Big 12 Softball Power Rankings: Three Sweeps Draw Starting Line in the Sand
The first weekend of conference play in Big 12 softball has come and past, leaving us to look at the results and suffice what will happen moving forward.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas have been ranked in or around the top ten all season, with the Sooners and Cowgirls holding the top two spots in the country. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that the three went a combined 9-0 to open up Big 12 play against Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas Tech, respectively.
Now, that trio has earned a bit of a head start against their opponents, with each of them holding a three-game lead over the Bears, Red Raiders, and Cyclones.
However, we did learn a few things about the second tier of teams in this conference. First of all, Texas Tech had a chance and arguably should’ve won one, if no two, games in Austin this weekend. Another observation tells us that Baylor had the Cowgirls on the ropes in Game 1 of their series before the Cowgirls took command.
The Big 12 race is going to be a fun one this season, with Texas Tech and Baylor proving to be more capable teams than a year ago.
Here’s the latest Big 12 Softball Power Rankings from Heartland College Sports.
1. OKLAHOMA (30-1, 3-0); LAST WEEK: 1
Oklahoma allowed four hits all weekend, including one-hit performances from Alex Storako (Game 1) and Jordy Bahl (Game 3), and scored 26 runs against Iowa State to kick off conference play with a sweep. The Sooners were expected to win this series going away, and that’s just what they did. The Sooners started the weekend off slow with a 3-0 win over the Cyclones in a game that went the full seven innings. After that, it was run-rule victories for Patty Gasso’s squad, their 17th and 18th mercy-rule victories of the season. Oklahoma has now won 22 games in a row and will welcome No. 8 Texas to town this weekend.
2. OKLAHOMA STATE (29-2, 3-0); LAST WEEK: 2
In Game 1 against Baylor, the Cowgirls and Bears duked it out for 11 innings before Oklahoma State pulled ahead on a Megan Bloodworth RBI single to walk it off, 6-5. From then on, it was all OSU, as the home team outscored Baylor 10-1 over the last two games of the weekend. Lexi Kilfoyl continues to round into shape as a reliable arm for the Cowgirls, while Kelly Maxwell expanded her strikeout total to 125 on the season, which leads the Big 12. Oklahoma State gets the weekend off in conference play, instead taking on Incarnate Word in a Saturday doubleheader.
3. TEXAS (30-5-1, 3-0); LAST WEEK: 3
Despite fronting Texas Tech leads in two of three this weekend, Texas was able to open up conference play with a sweep over a Red Raiders team that appears to be better than advertised. Texas’ balanced offense and young talent in the circle has made this a team to watch in the Big 12 race, and the national rankings as well. Citlaly Gutierrez and Mac Morgan have elevated the pitching staff in Austin, with Sophia Simpson and Estelle Czech already having tournament experience from last season’s run. The Longhorns will get their biggest test of the season this weekend, with a road trip to No. 1 Oklahoma.
4. TEXAS TECH (26-11, 0-3); LAST WEEK: 4
Texas Tech might not have won a game against Texas, but the Red Raiders had more than a puncher’s chance to take each of the first two contests. Despite not being able to hang on for monumental wins, I saw enough from Texas Tech to determine that this team could make the NCAA Tournament if some thing go their way. Series against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are going to be tough, but if they can win the rest of their series, and some of them withs sweeps, Tech should have a resume worthy of a tournament bid. This weekend, TTU has a chance to get right agaisnt the last place Iowa State Cyclones at home.
5. BAYLOR (23-8, 0-3); LAST WEEK: 5
After taking Oklahoma State to 11 innings on Friday, I thought we might be in for one heck of a series between the Bears and Cowgirls. However, the No. 2 team in the country proved to be too much for Baylor, dominating Game 2 and Game 3. Without dynamic playmaker Aliyah Binford in the mix, Baylor has seemed to lose a bit of the edge that it had against Oklahoma and Maryland earlier in the season. If the can find a way to overcome that, Baylor can definitely make the tournament. But, if they keep sliding, Baylor might miss the chance to capatilize on their early success. On deck this week? Kansas, in Waco. Baylor needs to get their broom out for this one.
6. KANSAS (17-12, 0-0); LAST WEEK: 6
After a midweek loss to No. 22 Wichita State, the Kansas Jayhawks got to rest up this weekend. A solo game on Tuesday against Kansas City is the only thing left between them and the start of conference play against Baylor. I’m not sold on Kansas as a conference contender just yet, although Olivia Bruno and Lyric Moore have been great. As the only team in the conference to not start play yet, Kansas sits at fourth right now in the standings, but that will change after this weekend.
7. IOWA STATE (11-17, 0-3); LAST WEEK: 7
Iowa State looked to make things difficult for the Sooners, and seemed to have found something in the circle on Friday, limiting OU to just three runs in a good outing for the Cyclones. However, two games later, the Sooners had 26 combined runs and held Iowa State to just three all weekend. That’s not winning softball, despite it being against the gold standard in softball. This week, Iowa State travels to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech in what should be an interesting series. The Red Raiders look like they’re on the verge of being a contender in the Big 12 race, but will need to prove it by handling the Cyclones at home.