

The way I see it these teams can be put into three groups:

• Contenders
• Wild cards
• Rest of the pack

All three of the contenders will be in the regionals no matter what happens this week. The wild cards all have something prove if they want to earn an at-large bid to participate in the postseason. While the rest, well, they will need a prayer to win the conference tournament and earn the automatic bid just like Texas did in last year’s tournament.


No. 1 Texas Tech (40-14) vs. No. 8 Kansas State (26-29)
No. 2 Oklahoma State (35-18) vs. No. 7 Texas (22-30)
No. 3 TCU (38-14) vs. No. 6 Baylor (24-27)
No. 4 West Virginia (33-21) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (28-25-1)

The Contenders

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders became the first non-OSU or TCU team to win the conference regular season title since Kansas State won it in 2013. Texas Tech comes in at No. 6 in the latest Top 25 poll and it’s been a mainstay in the top 10 for most of the season.

Texas Tech’s offense is led by Big 12 Player of Year Eric Gutierrez who hit .347 with 12 HRs and a conference-leading 51 RBIs on the season. The Red Raiders rely on two freshmen at the top of their rotation, Davis Martin (8-0, 2.19 ERA) and Steven Gingery (4-1, 2.72 ERA).

Regardless of the outcome in the conference tournament, Texas Tech will be a regional host and likely a national seed.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have not produced the way many expected them to offensively during the regular with a .259 team average, which is the worst mark in the conference. However, the weak offense has been countered by the best pitching staff in the Big 12.

Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Thomas Hatch and Jensen Elliott have combined for 14 wins on the season and Tyler Buffett has nine saves giving the Pokes a reliable staff top-to-bottom. Donnie Walton (.348 avg.) and J.R. Davis (.347) provide a punch at the top of the order, but there is a considerable drop after that.

With a 28 RPI the Cowboys are on the outside of the regional hosting picture. However, a run to the championship would likely involve win over TCU and Tech, which could be enough to propel the Cowboys into a hosting spot.

OSU’s pitching can compete with any team in the country, but the offense will determine how far the Pokes go in the postseason.

TCU: Coach Jim Schlossnaggle had quite a bit of talent to replace from last season’s CWS team. While this team is young, TCU still managed to go 38-14 in the regular season. The Horned Frogs are built the same way just with different names this year.

TCU is tied with OSU for the best team ERA in the conference at 3.19. Freshman Dalton Horton (8-0, 2.35 ERA) leads a strong rotation, but it’s the bullpen that is the strength of this club. The Horned Frogs boast four relievers with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Elliott Barzilli (.372 avg.), Dane Steinhagen (.312) and Evan Skoug (.301) have postseason experience that could lead TCU back to Omaha. While they’re the No. 3 seed, a veteran lineup and a solid bullpen could lead this team to tourney title and possible regional host spot.

Wild Cards

West Virginia: No team was hotter than WVU at the end of the year. The Mountaineers went 13-3 in their last 16 games of the regular season. WVU won a series over OSU in April and played TTU very tough at the end of the season and are very capable of competing with the top teams in the conference.

Ace Chad Donato (3-4. 3.32 ERA) is a seasoned veteran and should not be rattled by the postseason stage. However, Donato is the only WVU starter with a sub-4.00 ERA, which could limit how far the Mountaineers go in the postseason.

West Virginia needs to repair an RPI of 75 with some big wins in the conference tourney for any chance a regional bid. The Mountaineers should come out motivated as o team has more to gain from a solid week than they.

Oklahoma: The Sooners are another team that is getting hot at the right time, pushing their record over .500 at the end of the year after hovering under that mark for most of the season. Oklahoma has impressive series wins over WVU and OSU, but also dropped a series to Kansas making them one of the more unpredictable teams in the field.

OU’s offense has been incredibly reliant on Sheldon Neuse who leads the team with a .376 average and 10 HR’s. In fact, Neuse is the only hitter above .300 and the only one with double-digit home runs; did I mention he also has five saves?

The Sooners will need to get consistency out of their rotation, something they haven’t gotten all year if they’re going to make a postseason run. This team will essentially go as far as Neuse can carry them.

Texas: It’s impossible to count out the Longhorns in what is likely to be Augie Garrido’s final run. Texas stormed past OSU in the tournament championship last season capping off an improbable run to the regionals. While its 11-14 conference record is underwhelming, UT has series victories over TCU and Tech this year, the only the only team in the conference to do so.

Strong pitching did it last year for the Longhorns and this year’s staff has the third best ERA in the conference (3.93). Ty Culbreth (8-3, 3.39 ERA) has been the best of the bunch this year, but a lackluster offense has limited the win totals for the rest of the staff. A .261 average and just 30 home runs isn’t enough to get it done in the Big 12.

Texas is truest of “wild cards” heading into this week, but Garrido has done it before and no one will be surprised if he does it again.

The Rest

Baylor: The Bears had gone the entire season without an impressive series win before taking two of three from TCU and Texas and the end of the year. Baylor enters the tournament with some momentum, but I don’t believe this team has enough talent to make any noise.

Closer Troy Montemayor was the only standout for Baylor this season with a league-leading 14 saves and a 0.78 ERA. Montemayor made 24 appearances, but only logged 23 innings on the season. With its best player only pitching an inning every other game Baylor should be heading home early.

Kansas StateThe Wildcats finished the conference season with an 8-16 record, which was barely good enough to claim the No. 8 seed over in-state rival Kansas. In a pitching-heavy league a 4.86 team ERA is nowhere near good enough to be competitive.

First basemen Jake Scudder (.336/.398/.512) can hit enough to keep the Wildcats in games, but the pitching is not strong enough to win them. Mitch Zubradt (17 Apps, 2.88 ERA) and Lucas Benenati (22 App, 2.89 ERA) have been bright spots out of the bullpen, but poor starting performances will send K-State home after two games.


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