The Big 12 race could gain clarity this weekend.
Or become even more clouded.
Five conference teams stand within a game of the lead and all are involved in potential swing series the next three days.
The feature series focuses on the teams at the top: first-place Texas (6-3) at second-place Oklahoma (4-2). TCU and Kansas, two of three teams tied for third at 5-4, clash in Lawrence. And Oklahoma State, also at 5-4, makes the difficult cross-country trek to West Virginia.
So it’s a potential statement weekend.
Or, it could simply reveal that this league is headed for a chase that extends to the back end of May. So far, there’s been little separation.
For the Sooners, the best news may be that their big series spans the weekend, and not mid-week, where they’ve dropped three straight, including a 2-0 shutout to Oral Roberts Tuesday night.
OU is 10-2 over the past four weekends, including Big 12 series wins over Kansas and Kansas State, yet haven’t mustered much mid-week, which isn’t pleasing to coach Pete Hughes.
“The scoreboard is on. You have to go try to beat somebody,” Hughes said after Tuesday’s blanking of his ball club. “I don’t think that’s who we have in our dugout. It’s something that has been addressed and will continue to be addressed.”
Pitching is at a premium in Norman, where Texas arrives with the league’s best staff earned run average at 2.13, while OU is third at 3.05. In conference-only games, the Sooners sit at 2.35 and the Longhorns at 2.60.
So while the winds are due to blow out Saturday and Sunday, the emphasis is on the mound matchups: OU’s Corey Copping (2-0, 3.06) vs. UT’s Parker French (4-2, 1.93); OU’s Adam Choplick (3-1, 3.59) vs. UT’s Dillon Peters (4-2, 2.72); and OU’s Jake Elliott (2-3, 3.61) vs. UT’s Nathan Thornhill (5-0, 0.73).
COWBOYS HEAD EAST
OSU, a winner of two of its three league series, makes its maiden trip to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers.
West Virginia can only hope it finds a home-field advantage.
The Mountaineers have played but three official home games – down the road in Charleston – and none in their on-campus park, Hawley Field, which has been reduced to bare-bones status while a new $20 million stadium remains under construction for a 2015 opening.
So careful reading too much into WVU’s 16-11 overall mark (2-3 Big 12), which includes 19 road and five neutral-site games.
“We’re not out of this thing,” Mountaineers second baseman Billy Fleming told reporters. “We still have a great RPI. If we could get a series win or even a sweep, that would be awesome.”
The OSU series begins a stretch in which WVU plays 13 of its next 17 games at Hawley Field, in its 44th and final season of use. And while it might not look line much with its minimal dugouts, temporary metal bleachers and portable toilets, it’s still home for the Mountaineers.
“I’m not a fan of sitting in buses,” said WVU ace Harrison Musgrave. “If we can play here, I think we should.
“I’m a fan of Hawley. I know people don’t like it or whatever… but you can get 2,000 people and it feels like a lot. You can really feel the energy.”
The Cowboys, ranked as high as No. 18, have won eight of their last 10 games, breaking out of hitting funk to back a strong pitching staff. They dropped their only Big 12 road series to date, losing two of three at Baylor where every game was a 4-1 verdict.
Recently, however, OSU has shown a knack for the comeback. And 14 of the Cowboys 23 wins have featured rallies.
“We always want to get better,” said Cowboys coach Josh Holliday. “But at the same time you cannot deny a team’s ability to win and how unique that is. I give the kids credit for playing all nine innings.”