ENTRY #6: Sunday, my family threw a party for my Grandparents 60th wedding anniversary in New Orleans. Obviously, I was unable to make it to NOLA for the festivities, due to my "work" commitments in OKC. And thanks to Baylor and Texas A&M, if I couldn't be at Wayne Winkler's house in Metairie to celebrate Grammee and Grampee's 60th wedding anniversary, Bricktown Ballpark turned out to be the next best option on Sunday.
What. A. Game.
I told you in Entry #5 that I felt that the 2010 Battle of the Brazos River for the Big 12 Title would be much closer than when the Aggies beat the Bears 14-to-6 in the 2007 Conference Championship game. I guess I didn't know just how close.
The Bears scored the first three runs of the ballgame. The Aggies scored the final five, all of which crossed the plate in their last seven outs of the day.
Baylor starter Willie Kempf was awesome (7.1 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 5 K's). That was probably the best I've ever seen the senior throw in my three years of covering Baylor baseball. He only threw 74 pitches, but the conditions at Bricktown Ballpark Sunday weren't conducive for long innings on the mound. Temperature at first pitch was 89 degrees, with few clouds, little wind, and LOTS of humidity. Willie just ran out of gas in the 8th.
Logan Verrett wasn't his normal self. He wasn't effective. He was uncharacteristically leaving the ball up the zone. That's usually the first sign of a pitcher who has a tired arm. Verrett threw 28 pitches on Wednesday, then 48 on Friday, before entering Sunday's game in the 8th. Remember, he's been a weekend starter all season and used to throwing on six days rest every time out.
I was impressed in the post-game interview room when Kempf made it a point (in his first answer of the press conference) to say that the team still has total faith in Verrett (who blew the lead) and Brooks Pinckard (who took the loss) and their abilities to "get the job done." The senior captain noted that the Bears are going to need those two guys as they make their postseason run. And they will.
So Baylor is still without a Big 12 Tournament Title in baseball. The Bears are the only team that's qualified for the Championship every season, without winning the Tournament (0-for-6 in Title Games).
I don't think Sunday's thriller will be the last "title game" Baylor will play in this season. Look for the Bears to make a run to a regional final, or perhaps even a Super Regional. Baylor is 8-and-2 in its last 10 games. One of those losses was in 10 innings to the Aggies on Sunday, and the other one was also a 5-3 decision against Tech in Lubbock. The Bears won't find too many games tougher than those two along the Road to Omaha.
ENTRY #5: Well, I sure hope I packed enough
underwear shirts to last me through Sunday, because I've got a Big 12 Title Game to cover. I read somewhere (no, it wasn't The Bible, but thanks for asking) that two-out RBI's will get you to Heaven. If that's the case, then the Bears are feeling pretty holy today after scoring all eight of their runs with two outs in the inning in an 8-3 victory over Oklahoma on Friday night.
And if you ever wondered if baseball really is a game of inches, I hope you were watching last night's game. With two outs (of course) in the bottom of the 3rd inning, Raynor Campbell sent a foul pop-up towards the Baylor dugout. The ball was so close to staying in the field of play, that it landed on one of the dugout steps. However, Oklahoma third baseball Garrett Buechele couldn't extend far enough to catch it and retire Campbell, which would have ended the inning. Then, just a few pitches later in his at bat, Campbell sent a two-strike "Texas leaguer" to shallow center that landed inches over the glove of a diving Danny Black. Two runs scored on the Campbell single to put Baylor ahead 2-1. Cal Towey then drove in another run with an RBI single, which was followed by Max Muncy's two-run double. By the time the Sooners recorded the third out, the Bears had scored five runs...the eventual margin of victory in a game that punched Baylor's ticket to the Big 12 Championship Game.
Sunday's Big 12 Title Game will be Baylor's SIXTH appearance in the Championship. Those six title tilts tie Nebraska for the most all-time. However, Baylor is oh-and-five in those previous title game appearances. In fact, not only are the Bears winless in Big 12 Championship Games, they've been outscored a combined 40-to-20 in those five losses (1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007.) In fact, in the 2007 Title Game
, the Bears lost 14-to-6 to the Aggies, in the only other time that the Big 12 Championship was also The Battle of the Brazos River.
I expect tomorrow's Title Game to be much closer and much more low-scoring than that 2007 contest. Senior Willie Kempf (8-2, 3.31 E.R.A.) will be on the bump for Baylor, while the Aggies will counter with Sophomore Ross Stripling (6-3, 3.86 E.R.A.). You can watch the game LIVE on Fox Sports Net at 1pm, or just wait for my reports from Bricktown Ballpark during the 5:30 and 10pm newscasts on KWTX-TV. Remember, we are the ONLY TV station from our market up here in Oklahoma City this week to cover the Tournament. And don't forget, neither the Bears nor the Aggies for that matter have lost a game since we've been here. Just sayin'.
