On Friday, we wrote that this could be a make-or-break Big 12 baseball weekend for Kansas State if it hopes to be included among the eight teams that will qualify for the Big 12 championship tournament three weeks from now. We also wrote that No. 9 Oklahoma State could move a giant step closer to winning its first Big 12 regular-season crown in baseball if the Cowboys could get by 10th-ranked Texas (according to last week’s National College Baseball Writers’ poll) over the weekend.
After dropping the series opener at Texas, Oklahoma State rebounded to take the next two games and the series, upping its conference lead to one and a half games over second-place TCU. Kansas State was not as fortunate, finishing the week with four losses in five games and seeing its overall 2014 record fall to just one game over .500.
Texas Friday starter Parker French shut down the Oklahoma State offense on just one hit and no runs in six stellar innings as the Longhorns shutout the Cowboys 3-0, moving within a game of first-place OSU. The Cowboys refused to lie down, however, coming back to take the final two games of the series, handing the once fourth-ranked Longhorns their fifth loss in their last six games. Previous to that, Texas had won nine out of 10.
Kansas State, the defending conference champions, was on the road at West Virginia this weekend. With a highly disappointing 4-9 record in the conference, Kansas State couldn’t afford to look ahead to upcoming weekend series with league front-runners Oklahoma State and TCU. The Wildcats had to take care of business in the present, and that meant trying to rebound against resurgent West Virginia.
The problem for the Wildcats playing on the road this season is just that: playing on the road. K-State was 1-8 playing away from the Little Apple in the Big 12 in 2014 going into this weekend, and that record has gotten worse thanks to losing all three games over the weekend to a surging West Virginia team that has now won seven straight games and five of its last six in the conference.
Just two weeks ago, the Mountaineers (24-16, 7-7) stood at 2-7 in Big 12 play after coming off a three-game sweep at home against conference-leading Oklahoma State and with a weekend trip to the other Oklahoma Big 12 school the next weekend. They have not lost since dropping a 7-4 decision to Oklahoma State on April 13.
West Virginia ace weekend starter Harrison Musgrave got the ball rolling downhill against K-State in Friday’s series opener with eight innings of two-hit pitching and eight strikeouts in leading the Mountaineers to a 10-1 victory. The Mountaineers kept the momentum rolling through the weekend, claiming a one-run 6-5 win on Saturday, followed by a 6-1 victory in the series finale on Sunday.
Believe it or not, there is a silver lining for Kansas State, if you want to call it that, despite being on the losing end of a weekend sweep at West Virginia. Both Baylor and Oklahoma, the two teams immediately above the Wildcats in the league standings and with whom K-State is fighting for the eighth and final spot in the double-elimination conference championship coming up in the middle of May, were swept in their weekend series, as well.
The Sooners’ losing streak is now at five games after losing all three games over the weekend at Texas Tech, which moved ahead of Texas into third place in the conference standings. And Baylor came up empty at home against Kansas, with the Jayhawks taking all three from the stumbling Bears, including a sensational one-hit, complete-game shutout, 1-0, by starter Jordan Piche on Friday.
Here are more compelling story lines from the weekend Big 12 action:
- Oklahoma State’s series win over Texas over the weekend was the Cowboys fifth consecutive series win in the Big 12 this season.
- Texas starting pitcher Nathan Thornhill gave up a career-most seven runs on seven hits in three and a third innings vs. Oklahoma State on Sunday. Coming into the game, the Longhorn senior right-hander had given up just seven runs in 64 2/3 innings.
- Texas Tech’s three-game sweep of Oklahoma over the weekend was the Red Raiders’ third consecutive series sweep and their 11th win in the past 13 games, including 11 straight home wins. It was Tech’s first sweep of the Sooners in baseball since 2002.
- The Red Raiders scored 13 of their 14 runs in Sunday’s 14-4 win between from the third to the sixth innings.
- Kansas State, the defending conference champions, has been swept in back-to-back series (by Texas Tech and West Virginia) for the first time since 2004.
- Nine of West Virginia’s 12 hits on Sunday in their 6-1 defeat of Kansas State were singles.
- Kansas led Baylor 4-3 going into the ninth inning on Sunday. The two teams combined for six runs in the ninth (two by the Jayhawks in the visitor’s half of the ninth and four by the Bears) as Kansas held on for an 8-5 victory.
- Oklahoma has used 29 different starting lineups in its 45 games this season.
- The Sooners are 16-2 this season when they score six or more runs. Unfortunately, they didn’t reach the six-run level in any of their three losses to Texas Tech over the weekend.
- TCU played out of the conference this past weekend, sweeping three games against Cal State-Northridge. The Horned Frogs’ 3-0 victory on Sunday was their 12th shutout of the season. Twenty-three times this season TCU has limited its opponent to one run or less.
- Baylor was 24-3 against Kansas before last weekend in games played in Waco.