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Big XII Around the Diamond: Week Two

Taking a look around the state of Big XII Baseball two weeks into conference play.

Melissa Triebwasser

The Frogs have slipped to third place in conference standings at this early part of the year, but remain in strong contention for a conference title despite the slip-up in Austin. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State, a trendy preseason pick, has started the season strong.

Oklahoma State: The only team undefeated in Big XII play is the Cowboys, who opened up the conference by sweeping Kansas State on the road. OSU was a trendy pick to challenge the Frogs in the pre-season, and their pitching has been as good as expected. But the Pokes are dead last in the conference when it comes to batting average, and are near the bottom in slugging percentage and hits. They do lead the Big XII in home runs (19) and strikeouts, so that's... something. As bad as Oklahoma State batters are at striking out, their pitchers are just as good as getting other teams to strikeout. They lead in that category, ERA, and opponents batting average, as well as saves.

Next Up: at West Virginia

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders can put runs up in bunches, and are second only to the Horned Frogs in runs scored, with 167 on the season. Tech hits .288 as a team, led by Tanner Gardner (.463 with 16 walks) and has 17 home runs as a team. This offensive firepower enabled them to take two of three from Baylor in Waco and sweep OU at home, but the pitching let them down in bad losses to Milwaukee, New Mexico State, and others. The question going forward for the Raiders will be whether the offense can be consistent enough to overwhelm opponents, or will the pitching woes be their downfall when it comes to games against the upper-echelon Big XII teams?

Next Up: Kansas State

TCU: The Frogs opened their conference season with a thud, dropping two out of three in Austin on their way to their first series loss of the season. A rebuilt defense that features first year starters at all four infield positions was the main culprit, as were bats which struggled against a Texas pitching staff that seemed to find some magic. The Frogs rebounded with an absolute demolition of UT Arlington Tuesday as part of a five game break from Big XII play, and continue their road trip with a three game set against the Shockers this weekend. There has been some major lineup tinkering during the conference break, as Jim Schlossnagle looks for the right mix of bats and arms. While they hit over .300 as a team, they were stymied in Austin, prompting a couple moves to jolt the offense. Despite the relative struggles last weekend, TCU is dominating the conference standings in most offensive categories, having put up runs in bunches throughout the preseason and verses WVU. The Frogs will use a new Sunday starter for the second time this season, inserting freshman wunderkind Dalton Horton into a starting role in place of Rex Hill, who pitched Tuesday night in Arlington.

Next Up: Wichita State

Texas: After struggling in the early season, especially in the bullpen, Augie Garrido reshuffled the deck when it came to relief pitchers heading into conference play. The adjustment worked, as the Horns won a series against TCU for the first time since the Frogs joined the Big XII. UT scuffled through the 2015 season before catching fire in the Big XII tournament, earning an auto-bid into the post-season by winning the tourney. While they don't seem to be the powerhouse program of their recent past, Tres Barrera is a really good player who could carry them through to a successful campaign in what seems to be a down year in the Big XII. A strong series against the struggling Sooners in Norman could vault them into the discussion as a potential Regional host.

Next Up: at Oklahoma

West Virginia University: What to make of the Mountaineers? WVU surprised a lot of people by busting out of the gate with a strong start to the season, and had the best record of the Big XII teams heading into their opening series of conference play. But a gut-wrenching sweep in Fort Worth, including a couple come from behind wins by the Frogs, brought the Eers back down to earth. They bounced back nicely with a two game sweep over Kansas, but dropped a pair to Canisius the following week. It's hard to get a read on this talented, but inconsistent team, but we will certainly know more about what kind of noise they can make this season after they host the Cowboys in Morgantown this weekend.

Next Up: Oklahoma State

Baylor: The Bears posted one of the more surprising results of the season last week, blasting a good DBU team 19-6 on the road, and taking two of three from DBU over the course of a week. After dropping  couple of games at Texas Tech, Baylor will look to regroup against a Kansas squad that hasn't had much go their way through the early going. BU is a middle of the pack offensive team, who commits a lot of defensive errors and hasn't found the pitching they need (their staff ERA is over 5.00). But, junior Darryn Sheppard is really good at the plate and pitcher Troy Montemayor leads the conference in saves with four, so it's not like they are completely devoid of talent.

Next Up: Kansas

Kansas: If only the Jayhawk hoopers had found a way to get by Nova and give KU fans something to cheer about for one more week. The Jayhawks dropped a pair to the Mountaineers in their only conference action so far, and are thus still looking for their first Big XII win of the season. KU will go on the road to face a Bears team that will be focused on staying ahead of them in the standings, as the loser of the series will fall well behind in the race for the conference crown.

Next Up: at Baylor

Oklahoma: The Sooners are a bit of an enigma; a fringe top 25 team coming into the season, the Sooners were expected to compete on the backs of pre-season All Americans Sheldon Neuse and Alec Hansen. While Neuse has been as good as advertised (.398, four home runs, 20 RBI), Hansen has struggled mightily from the mound (0-4 with a 7.65 ERA in six starts) along with the rest of the Sooner staff, who have a near 4.00 ERA collectively. Oklahoma struggles to score, and with their pitching not on point, that's a recipe for disaster. An ugly sweep at the hands of the Red Raiders doesn't bode well for their weekend series against the Longhorns, who come in hot. Oh well, OU, at least Buddy is still playing!

Next Up: vs Texas

Kansas State: Those poor Wildcats, victims of a conference opening sweep verses Oklahoma State, even though they only allowed 12 runs across three games, losing by a single score each game. The Cats have hit well, in the upper half of the conference in batting average, runs, and walks. The pitching has been somewhat subpar, and will be tested this weekend, as they travel to West Texas to take on the Red Raiders on the Plains.

Next Up: Texas Tech