Seven Big 12 Baseball Teams Grace NCAA Field

by BoCarter | Posted on Monday, May 29th, 2017
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Special –- May 29, 2017
By Bo Carter, The Texas Sports Daily, Sports Page Dallas, NCBWA, NFF
21st Annual Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship Produces Surprises,
Oklahoma State’s 2nd Title Happens Dramatically
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Some 21 springs ago a vanload of Big 12 Conference administrators made an early trek from North Dallas up Interstate 35 to downtown Oklahoma City.
It was the 1997 site survey for the inaugural Phillips 66 Big 12 baseball championship at Oklahoma City’s historic but well-worn All Sports Stadium on the state fairgrounds.
But a side trip to a budding constriction area with concrete grandstands and outfield walls taking shape brought even more joy to the carload of conference authorities and tour guides from the Oklahoma All Sports Association and Class AAA Oklahoma 89ers baseball team
All Sports Stadium, the site of a NCAA-record 16 consecutive Big Eight Conference titles by marauding Oklahoma State from 1981-96, was set for the annual onslaught of Cowboys faithful and a hoped-for new winning streak in the beefed up Big 12 Conference with traditional NCAA contenders Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech now added to the lineup for the coveted six places in the Phillips 66 Big 12 tourney field.
And the new Bricktown Ballpark (capacity 13,100) was looming on the OKC skyline some seven miles for All Sports and promising better things for the prestigious joust beginning in ’98.
It definitely was no picnic in ’97 later in May, though, for the streaking OSU Cowboys of future College Baseball and AFCA Hall of Fame coach Gary Ward as they jumped out to a 2-0 start in the “Gorilla Ball” offense days while scoring 27 runs on Baylor and A&M. Then came a bubble-bursting 7-6 loss to Big 12 regular-season champ Tech and a 10-5 elimination the next afternoon by arch-rival Oklahoma.
The OU win forced a late-night clash between Tech and the Sooners with a prevailing tailwind for hitters and a 19-17 final verdict for coach Larry Cochell in a game featuring 39 combined hits, 36 runs and a still-standing Big 12 tourney record four consecutive triples by OU at one point. The 56,742 fans who bought tickets for the six-team, 11-game meet certainly received their money’s worth on offense.
Flash forward to 1999 when the NCAA Division I meet field expanded to 64 teams (from 48-54 in past seasons), and the Big 12 added the Nos. 7-8 squads to an already interesting mix. Before a OKC-tourney-high 129,334 fans over 13 contests, Nebraska edged tough-luck Baylor 4-3 for the crown and automatic NCAA berth.
Flash forward again to 2017 and the historic 21st Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship (played for the 17th time at now Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and still hosting eight teams with stupendous pitching staffs this time), and almost the entire atmosphere changed.
In fact, for the first time in tourney history a No. 6 seed (Texas) met a No. 8 seed (Oklahoma State), and it proved the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index at No. 1 nationally for the Big 12 as a conference was no fluke.
In fact, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey referenced similar facts in a mid-meet news conference after falling 8-4 to streaking O-State.
“This is a NCAA Regional type of field,” he explained, “and this will get all our qualifiers ready for the regionals. Oklahoma State is playing with great confidence and getting its game together at the right time.”
Prophetically, Mazey referenced the young Cowboys march to the title with four consecutive wins in OKC and just its second Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship title in history. Ironically, coach Frank Anderson’s 2004 Cowboys edged Missouri 10-9 in 13 innings at Globe Life Ballpark – some 190 miles south of the city where O-State achieved Big Eight dominance from 1981-96.
And the Cowboys won it in 2017 in dramatic fashion with a 6-5 win over resurgent Texas and new head coach David Pierce. Pierce’s crew upended TCU 9-3 one night earlier to win Bracket 2 over the second-seeded and No. 7 nationally Horned Frogs of coach Jim Schlossnagle.
And it was not considered a grand upset for coach Josh Holliday’s youngsters who ended the regular season with six consecutive victories and two wins over Oklahoma to edge Kansas State for the final slot in the Phillips 66 Big 12 tourney.
OSU is one of 11 different schools either to win the Big 12 regular-season crown or to capture the tourney trophy.
Only Iowa State, which dropped its program after a final clash in the 2001 Big 12 joust, did not capture one piece of the hardware while former Big 12 members Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M all won or shared crowns in this conference.
The O-State win, which helped the Big 12 achieve a high of seven NCAA bids (the most since the 2009 season with 10 baseball schools in the standings) for ’17, was fueled by a Bryce Fischer solo homer in the seventh inning to put the Cowboys on top of Texas 6-3 before the Longhorns scored twice in the eighth and had the go-ahead runs at the plate in each of the final two innings before Cowboys relief ace Carlson Teel blanked UT in each frame.
Heroes were plenty on all sides, though Texas had been 5-0 all-time in championship games going back to the 2002 season (when the Longhorns eventually captured the NCAA championship), and the Cowboys were playing in the finals for just the fourth time but the third occasion since 2014.
“We just told our guys to stay focused and get some rest between games,” said OSU’s Holliday. “Our guys have known how to get their bodies back to 100 percent, and it really held true throughout the tournament. I’m proud of these players, the way they studied opponents and produced every time out this week.”
Interestingly, Holliday was a freshman on that O-State team, which captured the final of the 16 straight Big Eight crowns in ’96, and his father Tom Holliday (later head coach at OSU from 1997-2003 with four NCAA Regional treks and one World Series berth) was assistant head coach under Ward from 1978-96 for those program-charting seasons. Matt Holliday of St. Louis, Colorado and the New York Yankees is Tom’s son and Josh’s start football quarterback at Stillwater (Okla.) HS and 300-plus home run hitter in the majors.
