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Big 12 Softball Preview: Bedlam Series to Decide a Champion in Three-Team Race

The final weekend of the 2024 college softball regular season has arrived, and we have ourselves an unforgettable conference race in the Big 12.

Three of the nation’s top four teams are jockeying for the crown, with No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Oklahoma, and No. 4 Oklahoma State all within two games of each other entering Week 13.

It’s officially May, and that means the intensity and pressure knobs are turned all the way up. Someone is walking away from this weekend with a Big 12 Regular Season Trophy, but who will it be?

Let’s take a look at the biggest storylines for the final week of the year.

 

Kelly Maxwell vs. Her Former Team

There just aren’t many moments in college athletics like we’ll get the chance to see this weekend. Kelly Maxwell, one of the most decorated players in Oklahoma State softball history, will be facing her former team this weekend, and she’ll do it as a member of their biggest rival. For context, this would be the college football equivalent to Ollie Gordon leaving to go to Oklahoma and then facing the Cowboys with the Big 12 title on the line.

Maxwell’s decision to play for Patty Gasso in Norman didn’t sit well with former coach Kenny Gajewski, who said he was disappointed that she ended up at OU. Now, the two powerhouse programs will face off for the first time since she made the jump, and there couldn’t be more on the line. In her lone season with Oklahoma, Maxwell has become the Sooners’ go-to option, leading the Sooners with 101.0 IP and 107 strikeouts on the year. Her 1.66 ERA ranks fifth in the Big 12 and second on the team behind Kierston Deal (1.00 ERA). One of the few pitchers in the league to have more work than her this season is Oklahoma State’s Lexi Kilfoyl, who has thrown 14 complete games and 132.1 IP.

In all likelihood, we will have a Maxwell vs. Kilfoyl pitching matchup on Friday night, and if that doesn’t get your heart pumping, I don’t know what will.

 

Texas’s Big Chance in Lubbock

Texas goes into the final weekend of the regular season with all of their goals still intact, and much of that dates back to their biggest series victory of the last decade over Oklahoma last month.

Fast forward to the first weekend in May and Texas has won 13 straight games, is ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation, and has a chance to win the Big 12 regular season title this weekend–something nobody other than Oklahoma has done since 2011.

Ending that streak for the Sooners would be so sweet for Mike White and the Longhorns, and to do it right as both teams are leaving for the SEC would make it even sweeter. But Texas will have to take care of its own business and hope that the dominoes fall for them in Norman.

Sweeping Texas Tech is the first and most important step for the Longhorns. If they drop just one game to their rivals in Lubbock, their chances of winning the Big 12 are shot. However, if they can sweep the Red Raiders and Oklahoma State can steal one game from the Sooners, then Texas will be in business.

 

The Big 12 Race is Set for a Photo Finish

Where else could we possibly start? There aren’t many conference tournament’s that feature three top-four teams, but that’s what the Big 12 has on its hands with Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Take a look at the tale of the tape before we break it down.

Current Big 12 Standings (May 1, 2024)

  1. Oklahoma 45-4 (21-3)
    • Losses: Texas (2x), BYU
  2. Texas 42-6 (20-4)
    • Losses: Houston, Oklahoma State (2x), Oklahoma
  3. Oklahoma State 42-8 (19-5)
    • Losses: Baylor, BYU, Texas, Iowa State (2x)

Now, there’s a scenario in which all three teams listed above can walk away as regular-season Big 12 champions, plus the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament. Here’s what has to happen for each team.

Oklahoma wins the Big 12 if…

  • OU sweeps OSU
  • OU wins series vs. OSU + 1 UT Loss to TTU

Texas wins the Big 12 if…

  • UT sweeps TTU +1 OU Loss

Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 if…

  • OSU beats OU + 1 UT Loss
  • OSU sweeps OU + 1 UT Loss

With so much at stake and all three teams playing as well as they are to this point, this weekend is likely to be one of the most memorable in recent history.

How Many Big 12 Teams Will Make the NCAA Tournament?

Heading into the last weekend of the regular season, it appears that seven Big 12 teams are above or at the cut line for the NCAA Tournament. Typically, teams inside the top 40-45 of the RPI have a good chance of landing in the postseason. As of now, just three teams in the league are on the outside looking in.

Big 12 Softball RPI Rankings (May 1, 2024)

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
11. Oklahoma State
18. Baylor
33. Texas Tech
35. UCF
42. Kansas
————–
60. BYU
85. Houston
87. Iowa State

Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech are all virtual locks to make the tournament. UCF is right on the line of being a lock, but they’ll need to stop the seven-game skid they currently find themselves on to be safe. I’d say for the time being though, I’d count them in. Kansas is in a great spot and would almost assuredly be in with a sweep of BYU this weekend. However, a loss could see them locked out. Like UCF, Kansas carries a hefty losing streak into this weekend and could use a few wins to get themselves safely above the cut line.

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