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Big 12 Baseball Weekend Preview: April 6th-8th

Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, May 28, 2017

No.20 Oklahoma (21-10, 6-0) at TCU (14-11, 3-3)

Game 1: 6:30 p.m. CT on gofrogs.com ($ub$cription)

Game 2: 7 p.m. CT on ESPNU

Game 3: 3 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest

Away Radio: 99.3 KREF-FM, 1400 AM, TuneIn Radio App (FREE)

Home Radio: 88.7 KTCU-FM

It might be past vs. future when these two teams square off in Fort Worth this weekend. Oklahoma is off to a tremendous start in conference play under first year-manager Skip Johnson. The Sooners finished March with a 16-5 record and started Big 12 play with two sweeps. The bats have come alive and the team is currently third in overall hitting. The Sooners pitching staff adds to that solid hot streak being second overall within conference leaders for the overall season. Only Texas Tech is statistically better in both categories. While the Red Raiders hold those advantages, it has not translated into results the way it has for Oklahoma. The only question remaining for Oklahoma is: Can they compete on the road? This team is 0-3 in true road games, although two of those are midweek matchups where they probably faced the ace of a mid-major team. The lone win in their six games outside of Norman came on Opening Day against Indiana at a tournament in Myrtle Beach. Now the Sooners must face a team that opened the season with championship expectations, but has underperformed dramatically all season. TCU’s 11 losses is jaw-dropping. This team brought back a stellar pitching staff that features Jared Janczak, Nick Lodolo, Sean Wymer, and closer Durbin Feltman. Legendary slugger Luken Baker is also back, but perhaps the track record of Jim Schlossnagle brought on a big too high of expectations for a lineup that replace the majority of its regulars. TCU has failed to reload, and instead has become a team of rebuilding. The noticeable factor has been the drop off in home runs, which can be contributed to Evan Skoug taking his 20 home runs from 2017 to the Chicago White Sox. Despite this, the team batting average is currently four points higher.

Whatever the case may be, TCU is currently looking down the barrel of missing the NCAA regionals. They enter Thursday with the RPI in the Big 12 Conference at 86, and being swept by the second worst pitching staff in the Big 12 Conference does not help one bit.

Are the TCU Horned Frogs old news? Is Oklahoma the future of Big 12 Conference baseball? Or is this just a case of two teams who struggle to compete on the road? This series should tell us a lot about the future of these two programs.

Oklahoma Players to watch: Brady Lindsly (.354 avg., 10 doubles, triple, 20 RBIs, 14 runs); Steele Walker (.321 avg., 3 HR, 6 doubles, 21 RBIs, 22 runs) Cade Harris (.308 avg., 13 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 33 runs, 17 RBIs, 28 BB, 5 stolen bases); Kyle Mendenhall (.305 avg., 3 HR, 5 doubles, triple, 20 runs, 27 RBIs)

TCU Players to watch: Michael Landestoy (.337 avg., HR, 4 doubles, 12 runs, 18 RBIs, 3 stolen bases); Josh Watson (.330 avg., 4 HR, 5 doubles, triple, 24 runs, 17 RBIs, 22 BB, 5 stolen bases); Luke Baker (.279 avg., 6 HR, 2 doubles, 17 runs, 17 RBIs)

Probable Matchups:

Friday: RHP Jake Irvin, Jr. (5-0, 2.27 ERA) vs. RHP Jared Janczak RS Jr. (1-1, 3.07 ERA)

Saturday: RHP Devon Perez, Sr. (3-0, 2.27 ERA) vs. LHP Nick Lodolo, So. (4-1, 4.41 ERA)

Sunday: RHP Nathan Wiles, (2-1, 3.90 ERA) vs. RHP Sean Wymer, Jr. (1-1, 4.60 ERA)

Closer: RHP Connor Berry (5 saves, 2.19 ERA, 1-1) vs. Durbin Feltmann (3 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0-0)

 

No.7 Texas Tech (24-6, 3-3) at Kansas (17-11, 2-4)

Game 1: 1 p.m. CT

Game 2: 2 p.m. CT

Game 3: 1 p.m. CT

Video: ESPN3, Watch ESPN

Away Radio: 93.7 FM in Lubbock, 93.7 app, TuneIn Radio app (FREE)

Home Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network, Kansas Jayhawks app (FREE)

With offenses like these, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mike Leach and Mark Mangino managing in the dugouts. Despite these two fanbases lustering for their returns to the gridiron sidelines, that’s not who is propelling these teams forward. Instead, it will be two coaches who have made their names synonymous with their programs: Ritch Price, whose managed Kansas for 15 years vs. Tim Tadlock, whose taken Texas Tech to its first two College World Series appearances.