Possibly the most memorable season in Big 12 baseball annals, dating to that historic site survey in ’97, continues with seven teams battling for one of those eight coveted spots in Omaha, Neb. June 17-28/29 during the 71st annual NCAA World Series.
NCAA Notes: Rice, which won the last Southwest Conference event in history at the 1996 SWC postseason tourney in Lubbock, continued a streak of 22 consecutive NCAA appearances (a record for Texas schools) after downing Southern Miss 6-5 in the finals of the Conference USA tourney in Biloxi, Miss….Dallas Baptist, which transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I baseball in 2006, has made the NCAA tourney field seven times in the last 10 years, advanced to the Super Regionals against California in 2011 and has won the Missouri Valley Conference tourney in both 2016 and ’17.
2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 All-Tourney Team (Voted by Media)
Catcher: Colin Simpson, Oklahoma State
(tie) First Base: Jackson Cramer, West Virginia
First Base: Kacy Clemens, Texas
Second Base: Ryan Cash, Oklahoma State
Shortstop: David Hamilton, Texas
Third Base: Elliott Barzilli, TCU
Outfield: Garrett McCain, Oklahoma State (Tourney Outstanding Player)
Outfield: Darius Hill, West Virginia
Outfield: Ryan Sluder, Oklahoma State
(tie) Designated Hitter: Braden Zarbnisky, West Virginia
Designated Hitter: Bryce Fischer, Oklahoma State
Starting Pitcher: Blake Battenfield, Oklahoma State
Starting Pitcher: Isaiah Kearns, West Virginia
Starting Pitcher: Brian Howard, TCU
Relief Pitcher: Carson Teel, Oklahoma State
The 2017 Division I NCAA Regionals lineup follows (all times EDT and approximate):
Baton Rouge Regional hosted by LSU
#1 *LSU (43-17) vs. #4 Texas Southern (20-32), 3:30 p.m., SECN
#2 Southeastern La. (36-20) vs. #3 Rice (31-29), 8 p.m., ESPN3
Chapel Hill Regional hosted by North Carolina
#1 *North Carolina (47-12) vs. #4 Davidson (32-24), 6 p.m., ESPN3
#2 FGCU (42-18) vs. #3 Michigan (42-15), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Clemson Regional hosted by Clemson
#1 *Clemson (39-19) vs. #4 UNCG (35-22), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Vanderbilt (33-22-1) vs. #3 St. John’s (NY) (42-11), Noon, SECN
Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon State
#1 *Oregon State (49-4) vs. #4 Holy Cross (23-27), 11 p.m., ESPNU
#2 Nebraska (35-20-1) vs. #3 Yale (32-16), 4 p.m., ESPN3
Fayetteville Regional hosted by Arkansas
#1 *Arkansas (42-17) vs. #4 Oral Roberts (42-14), 8 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Missouri State (40-17) vs. #3 Oklahoma State (30-25), 3 p.m., ESPN3
Fort Worth Regional hosted by TCU
#1 *TCU (42-16) vs. #4 Central Conn. State (36-20), 9 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Virginia (42-14) vs. #3 Dallas Baptist (40-19), 4 p.m., ESPNU
Gainesville Regional hosted by Florida
#1 *Florida (42-16) vs. #4 Marist (32-21), 7 p.m., SECN
#2 South Fla. (41-17) vs. #3 Bethune-Cookman (33-23), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Hattiesburg Regional hosted by Southern Miss.
#1 *Southern Miss. (48-14) vs. #4 UIC (39-15), TBA, ESPN3
#2 Mississippi St. (36-24) vs. #3 South Alabama (39-19), TBA, ESPN3
Houston Regional hosted by Houston
#1 *Houston (40-19) vs. #4 Iowa (38-20), 8 p.m., ESPNU
#2 Baylor (34-21) vs. #3 Texas A&M (36-21), 3 p.m., ESPN2
Lexington Regional hosted by Kentucky
#1 *Kentucky (39-20) vs. #4 Ohio (31-26), Noon, ESPNU
#2 Indiana (33-22-2) vs. #3 North Carolina State (34-23), 7 p.m., ESPN3
Long Beach Regional hosted by Long Beach State
#1 *Long Beach State (37-17-1) vs. #4 San Diego State (41-19), 11 p.m., ESPN2
#2 Texas (37-22) vs. #3 UCLA (30-25), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Louisville Regional hosted by Louisville
#1 *Louisville (47-10) vs. #4 Radford (27-30), 6 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Oklahoma (34-22) vs. #3 Xavier (Ohio) (32-25), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Lubbock Regional hosted by Texas Tech
#1 *Texas Tech (43-15) vs. #4 Delaware (34-21), 3 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Arizona (37-19) vs. #3 Sam Houston State (40-20), 7 p.m., ESPN3
Stanford Regional hosted by Stanford
#1 *Stanford (40-14) vs. #4 Sacramento State (32-27), 9 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Cal St. Fullerton (34-21) vs. #3 BYU (37-19), 4 p.m., ESPN3
Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida State
#1 *Florida State (39-20) vs. #4 Tennessee Tech (40-19), 6 p.m., ESPN3
#2 UCF (40-20) vs. #3 Auburn (35-24), Noon, ESPN2
Winston-Salem Regional hosted by Wake Forest
#1 *Wake Forest (39-18) vs. #4 UMBC (23-23), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 West Virginia (34-24) vs. #3 Maryland (37-21), 2 p.m., ESPN3
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