Reasons to Play DI Postseason Baseball Tournaments, Especially the Big 12

by BoCarter | Posted on Saturday, May 31st, 2014

UT-565x480For the umpteenth time throughout the haunting hours of Showdown Sunday and Selection Monday for NCAA Division I Baseball Championship brackets last week there was a similar refrain.

That’s why the conferences host postseason tournaments.

Besides building interest in contests after the regular season and generating another trophy for a team from any given conference, the DI tourneys help conferences gain a toehold for additional teams in the NCAA 64-team bracket and help top teams advance their chances for a NCAA Regional host’s role or even a coveted Top Eight seed.

Head coach Jim Schlossnagle of TCU put it aptly after the Horned Frogs won their third game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 postseason fracas at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

“Certainly teams in the Big 12 deserve a top seed after being No. 2 all year in the NCAA RPI (ratings percentage index) and playing the kind of schedules we did,” he noted.

And he got his wishes: TCU upended regular-season champ Oklahoma State 7-1 to claim the Frogs’ first team title in any Big 12 sport.

“We are in great shape as far as our pitching staff goes,” Schlossnagle added after the purple’s Game 3 triumph over Baylor, “and we are looking pretty good for the regionals.”

While Texas stuck with a strict pitch count to prepare for an anticipated regional bid (in this case against new Southeastern Conference arch-rival Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Houston Regional at Rice), other teams tried to stay in the winners’ bracket as the postseason joust reverted to its 1997-2005, 11-13 format after experimenting with a preset round-robin in 2006-10.

“The round-robin format give you a good idea about your pitching and utilization,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido.

Big 12 coaches also agreed that just the level of competition in the tourney was a major factor in helping the loop place five of its nine baseball-playing schools in NCAA Regionals (late note: they started 5-0 in NCAA play Friday) and that even Kansas and Texas Tech, which went 0-2 in OKC, were helped by the strength of schedule propellers in the Phillips 66 competition.

In DI baseball play where the RPI is extremely vital to the selection process, the post-conference tussle readings were TCU No. 11, Texas No. 12, Texas Tech No. 17 (after resting in the 11-14 range for much of the season), Oklahoma State No. 18, West Virginia No. 40, Kansas No. 47, Baylor No. 70, Oklahoma No. 85, and Kansas State No. 104.

Every team with an RPI of No. 39 or better either won its postseason meet (30 bids were issued to conference champs – all but three of these from post-slated meets – and West Virginia, 1-2 in the Big 12 tourney was one of the speculated “last five out” in final deliberations) or closed No. 1 for NCAA slots by chair Dennis Farrell, commissioner of the Big West Conference and longtime diamond aficionado.

And Big 12 teams left standing at the proverbial altar were just one or two wins from vaulting into the automatic bid earned by the tourney champ.

Defending Big 12 victor Oklahoma (under new head coach Pete Hughes) and upset-minded Baylor (2-2 mark this season at OKC) remain as the only two schools to appear in all 18 Phillips 66 Big 12 fracases and know the competition continues to improve annually.

“You probably won’t see a dynasty in this league,” said 20-season BU head coach Steve Smith. “It all starts on the mound. With this type of competition, there will be no more occasions like Texas winning or sharing 25 consecutive Southwest Conference championships or Oklahoma State winning every Big 12 championship from 1981-96. The talent levels and overall recruiting make it very tough for one team to dominate.

“We were fortunate to make it but played some of our best baseball down the stretch with a couple of wins at Kansas State, a win at our place over TCU and two wins in Oklahoma City,” he continued. “It gives us some momentum and hope for next year after we had several unfortunate injuries this season.”

Smith’s sentiments were echoed throughout the Big 12 community as NCAA activity began, and five different Big 12 members competed throughout the county: Kansas in the Louisville Regional against opening-round foe Kentucky, Kent State and host Louisville; Texas Tech in the Coral Gables Regional, with Columbia, Bethune-Cookman and host Miami (Fla.); TCU hosting the Fort Worth Regional with Siena, Sam Houston State and Dallas Baptist (all teams among the NCBWA Top 30 except Siena); Texas in the Houston Regional against Texas A&M, Rice and George Mason; and Oklahoma State hosting the Stillwater Regional with Binghamton, Nebraska and Cal State Fullerton.

The regionals took on even more of an “old home” look with the Aggies and Nebraska paired with former Big 12 rivals Texas and OSU.

The Big 12’s history in NCAA competition starting with the 1947 NCAA World Series and “official” regional/district postseason play in 1954 (the American Baseball Coaches Association made selections and denoted postseason sites during 1947-53 campaigns) includes:

Baylor – 18 appearances (43-39 record)

Kansas – 5 (8-9)

Kansas State – 4 (7-8)

Oklahoma – 35 (83-72)

Oklahoma State – 40 (136-85)

TCU 12 – (24-24)

Texas – 56 (225-111), both NCAA records

Texas Tech – 10 (15-18)

West Virginia – 11 (8-22)

The 2014 Phillips 66 All-Tournament Team

Catcher: Bryan Case, Oklahoma State

First Base: Tanner Krietemeier, Oklahoma State

Second Base: Garret Crain, TCU

Shortstop: Donnie Walton, Oklahoma State

Third Base: Sheldon Neuse, Oklahoma

Outfield: Craig Aikin, Oklahoma

Outfield: Cody Jones, TCU

Outfield: Mark Payton, Texas

Designated Hitter: Jerrick Suiter, TCU (Outstanding Player)

Pitcher: Tyler Alexander, TCU

Pitcher: Jordan Kipper, TCU

Pitcher: Preston Morrison, TCU

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