The two squads have combined for 59 home runs, 59 stolen bases, 23 triples and 113 doubles this season. Texas Tech, alone, has crossed home plate 238 times in just its 30 games this season. The offensive explosion should be a lot of fun, but outside of it being Big 12 No.1 offense (Tech) vs. Big 12 No.2 offense (Kansas), it’s a complete and utter mismatch. Tech owns the best pitching staff in the league with a 3.23 ERA. Meanwhile, Kansas boasts the league’s worst defense with 44 errors.

On paper, this is a terrible matchup for Kansas. However, the games aren’t played on paper. Just ask the Baylor Bears. Baylor played both of these teams at home. While they dropped the series to this young Kansas squad, they claimed the series against National Championship-caliber Texas Tech. It’s been an unpredictable Big 12 season so far, and this series should be one of the most fun to watch.

Texas Tech Players to watch: Grant Little (.398 avg., 5 HR, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 30 runs, 28 RBIs, 5 stolen bases); Gabe Holt (.385 avg., 28 runs, 19 RBIs, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR, 15 stolen bases); Josh Jung (.371 avg., 32 runs, 5 HR, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 34 RBIs); Cameron Warren (.337 avg., 4 HR, 7 doubles, 21 runs, 26 RBIs

Kansas Players to watch: Jaxx Groshans (.367, 3 HR, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 24 RBis, 16 runs) Brett Vosik (.378 avg. 6 doubles, triple, 15 runs, 12 RBIs); Devin Foyle (.333 avg., 4 HR, 10 doubles, triple, 22 RBIs, 24 runs, 6 stolen bases); Owen Taylor (.325 avg, 4 HR, 5 doubles, triple, 19 RBIs, 13 runs)

Probable Matchups:

Friday: RHP Davis Martin, Jr. (4-2, 2.50 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Davis, Sr. (0-1, 4.98 ERA

Saturday: RHP Caleb Kilian, So. (3-1, 1.07 ERA) vs. LHP Taylor Turski , Sr.(1-4, 5.82 ERA)

Sunday: RHP John McMillon, So. (4-0, 2.95 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Zeferjahn, So. (5-1, 2.59 ERA)

Closer:  Saves by committee vs. Zack Leban (10 saves, 3.26 ERA, 1-0)

Oklahoma State (15-11-1, 4-2) at Kansas State (15-14, 2-4)

Game 1: 2 p.m. CT Saturday on Cox Channel Kansas

Game 2: 2 p.m. CT Sunday on ESPN3

Game 3: 1 p.m. CT Monday on ESPN3

Away Radio: KSPI 93.7 FM

Home Radio: 1350 AM KMAN

Was it an April Fool’s Joke, or can the two teams with the worst pitching staffs make a run? Kansas State took the series from Texas one week ago after being swept by a struggling TCU squad. The TCU series wasn’t even close as the Horned Frogs shutout the Wildcats in a Sunday game while outscoring them 22-4. Kansas State would return home and claim the first two victories of the series against Texas. The Wildcats looked like they were going to pull off the sweep up 5-2 early Sunday, but the Longhorns scored seven runs in the fifth inning to pull Kansas State back down to Earth.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has to be on cloud nine after sweeping the same TCU squad that swept Kansas State. Jon Littell garnered NCBWA National Hitter of he Week honors after a week that saw him go 9-for-15 at the plate with three doubles, two triples, four RBIs, nine runs, five walks and a stolen base.

These two teams garner the worst two pitching staffs in the Big 12 Conference. Both feature ERAs over five. Whoever wins this series will have at least a .500 conference record and has to feel good moving forward. If Oklahoma State wins, they’ll have thrown their hat into an early Big 12 crown discussion.

Oklahoma State Players to watch: Jon Littell (NCBWA National Hitter of the Week March 26- April 1, .271 avg., 3 HR, 6 doubles, 3 triples, 16 runs, 18 RBIs); Colin Simpson (.306 avg., 8 home runs, 28 RBIs, 8 doubles, 22 runs);

Kansas State Players to watch: Will Brennan (.372 avg. 31 runs, 15 RBIs, 9 doubles, triple, 13 stolen bases); TK McWhertor (.354 avg., home run, 8 runs, 3 RBIs); Drew Mount (.284 avg., 8 HR, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 24 runs, 32 RBIs, 17 stolen bases)

Probable Matchups:

Friday: RHP Joe Lienhard, Jr. (2-1, 4.75 ERA) vs. RHP Kasey Ford, So. (4-1, 4.43 ERA)

Saturday: LHP Carson Teel, Jr. (3-1, 2.84 ERA) vs. RHP Gabe Littlejim, Jr. (1-4, 7.53 ERA)

Sunday: RHP Jonathan Heasley, So. (2-3, 7.75 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Heskett, Sr. (2-3, 4.46 ERA)

