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Previewing The Big 12 Baseball Tournament

A preview of the 2015 Big 12 baseball tournament in Tulsa this weekend.

OSU Athletics

Thanks to Mother Nature the Oklahoma State Cowboys ended its Big 12 season on a bit of a sour note with a loss to West Virginia in the only game it was able to play in a three-game series. However, the Cowboys will get a chance to redeem themselves as they play the Mountaineers in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Tulsa on Wednesday.

If you want to take a look at the bracket here is a link. I will be breaking down every matchup that OSU should be playing in the Big 12 tournament.

First Round

No. 7 West Virginia (0-0) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State (0-0)

I have to think Josh Holliday will come to his senses and start LHP Michael Freeman in this game. First of all, RHP Jon Perrin, who has been the Friday starter all season, struggled in his start against WVU, only going five innings and allowing four runs. Secondly and probably more importantly, Freeman has been arguably the best pitcher in the country this season and has earned the spot as the No. 1 pitcher for this team going into the postseason.

Let’s have some fun with Freeman’s numbers from the regular season. He made 13 starts for the Cowboys and only allowed a total 11 earned runs. 11 RUNS ALL SEASON!

Surprisingly enough, Freeman has two losses on the season due to his team-leading 8 unearned runs. This most likely due to Freeman’s incredible ability to induce groundball outs, however, the OSU defense can’t always handle them.

Since Freeman came out nowhere to be the best pitcher in the Big 12 (yeah, I said it) the only real knock on him is his lack of experience. Freeman’s only start last season was in the Big 12 championship game against TCU, where he managed to log five innings in a loss. This won’t be the first time Freeman has started on a big stage so I don’t expect nerves to be a factor.

West Virginia will most likely start Ross Vance who made 14 with a 7-4 record and a 2.93 ERA. Vance is a junior left-hander who will provide a challenge for OSU’s lineup that is heavy on left-handed hitters. It will be important for right-handers Cory Hassel (.312 avg.) and Ryan Sluder (.316 avg.) to get the offense going early.

What should happen: Freeman will throw his usual eight innings of scoreless ball and the offense will be slow to start, but will score a few runs when Vance gets tired. OSU will advance with a comfortable two or three run win.

Second Round

No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State (1-0)

Oklahoma should cruise by Kansas State to setup a Bedlam matchup in the second round of the tournament. This is most likely where Jon Perrin will get the start. Perrin has pretty much been a roll of the dice this season, his 4.52 ERA and 5-4 record can attest to that. In his one start against the Sooners this year Perrin went seven innings and allowed five runs. Honestly, this is the kind of outing I expect to get from Perrin in this game.

Oklahoma will go with its No. 2 starter Alec Hansen who is very legitimate draft prospect; however, OSU has had his number. Hansen surrendered six runs in six innings against the Cowboys earlier this season.

What should happen: Perrin will walk a few batters early on and give up a home run to Sheldon Nuese. OSU will fight an uphill battle, but Hansen will not be able to handle the trio of Gage Green, Tim Arakawa and Donnie Walton. Add in a late longball from Dustin Williams before Koda Glover shuts down another victory.

Third Round

No. Oklahoma (2-1) vs. Oklahoma State (2-0)

Due to the double-elimination format of the tournament OSU should play the Sooners in back-to-back games after OU eliminates Kansas State in the loser-go-home game.

At this point in the tournament OSU will start to show its incredible pitching depth. Holliday has so many different arms that can be effective in this situation. He could go with Senior LHP Tyler Nurdin (2-3, 2.80 ERA) who has had his up’s and down’s in his career, but is likely to give five or six solid innings. Another option would be freshman right-hander Remey Reed (3-1, 1.48 ERA) who had a sub-1.00 ERA before he got roughed up a little bit last weekend in a loss to Michigan. Reed will give you three or four high-quality innings, but will need a long reliever like Trey Cobb or Garrett Williams to bridge the gap to the late innings.

Both have been reliable options as a No. 3 starter and give OSU a leg up over the other teams in the conference due to its incredible depth.

What should happen: Oklahoma will be forced to go with an inexperienced starter and the Cowboys balanced offense attack will have a field day. Reed will go three scoreless innings and it will take three OSU relievers to finish up a shutout in a game that shouldn’t be close.

Championship Game

No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 TCU

As much as a would’ve loved to have projected an upset, this is what is going to happen. These are likely the only teams in the conference that will be headed to the NCAA tournament and they will meet in the Big 12 championship for the second consecutive season.

TCU will have defeated Baylor and Texas Tech (twice) to earn a chance to defend its conference tournament championship.

Things will get very interesting in this game because both teams will be hosting a regional in the NCAA tournament no matter what happens in this game. One could make the argument that TCU will be a national seed even if they don’t win the tournament, the same thing cannot be said for OSU. The Cowboys have a very real chance to play its way into a top 8 seed with a win in the conference tournament. It’s possible that the Big 12 will have two teams in the tournament and both will be national seeds.

Holliday will play to win in this game and start Freeman on only three days off rest. We’ll see if he can throw at Madison Bumgarner game 7 quality (sorry Royals fans). In all likelihood, Freeman will give it the best five innings he has and the offense will have some work to do.

On the other hand, TCU will start its best pitcher, Preston Morrison, because he only needed to throw five innings in the opening round blowout win over Baylor. Morrison was not at his best, but was able to pitch into the eighth while allowing three runs in a win over OSU on March 21st.

TCU has a top-heavy lineup led by senior outfielder Cody Jones who is hitting .364 with four home runs on the season. The Horned Frogs do not have much power in its lineup with Evan Skoug being the only player with more than five home runs.

What should happen: this will be a low-scoring game, but by no means will it be a pitcher’s duel with both hurlers throwing their second game of the week. TCU will string a couple of groundball base hits together off of Freeman and score a run or two to take the early lead. Conor Costello will hit a home run off of Morrison in the sixth to even things up turning it into a battle of the bullpens for the final innings.

Surprisingly, there is a team with a better bullpen than OSU and it belongs to the Horned Frogs. TCU will grab a late run and hand it over Riley Ferrell who is the best stopper in the country to lock down another Big 12 tournament title.

With the win TCU will lock up the No. 3 national seed, while Oklahoma State will be hosting a regional, but will be outside of the top 8.

By no means will this be a disappointing showing from the Cowboys, but losing the title game to TCU for the second straight year should be enough to add some fuel to the fire before the regionals start.