I'll check back in tomorrow. Get some rest. Championship Sunday is upon us. The dog pile awaits...
When I left you yesterday, I was in search of a nice, sit-down dinner in Bricktown. And let me tell you, OKC didn't let me down. Robert Shiekh and Lawrence Gilligan of Inside Baylor Sports
joined me for dinner at Abuelo's
. I've dined there once before, when in town covering the 2009 Big 12 Basketball Tournament. So instead of ordering their fantastic fajitas again, I chose to sample the seafood. And if I have a few typos in this post, it's because I'm using one of my two hands to pat myself on the back for that decision.
I had the Pescado Guerrero (not to be confused with the Vladimir Guerrero, however this meal was worth every penny - just like the Rangers' signing of Vlad last off-season). It was a wood-grilled, tender mahi-mahi steak with fresh shrimp, scallops, mushrooms, spinach, roasted peppers and sliced avocado in a delicious white wine sauce. And again, like Vlad Guerrero, I didn't lay-off ANYTHING that the Pescado Guerrero threw at me. We hit it out of the park with our selection of Abuelo's.
Just in case you wanted some actual Big 12 Baseball discussion on this post, here ya go. Congrats to former Klein High School stand-out Adam Smith
(who is the son of my Varsity baseball coach Barry Smith) and the Texas A&M Aggies for punching a ticket to Sunday's Big 12 Title Game with last night's victory over Missouri. If I may toot my own horn a bit (something I rarely do
), I DID
pick A&M to win its pool on this blog before the tournament started. No applause necessary.
It looks like Baylor can REALLY make me look good, and also get to the Title Game (as I predicted) with a victory over Oklahoma this evening. If Kansas State beats Kansas in the early game (KSU is leading 7-5 in the 8th, as I type this), then the winner between the Bears and the Sooners will win the pool and punch a ticket to Sunday. OU will have a massive home-field advantage, but Baylor is currently playing it's best baseball of the year. The Bears record of 32-and-21 is the most games they've been over .500 all season. Craig Fritsch will start tonight, but don't be surprised if you see Logan Verrett or maybe even Shawn Tolleson take the bump. Remember, Verrett only threw 28 pitches before the rain delay on Wednesday and Tolleson threw just 77. AND Baylor had an off day Thursday. Plus, tonight is the game that matters. If BU is victorious against OU, I think myself, Tom Barfield, Lark Smith, and the Phillips 66 gas pump mascot will be used to pitch against Kansas tomorrow in a game that means NOTHING.
Finally tonight, I'd like to thank Mary Ann Osko and the folks at Welcome to Bricktown.com
. They've been following my blog from OKC and asked me to answer a few questions about my Bricktown experience, both this year and in the past. You can read my interview here
I'm headed out to catch the end of the KU/K-State game. I'll check back tomorrow.
Like Roy Oswalt in Houston...I'm done.
ENTRY #3: Honestly, I wasn't shocked when Texas lost to Missouri on Wednesday in the 1 vs 8 game. The Tigers have to win the Tournament to get in to a regional, and Mizzou starter Nick Tepesch threw a gem (CG, 6 K's, 2 ER). Also, the Horns have dropped their opening round game of the conference tournament in 2008, 2009, and now 2010.
However, you can color me stunned that UT (with former Rogers stand-out Taylor Jungmann on mound) lost a second game in a row on Thursday. Tech beat the Horns 4-2. It's only the second time this season that Texas has lost consecutive baseball games, and the first occurrence was the season's opening weekend vs. New Mexico. Thursday's loss also eliminates Texas from Big 12 title game contention, which means for the first time since 2007, there will be no burnt orange in Bricktown on Championship Sunday.
We talked to some of the Baylor players about how they passed the time during that two hour and 54 minute rain delay on Wednesday. Senior Willie Kempf said that it didn't feel like nearly three hours. The team chowed down on some sandwiches in the locker room and killed some time by playing a few "games". Also, apparently there was a duck in the outfield (sources tell me ducks do, indeed, enjoy water) and that little fella provided some entertainment for a while, too. But the consensus seems to be that sitting around for nearly 3 hours on a rainy night at the ballpark isn't all it's quacked up to be. Buh dum.
Since tonight is the only night all week that I won't be up at the Ballpark covering the late game (Baylor plays at 7:30pm both Friday and Saturday), I'm going to leave the A&M/Missouri game early and go grab dinner. Someplace real fancy. You know, a joint that has a wait staff and cloth napkins and table cloths. I'll let you tomorrow, where I end up.
