The first pitch for the 2015 Big 12 Baseball Championship will be thrown on Wednesday morning, when the fourth-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders take on the Texas Longhorns.
Next up after that matchup is TCU, the reigning tournament champions who have climbed to even greater heights this season. The Horned Frogs claimed their maiden regular-season conference title and are ranked No. 2 in the country behind only LSU with a 43-9 overall record.
Below is an overview of the complete tournament schedule and predictions for Wednesday's games, followed by more detailed analysis on that quartet of contests.
|2015 Big 12 Baseball Championship Schedule|
|Game||Wednesday, May 20||Time (ET)||TV||Prediction|
|1||No. 4 Texas Tech vs No. 5 Texas||10 a.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+||Texas wins, 3-2|
|2||No. 1 TCU vs. No. 8 Baylor||1:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+||TCU wins, 8-1|
|3||No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Kansas State||5 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+||Oklahoma wins, 6-2|
|4||No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 West Virginia||8:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+||Oklahoma State wins, 9-6|
|Game||Thursday, May 21||Time (ET)||TV|
|5||Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser||10 a.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|6||Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser||1:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|7||Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner||5 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|8||Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner||8:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|Game||Friday, May 22||Time (ET)||TV|
|9||Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 loser||4:15 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|10||Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 loser||8 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|Game||Saturday, May 23||Time (ET)||TV|
|11||Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner||10 a.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|12||Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner||1:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|13*||Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser||5 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|14*||Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 loser||8:30 p.m.||FCS / FSSW+ / FSMW+|
|Game||Sunday, May 24||Time (ET)||TV|
|15||Championship Game||1 p.m.||Fox Sports 1|
|Source: Big12Sports.com; * = if necessary|
Wednesday Predictions, Analysis
Texas used to have quite the dynastic stranglehold on this conference but barely hovered above .500 this season with a 26-25 mark.
The Longhorns can't be underestimated as long as head coach Augie Garrido is in the dugout, though. The seasoned skipper is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I baseball history (h/t TexasSports.com), and his club is coming off an 11-1 win over Baylor to finish the regular season on a high note.
Garrido expressed the importance of getting a "W" in the finale ahead of the Big 12 tourney and getting players to step up late in the season, per TexasSports.com:
I think it's really important to have that momentum and to go off with a winning feeling and a decisive victory. ... We put some guys in the game that have been working hard in practice, and they're not weighted down by what's happened in the past. They're excited about playing; you can certainly see the spring in their step and the confidence, recognizing their opportunity. You see the difference in the life in their step and that was good to see.
The scoring outburst was vital, since Texas batted just .260 as a team, last in the Big 12. Star infielder C.J Hinojosa certainly stepped up in the series versus Baylor, as the Austin American-Statesman's Ryan Autullo alluded to:
With Hinojosa on a roll and the Longhorns gaining steam, Texas Tech figures to be slightly outmatched. Although the Red Raiders won their last contest, they did drop two to Big 12 tournament seventh seed West Virginia.
And if Baylor was little match for Texas in losing two out of three in its most recent series, the Bears have little chance of hanging with the likes of TCU.
The Horned Frogs' official Twitter account has the details on just how much of a roll it has been on:
Cody Jones has a ridiculous .466 on-base percentage and leads the conference with 25 stolen bases as the Horned Frogs' tone-setter on offense. Their loaded lineup should feast on a Bears team that has a woeful 4.82 team ERA.
Kansas State is going to have its hands full with Oklahoma. Although the Wildcats have a better on-base percentage than the Sooners, they've only hit eight home runs as a team this season. Such a meager total and a heavy reliance on small ball isn't feasible for Kansas State to pull the upset.
Coming off a sweep at the hands of TCU, losing the three games by a combined five runs, one can bet Oklahoma will be eager to take out its frustration over the close calls on an underdog opponent.
In Wednesday's finale, the team that figures to pose the biggest threat to the Horned Frogs, Oklahoma State, takes on West Virginia.
What's tricky about the Mountaineers is their collective power. West Virginia led the Big 12 with 49 home runs. It's a good thing the Cowboys have tremendous pitching, boasting a 2.97 collective ERA. Their lineup also packs considerable pop, with a conference-high 312 RBI.
Look for a shootout between those two sides, but for Oklahoma State to prevail.
TCU doesn't need to rely on the long ball. It has enough speed on the bases and plentiful pitching depth to take down anyone. The Horned Frogs have the look of a national seed for the second year in a row and may be hyped as the team to beat in Omaha if they continue their current roll.