There could be some big changes in the Big 12 baseball standings after this weekend’s slate of games. With three weeks of conference play remaining in the 2013 season, two showdown series with the potential to shuffle the league leaders highlight the weekend scheduke.
Oklahoma (33-11, 10-5), ranked 13th in the country in the most recent USA Today Coaches Poll, has been holding on to a narrow lead at the top of the league standings for several weeks now, and the gap between the Sooners and the conference contenders has been growing tighter every single week.
The Sooners travel to West Virginia for three games this weekend with the Mountaineers, fresh from a three-game series sweep over Kansas this past weekend. The Mountaineers are currently tied for third place in the conference standings with a record of 9-6, just one game back of Oklahoma. West Virginia (27-18, 9-6), in its first season in the Big 12, has won four of the five series it has played this year against Big 12 teams, its only series loss coming on the road at Baylor.
West Virginia has won 12 of 13 games at home this season, the best home record in the Big 12. The Sooners, on the other hand, won the conference’s best road mark at 6-5 through all games (3-3 in the Big 12).
Oklahoma will be without the services of ace left-handed starter Dillon Overton, who is out nursing a sore arm. The Sooners will sorely miss Overton this weekend, especially knowing they will have to go up against one of the league’s best starters in Harrison Musgrave, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week the past two weeks. Musgrave has not given up a run in his last 25 innings pitched and has not lost in Big 12 play. He is 4-0 in his Big 12 starts, with an ERA of o.97.
Meanwhile, defending regular-season conference champion Baylor ( 24-20, 11-6) is at Kansas (9-9, 25-18) this weekend, looking for a second consecutive series sweep, having taken three games last weekend at home over the struggling Texas Longhorns. The Jayhawks may be the most improved team in the Big 12 this season. They’ve already surpassed their total wins all of last season and have won two more conference games than they did a year ago.
Baylor’s three game sweep over Texas last week was its first sweep of the Longhorns since 2005 and only its third time overall. All of the Bears’ remaining conference games are on the road (at Kansas and at Texas Tech). Baylor second-baseman Lawton Langford has reached base in 35 consecutive games, best in the conference this season.
Kansas State (31-14, 9-6) is in a position to have the most to gain from this weekend’s Big 12 action. Like the Sunflower State rivals, the Wildcats are already two games to the good in the win column this season against conference teams and are four games better than their 27 total wins in 2012. K-State goes on the road this weekend to take on Texas (22-20, 5-13) , loser of four straight games. Despite being in last place in the standings, a most unusual spot for a Texas baseball team, the Longhorns lead the Big 12 in pitching this season with an overall staff ERA of 2.56. That speaks volumes about the Horns’ sputtering offensive production, averaging just under four runs per game, compared with six-plus for Kansas State.
If Kansas State can take two out of three this weekend against the Longhorns, who are just 3-6 at home against Bib 12 opponents, the Wildcats would be in good position to take over first place in the league standings should either OU or Baylor falter in their more difficult weekend matchups, both away from home.
In other Big 12 action this weekend, No. 19-ranked Oklahoma State (32-11, 7-7) is at Texas Tech (20-24, 6-12). The Red Raiders are one of only two teams in the conference with overall records below .500. The other team in that category is TCU, which is in Los Angeles over the weekend for a tough three-game set with the University of Southern California, which is having a tough year of its own, winning only 16 of it 42 games thus far.
Keep up with all of the Big 12 baseball news and the latest developments pertaining to all of the conference teams at Talking12.com.