Like the free food in the Bricktown Ballpark press box...I'm gone.
ENTRY #2: You know that saying we have in Texas? "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change." Well, just like immediately upon crossing the Red River into the Sooner State when Oklahoma gives us the chance to gamble at one of its 344 freeway casinos...I'm going on record and saying that Oklahoma also gave Texas that little "weather" saying. (Oklahoma also gave the University of Texas four consecutive losses in football during my four years at Southwestern. But Bob Stoops has to eat his Cheerios off a plate, because he chokes in bowls. But I digress. Back to the weather, now.)
When I started shooting the Baylor/Kansas State game on Thursday, it was hot and sunny. Then, with one out in just the 2nd inning, there was lightning off in the distance and the teams were being pulled off the field. Then it started raining. Hard. And sideways. Then, some three hours later, the second inning started again.
The elapsed time of the Baylor/K-State game was three hours and two minutes. The elapsed time of the rain delay was two hours and fifty four minutes. How was YOUR night?
Without a doubt, that was one of the strangest games I've ever witnessed. The Bears 11-8 victory over the Wildcats included the aforementioned three hour rain delay, but it also included some amazing defensive plays in the field, a seven-run lead after three innings, a blown seven-run lead, and 4 1/3 innings of flawless relief.
The Bears continue to play really, really good baseball. The same brand of baseball that has taken them off the bubble and into the NCAA field of 64. Thanks to Oklahoma's walk-off win over Kansas early this morning, if K-State beats KU on Friday afternoon (which it should) - Baylor can punch a ticket to the Big 12 title game (as I predicted in ENTRY #1) with a victory over the Sooners on Friday night. Then, Saturday's 7:30pm game against Kansas would have about as much drama as a bad episode of Harry and the Hendersons.
Baylor is off Thursday, but I'll still be at the Ballpark. Texas and Texas Tech play at 3pm, so I will check that out. We'll have highlights from that Lone Star State duel for the 6pm sportscast. Plus, I had a chance to catch-up with former Midway High School stand-out and current Missouri left fielder Ryan Gebhart. So at 6:00, along with those UT/Tech highlights I'll have some sound bites from Gebhart and Mizzou head coach Tim Jamieson, plus post-game reaction from BU's win over K-State late Thursday night. Thanks for watching!
B.T.Y.L. (That's BLOG to you later, for all of you un-hip folks out there.)
ENTRY #1: Greetings from Oklahoma City! College Baseball's Championship Week here in May might not get as much national attention as College Basketball's Championship Week does in March, but it my opinion - this is one of the greatest weeks of the year. I can't tell you how much I enjoy coming up to Oklahoma City to cover the Big 12 Baseball Tournament (but I'm going to try, because then maybe you'll get jealous and leave a comment or two or seven at the bottom of this blog).
If you're reading these entries and you get a weird feeling that you've seen all of this before, well...it's because you probably have. The same eight teams that qualified for the Big 12 Tournament in 2009
, also are here in OKC in 2010
. In fact, each of the two divisions in the Tournament are the exact same, with the exception of one team each (Texas and Oklahoma switched divisions). But the similarities between this year's Tournament and last year's don't end there...
Texas again enters the Tournament as the regular-season champion and number one seed. Baylor will again play it's 2nd game of the Tournament in the 7:30pm time slot. And the Bears will once again finish the Tournament against Kansas on Saturday.
Last season, the Bears entered OKC with a tougher strength of schedule and better RPI (33 in 2009) than this year's (40 in 2010, according to Boyd's World
) - but in 2009 Baylor's Big 12 record was just 10-and-16, compared to this season's 12-and-13 mark. Also, BU enters the 2010 Tournament riding a 5-game winning streak (it's longest pre-Big 12 Tournament winning streak ever), whereas last year, the Bears had been swept in three STRAIGHT conference series before Bricktown.
I think that the Bears could win one this week, and still get in as a 3-seed. However, with its play this week in OKC, I believe Baylor is going to take any guesswork out of the equation. I think the Bears go 2-and-1 or 3-and-0 in Division 2 and win their pool to advance to the Big 12 Championship Game on Sunday vs. Texas A&M (who will defeat Texas on Saturday to win Division 1).
Since I've already put myself out there with those bold predictions, here are a few other things to keep an eye out for in Oklahoma City this week:
--Baylor's Logan Verrett will be dominant vs. Kansas State on Wednesday.
--Verrett, Logan Vick, and Brooks Pinckard will be named to the All-Tournament Team.
--Texas vs Texas Tech (Thursday, 3pm) will be the most exciting game played all week.
--The total number of slices of Hideaway Pizza
I consume this week (at least
2) will be more than Missouri's win total in OKC.