As many Big 12 fans have turned their head to football season, the conference itself now focuses on Big 12 Media Days.
Baseball season is over and it’s now a full decade since the conference has placed a team in the National Championship. Texas Tech couldn’t get past the one team it seemed to be favored over. Michigan breezed through bracket 1 without a bump in the road. Perhaps, this ouster falls on Tim Tadlock. He started a freshman pitcher in game one of the College World Series. Omaha is not Lubbock. It’s the biggest stage of college baseball. Instead of 4,000 fans, there are 24,000 fans. The entire nation is watching. Yes, Dallas struck out seven Wolverines in five innings back in March. Yes, he only surrendered one run on three hits during that outing. Dallas was downright awful in both outings at the College World Series.
Yes, he now has experience on the biggest stage of all. He should be able to bounce back and continue to have a stellar career. However, there is no Josh Jung next season. He’ll likely sign with the Texas Rangers. There is no Cameron Warren, who is graduating. The Red Raiders will have to replace the big bats they are losing, and that could mean a rebuilding year next season.
Tadlock trusted a freshman in two of the biggest games of the season. The bullpen was worn down by the second game against Michigan. The score makes it obvious. Tech’s bullpen needed a solid start. History showed Micah Dallas wasn’t going to provide that. Dallas was a Friday starter. Tadlock chose to have him throw on a Saturday. Had Caleb Killian started against Michigan, things may have been different. Killian has the experience and he outdueled Karl Kauffman in March.
Sure, you can point to the fact Michigan may be hot. They did take down the No.1 overall seed in UCLA on the road. The Pac 12 was terrible in the postseason for every major sport this year though. The Pac 12 was the only Power Five conference that did not have a team advance to the College World Series. They even had the No.1 overall seed. No.16 Oregon State was ousted in two games at their own home. Cal was the first team to be victimized by Central Connecticut State after they started 0-11 all-time in the NCAA postseason. Arizona State only beat Stony Brook, who was outscored in two games 30-8. Stanford barely won their regional before Mississippi State humiliated them 16-3 in the Super Regionals. It was an awful display by the Pac 12 Conference. Michigan took full advantage of that by winning the Corvallis Regional and the Los Angeles Super Regional. Perhaps, Michigan caught themselves the best breaks at the right times. Florida State’s scorching hot offense went ice cold. The Wolverines never had to play Arkansas. Finally, they faced a freshman twice against Texas Tech.
Thanks to the loss, Texas remains the only team during the Big 12 era to have played for a national championship. They have won two of them. In 2002, Texas claimed the title over South Carolina. Texas would advance to the National Championship two years later only to lose to Cal State Fullerton. One year later, the Longhorns take out Florida for its second National Championship in four seasons. Texas would return again in 2009, falling to LSU. Since then, the Big 12 has made several appearances in the semifinals, but has not been able to get over the hump. This despite having TCU and Oklahoma State in the catbird’s seat during the 2016 College World Series. Coastal Carolina ended up winning the College World Series after beating a solid TCU team twice. Arizona would knock off Oklahoma State twice before falling in the national championship series. TCU likely would have won the 2017 National Championship, but a season ending injury took the legendary Luken Baker out during the regular season. Even without Baker’s magical bat, the Horned Frogs still advanced to the semifinals before falling in two games to Florida.
Although Texas Tech had a stellar season, one can’t help but wonder how a team from an awful Big Ten Conference ended up winning the bracket. It’s certainly is a Cinderella story. Because the slipper fits, the Big 12 baseball season is over. With the horror that took place in game four, I declare this meeting of the midnight society closed.
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