The top two teams in the conference will battle it out this weekend in Big 12 baseball as league-leading Texas travels north of the Red River to take on its hated rival Oklahoma in a three-game series in Norman beginning on Friday.
The Longhorns (26-8, 6-3) moved into the top spot in the conference standings after sweeping three games at home over Baylor last weekend and have won 10 of their past 12 games. Texas l0st two 0f three to visiting Kansas in March, but since then, the Horns have won five of six against Big 12 competition.
Texas ranks as high as seventh this week in the Baseball America poll; OU is just outside of the top 25, at No, 26 in the Collegiate Baseball weekly rankings. Rankings, however, don’t seem to matter a whole lot when these two longtime rivals get together. Texas owns a sizeable advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma, 125-44-2, and the Longhorns are 23-12 against the Sooners in the Big 12 era. Before taking two of three over Texas a year ago, OU had beaten the Longhorns just two times in 16 previous games.
The first two games of the series, on Friday and Saturday, appear to be solid pitching matchups. OU sophomore right-hander Corey Copping (2-0, with a 3.00 ERA) is scheduled to go against Texas right-hander Parker French (4-2, 1.93) on Friday, and the scheduled pitchers on Saturday are redshirt Sophomore Aaron Choplick of Oklahoma (3-1. 3.59), a southpaw, going up against Texas left-hander Dillon Peters (4-2, 2.72).
On Sunday, the Sooners will face the best starting pitcher in the league this season in Texas right-hander Nathan Thornhill. In six starts, Thornhill is 5-0 with an ERA of 0.73. Opponents are hitting a measly .169 off of him.
The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in pitching with a collective staff ERA of 2.12, which currently ranks fifth nationally.. OU’s pitching ranks third in the conference, but is almost a run behind Texas in overall staff ERA.
Oklahoma is a better hitting team than their rivals from Austin so far this season. The Sooners are second in the conference in hitting with a team average of 2.94 in all games. Two OU position players (catcher Mac James and outfielder Hunter Haley) rank in the top five in the league in individual batting average. Offensively, the Sooners have scored over 60 more runs on more than 60 more hits than Texas, and have twice the number of home runs (18 to the Longhorns’ seven).
Texas is led at the plate by senior outfielder Mark Payton is batting .361 this season, second in the Big 12, and is the conference career leader in total bases (340), triples (19), doubles (40) and walks (118). Payton ranks second in the Big 12 in career on-base percentage (.424) and runs (118) and is third in career batting average (.328). Without question, Payton is the biggest offensive threat in the Longhorn lineup.
The Longhorns have picked it up quite a bit on offense over the last dozen games or so. During the time frame, Texas is averaging almost six runs a game, hitting .301 as a team, with an on-base percentage of .408 and a .402 slugging percentage.
Texas ranks ninth in the country based in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Longhorns are 6-2 this season against teams that rank in the top 30 in RPI. Oklahoma is 85th in RPI among NCAA Division I college baseball teams.