Staffs: KSU (5.21 ERA, 4.12 BB/9, 6.83 K/9) OSU (5.19 ERA, 5.68 BB/9, 8.39 K/9)

 

Baylor (14-13, 3-6) at Texas (19-12, 6-3)

Game 1: 6:30 p.m. CT Friday

Game 2: 4 p.m. CT Saturday

Game 3: 1:30 p.m. CT Sunday

Away Radio: KRZI 1660 AM in Waco and BaylorBears.com ($ub$cription)

Home Radio: 104.9 The Horn in Austin

Television: Longhorn Network

You know that feeling when you think you’ve turned a new leaf, but then returned to the bad habit you’ve tried to kick? Well, I don’t but a friend of mine told me about it. And that friend resembles these two teams. Baylor and Texas were hovering around .500 at the end of pre-conference play. Then they surprised everyone the first week of conference play. Since that first weekend of conference play, Baylor is 1-5 while Texas is 3-3 against Big 12 teams. The Longhorns just dropped a series at Kansas State. Baylor was swept by Oklahoma last week. This series can make or break a team. Winning it can turn the season around. Losing it can send you into a freefall.

Baylor players to watch: Andy Thomas (.363 avg., HR, 4 doubles, 13 runs, 10 RBIs, 22 BB, 3 stolen bases); Davis Wendzel (.284 avg., 2 HR, 9 doubles, 18 runs, 19 BB, 12 RBIs); Shea Langeliers (.241 avg., 7 HR, 7 doubles, triple, 22 runs, 23 RBIs)

Texas players to watch: Kody Clemens (.357 avg., 8 HR, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 28 runs, 30 RBIs, 4 stolen bases); Tate Shaw (.298 avg., 8 doubles, 3 triples, 15 runs, 11 RBIs); Zach Zubia (.275 avg., 5 HR, 5 doubles, triple, 13 runs, 25 RBIs); Masen Hibbeler (.287 avg., 2 HR, 2 triples, 5 doubles, 8 stolen bases, 27 runs, 17 RBIs)

Probable Mathcups:

Friday: RHP Hayden Kettler, So. (3-2, 2.93 ERA) vs. RHP Nolan Kingham, Jr. (4-2, 3.92 ERA)

Saturday: TBA vs. RHP Chase Shugart, Jr. (2-2, 5.72 ERA)

Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Blair Henley, So. (4-3, 3.19 ERA)

Closers: RHP Troy Montemayor, Sr. (7 saves, 0.79 ERA, 0-1) vs. RHP Beau Ridgeway, Jr. (3 saves, 9.00 ERA, 1-2)

UNLV (22-9) at West Virginia (11-14)

Game 1: Noon ET Friday

Game 2: After game 1 Friday

Game 3: Noon ET Sunday

Video: wvusports.com/watch (FREE) and Mountaineer Gameday App

Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG, TuneIn Radio App, and Mountaineer Gameday App

The tables have turned. West Virginia gets to take a break from crossing the mighty Mississippi River, and instead welcomes a team from the Pacific time zone. This is a golden opportunity to not only play in front of the rabid Mountaineers fans, but also to gain a series victory over a solid opponent. While we swing the home advantage pendulum into West Virginia’s side of the things, UNLV is no slouch. Their hitters rank in the nationally top 10 for several categories, including Bryson Stott leading the nation in doubles. This is a high-powered offense and West Virginia’s pitching isn’t exactly the strongest around. Meanwhile, when West Virginia takes the field Friday morning, it will be just the fifth time this season they have played at Monongalia County Ballpark. This will mark the first of four consecutive weekends that West Virginia plays at home. Will this turn their season around? How important is the home field advantage for the Mountaineers? April will certainly be an indicator as to whether this team just couldn’t handle high expectations or if they’re just completely jet-lagged into a losing record.

West Virginia Players to Watch: Kyle Gray (.272 avg., 5 HR, 2 triples, 16 runs, 10 RBIs, 4 doubles); Jimmy Galusky (.238 avg., 5 HR, 4 doubles, 14 runs, 13 RBIs, 6 stolen bases)

UNLV Players to Watch: Bryson Stott (.406 avg., 3 HR, 2 triples, NCAA leading 17 doubles, 18 BB, 7 stolen bases, 36 runs, 22 RBI); Kyle Isbel (.382 avg., 9 HR, 3 triples, 9 doubles, 34 runs, 35 RBIs, 4 stolen bases); Nick Rodriguez (.344 avg., 5 HR, triple, 8 doubles, 30 runs, 28 RBIs); Max Smith (.336 avg., 5 HR, triple, 11 doubles, 22 runs, 25 RBIs)

Probable match ups are uncertain due to altered rotations and schedules.

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