A year ago, Kansas State and Oklahoma were in contention for the conference crown in baseball right down to the final weekend of the regular season. This season, they are seeing things from a much different perspective. The defending conference-champion Wildcats and the Sooners are battling to avoid a last-place finish and being the team that is left out of the postseason conference championship tournament.
Neither team helped its cause in the opening game of its weekend Big 12 series on Friday. Kansas State was shutout 5-0 by red-hot TCU in Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma dropped its seventh consecutive game, losing at home to Baylor, which itself is fighting to secure one of the final spots in the upcoming Big 12 Championship.
The Wildcats (23-23, 4-12) faced the wrath of dominant right-handed starter Preston Morrison of TCU. Morrison pitched his second consecutive complete-game shutout in mowing down the Kansas State hitters and recording his seventh win of the season against just two losses. Morrison has not given up a run in his past 26 2/3 innings and only two runs in his last 48 innings.
“Once it gets to five runs against these guys, you’re in trouble for the most part,” Kansas State head coach Brad Hill said.
There isn’t a hotter team in the conference, if not the country, than TCU is over the past month. The Horned Frogs (32-13, 11-5) have now won their past 10 games, and since the beginning of April their record is an impressive 17-1. TCU is now a game back of first-place Oklahoma State, which is playing outside of the conference this weekend at home against Arizona State from the Pac-12. The Horned Frogs are even with OSU in the overall loss column and trail the Cowboys by just one game in the win column.
Oklahoma has gone off the cliff the past two weeks, and can’t seem to buy a win in or out of the conference. The Sooners’ one-run 3-2 loss on Friday to Baylor, which has had its troubles also lately, was OU’s seventh straight loss and fifth consecutive conference loss. A week ago at Texas Tech, the Oklahoma pitching staff, the worst in the Big 12 this season, gave up 37 runs in three games to the Red Raiders.
The Sooners outhit Baylor six to five, but still lost the game. It was just Oklahoma’s fourth loss this season when it has outhit its opponent.
“We’re fighting for our lives to get into the Big 12 tournament and stay there,” said OU first-year head coach Pete Hughes after the Sooners suffered their 14 loss at home this season. “We have to win, figure it out and win the series. The only way to win the series is to win tomorrow (on Saturday). We can’t let Friday beat us twice.”
While Oklahoma and Kansas State fight for that final spot in the conference tournament, the other league teams are jockeying for the best seeding that can get going into the league championship. In Friday night’s action, West Virginia kept once league-leading Texas reeling with a 5-3 win at West Virginia. It was the Longhorns’ fifth consecutive defeat to a conference opponent. Kansas upended visiting Texas Tech 11-3, snapping the Red Raiders’ four-game winning streak. In the only nonconference tilt, Oklahoma State defeated Arizona State 8-5.