There are two games with championship implications in the Big 12 this weekend. One is the three-game series at Kansas State, where the Wildcats are hosting Oklahoma State. The other, and the subject of today’s Big 12 baseball weekend preview, takes place in Ft. Worth, as Oklahoma visits conference co-leader TCU.
Just five weeks ago, Oklahoma’s season record stood at 20-9 and 4-2 through two Big 12 series. The Sooners even climbed into the top-25 rankings. But beginning in April, everything changed for Oklahoma and new head coach Pete Hughes. Since April 1, OU has won just two Big 12 games while losing 10, and the Sooners record against all opponents has been 7-14, a far cry from the team that finished in a tie for third in the Big 12 the year before.
After losing seven of its last nine Big 12 games played in Norman, Oklahoma finds itself on the road this weekend against a TCU team that is ranked No. 10 in the country by Collegiate Baseball and has won 19 of its last 20 games, 12 more than the Sooners over the same period of time. The Horned Frogs’ current 12-game winning streak is their longest such streak since winning 14 in a row in 1993.
The TCU pitching staff, led by junior starting pitchers Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison, has been in top form this season. The Horned Frogs have a Big 12-best ERA of 2.28 through all games, and have recorded 13 shutouts this season, which ties a Big 12 record. Finnegan, who throws from the left side, and Morrison, a right-hander, are a combined 14-5 this season (8-1 in the Big 12) and both have ERAs under 2.00.
The TCU staff will face the conference’s best hitting team in Big 12 play. Oklahoma is hitting .291 as a team against Big 12 opponents and a league-best .419 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The biggest problem for the Sooners this season is that their pitching has not had a lot of success holding down conference opponents on the offensive end. The Oklahoma pitching staff owns a team ERA of over five runs per game, while the OU run production in Big 12 play has averaged below five runs a game.
Here are some more keys to the TCU-Oklahoma series this weekend:
- In addition to suffering pitching inconsistency this season, the Sooners have not played well in the field either. Their 75 errors is tied for the most in the conference this season and they have the Big 12 second worst fielding percentage.
- Oklahoma has 27 home runs as a team this season, second most in the Big 12 to Oklahoma State’s 35.
- Oklahoma leads the overall series between the two teams 66-37. The Sooners are 6-4 in games at TCU’s Lupton Stadium.
- The Sooners swept TCU in the Horned Frogs’ inaugural season in the Big 12 last season, and also won a nonconference game between the two played earlier this season in Norman.
- TCU senior outfielder Dylan Fitzgerald has been on fire at the plate in recent games. In his past five games, Fitzgerald is hitting .684 (13 for 19), with nine RBI and seven runs scored.
- During its current 12-game winning streak, TCU pitchers have posted a nasty 0.85 ERA and have held opponents to a .192 batting average and just nine extra-base hits. TCU has outscored its opponents 78-15 during the streak.
- TCU right-handed starter Preston Morrison has yielded two runs over his last 48 innings. Morrison has a 25-13 record in his 38 career starts.
- Horned Frog outfielder Boomer White ranks second in the Big 12 with a .364 batting average.
- Oklahoma’s leading hitter is junior catcher Mac James with a .356 batting average, fifth best in the Big 12.
My pick: TCU in a three-game sweep, sending the Sooners tumbling to their 12th loss in their last 15 Big 12 games after starting the season with four wins in their first six conference games.