Picked by Big 12 coaches to finish eighth in the conference in baseball, the Kansas Jayhawks have surprised everyone and find themselves a half-game back of league-leading Oklahoma with nine league games remaining on the schedule.
The Jayhawks (24-15, 9-6) won two of three at Texas Tech last weekend to pick up a half-fame on Oklahoma (8-4, 31-10), which swept three games from nonconference opponent New Orleans over the weekend. Kansas’ series win over the Red Raiders was the Jayhawks first at Texas Tech since 2003. The conference race seems to get tighter by the week with only two games separating the top six teams.
Kansas has three-games series left at West Virginia (23-18, 6-6) this weekend and at home on consecutive weekends against defending conference champion Baylor and third-place Kansas State. The Jayhawks have a difficult task ahead of them at West Virginia, which has come out on top in nine of the 10 games played at home this season. The three-game set with Kansas will be only the second Big 12 home series for the Mountaineers this season.
If coach Ritchie Price’s squad were able to maintain its current winning percentage, the Jayhawks would end Big 12 play with a record of 14-10 and most likely finish the season in the top half of the conference standings for the first time since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996. Kansas’ previou high finish was fifth, which it did twice (2006 and 2009).
Perhaps the hottest team in the conference right now is TCU. The Horned Frogs, who got off to a horrible start to the season, have won won eight of the 13 games they have played in April and four of their last six against Big 12 opponents, taking two of three from both Oklahoma State and last weekend at home against Baylor. TCU is in Manhattan this weekend to square off against Kansas State, which dropped two of three last weekend to OSU.
The K-State-TCU matchup will feature the nation’s and the conference’s top hitting team (Kansas State, with a team batting average of .331) against the second-best pitching staff in the league (TCU pitchers have a staff ERA of 2.78 through all games). The Wildcats have the league’s top five hitters, based on batting average, in conference games: senior outfielder Jon Davis (.463), junior infielder Ross Kivett (.431), senior infielder Tanner Witt (.426), sophomore infielder Austin Fisher (.422) and junior catcher Blair DeBord .409).
In other games conference games scheduled for this coming weekend: Oklahoma will host last-place Texas Tech (18-22, 5-10) and Texas (21-17, 5-10) is at Baylor (20-20, 8-6). Oklahoma State goes out of the conference for games against Rutgers on Friday, a doubleheader Saturday with former Big 12 member Nebraska and a Sunday contest with Creighton as part of the TD Ameritrade Classic being played in Omaha.
Oklahoma’s Matt Oberste continues to lead the conference in batting average (.421), hits (67), RBI (46) and home runs (10). The last player to finish the season on top in all four of thise statistical categories was Kansas’ Tony Thompson in 2009.
Oklahoma State Robbie Rea was named Big 12 Player of the Week, West Virginia pitcher Harrison Musgrave Pitcher of the Week and Jake Matthya of Kansas State Newcomer of the Week. Musgrave also was named the National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The West Virginia left-hander threw a complete-game 1-0 shutout over Texas on Friday night. He allowed just six hits, struck out nine Longhorns and walked only two. The shutout win marked the first time in Big 12 history that Texas has been shutout at home with a complete-game pitching performance.
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