Every week in Big 12 baseball brings its own surprises, new story lines and emerging trends. Here is this week’s trip around the bases, packaged as a regular feature we call “News, Note & Quotes” :
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are on the doorstep of winning their first Big 12 regular-season champions. Any combination of Oklahoma State wins or TCU losses totaling two will assure the Cowboys of no worse than a share of the conference crown. A three-game sweep of swooning Oklahoma this weekend would hand the Cowboys their first outright Big 12 regular-season title, as would two TCU losses this weekend at Baylor.
It’s not as if Oklahoma State hasn’t experience championship success in its history. The Cowboys were the regular-season champs 30 times as a member of the Big Eight Conference, including, incredibly, each of the last 17 seasons before the Big Eight combined with four Southwest Conference teams to form the Big 12. Oklahoma State has one national championship (1959), has been runner-up on five difference occasions (1961, 1966, 1981, 1987 and 1990) and has made 19 College World Series appearances in its history, including an impressive seven consecutive years from 1981 to 1987.
Despite an incredible track record historically in college baseball, the only Cowboy championship in the Big 12 era was in the 2004 postseason conference tournament.
Over the last month, Oklahoma State and TCU have run away from the pack and set up their own two-way battle for the 2014 league crown. Oklahoma State is riding a current nine-game winning streak, while the Horned Frogs have won 21 of their last 23 games. During the month of April, TCU’s record was a sensational 16-1. Oklahoma State has won six consecutive Big 12 series for just the third time since the Big 12 began play in 1996-97. The Cowboys also accomplished that feat the previous two times it was done: in 2006 and 2008.
The Kansas Jayhawks are a fixture in the top 25 in basketball. But they had not broken into the top 25 in baseball since 2009. That all changed this week, when the Jayhawks came in at No, 22 in this week’s Baseball America poll. Kansas is the sixth Big 12 team to appear in the top-25 rankings this season.
Oklahoma head coach Pete Hughes on his team’s comeback win over TCU on Saturday in extra innings: “You always try to judge the character your team has when you’re going through a rough stretch.” The Sooners won that game 7-5. Prior to Saturday’s come-from-behind win, OU had lost nine of its last 10 games to drop all the way down to eighth in the conference standings. The Sooners had little time to savor the long-absent victory, however, as TCU rebounded in force with a 9-1 win on Sunday.
West Virginia second baseman Billy Fleming hit for the cycle on Sunday in the Mountaineers’ 9-8 loss at Kansas. Fleming is the second Big 12 player to hit for the cycle this season and the 16th in league history.
Oklahoma State right fielder Zach Fish, the Cowboys’ leading hitter this season, reached the century mark in career RBI over the weekend. He is one of three other active players in the Big 12 who have 100 or more RBI in their career.
Texas Tech has a league-best 28-4 record at home this season. With three games at home this weekend hosting West Virginia, the Red Raiders have a chance of passing TCU, which has nine home wins in a dozen Big 12 games in 2014, for the most wins at home this season in Big 12 play.