Missouri, picked by most of the experts to finish at the back end of the conference in its final season in the Big 12, is off to a 10-5 start and is 8-1 in games played at Hi Simmons Field in Columbia. Kansas State is right there with the Tigers, carrying an 11-6 won-lost mark heading into Big 12 competition.
The Wildcats will have their hands full this weekend when they travel to College Station to take on the league-leading Texas A&M Aggies, who also are playing their final season as a member of the Big 12. The Aggies (14-4) are ranked in the top 10 of all four national college baseball polls. A&M took the series between these two teams last season in Manhattan two games to one. The conference opener for both teams will feature the two best hitters in the league in sophomore outfielder Jared King of Kansas State and junior outfielder Tyler Naquin, last season's Big 12 Player of the Year, of Texas A&M. King is hitting .450 through 15 games, while Naquin is batting .441, with a conference-best 30 hits in 18 games.
The surprise team in the conference so far has to be Texas Tech. Another team picked to finish in the lower half of the league, the Red Raiders are 12-5 and go out on the road this weekend for a three-game set at Baylor, currently 11-7 on the season. The Red Raiders are doing it with both offense and defense this season. They lead the Big 12 in both team categories, with a .310 team batting average and a staff earned-run average of 2.42.
The baseball version of the Red River Rivalry will take place this weekend in Norman, where Oklahoma (11-6 and ranked as high as 17th in the national polls) hosts its bitter rival from the Lone Star State, the Texas Longhorns. Texas has the best winning percentage of all Big 12 teams since the formation of the conference (in 1996), coming out on top in almost 65 percent of its games. This season, however, the Longhorns have been struggling, although admittedly against high-quality competition.
The defending Big 12 regular-season champion (along with Texas A&M), Texas is the only conference team with a losing record (6-7) through the opening month of the season. The Horns probably aren't going to find much comfort from Oklahoma, which so far, at least offensively, is swinging the bat much better than the Texas hitters.
Here are some other notable numbers in Big 12 baseball this week:
- .33 - Home-runs-per-game ratio of freshman Oklahoma catcher Hunter Lockwood, who leads the conference with five round-trippers in 15 games.
- .522 - On-base percentage for Jared King of Kansas State, the best in the conference.
- 5 - Wins recorded this year by Trent Blank of Baylor, tied for the most wins in the country.
- 1 - Shutouts recorded by Big 12 pitchers in the first month of the 2012 season (Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma State).
- 10 - Number of batters hit by a pitch in Baylor's March 6 game vs. TCU, tying an NCAA record.
- 13 - Consecutive games in which Zach Fish of Oklahoma State had hit safely though Thursday's games. Three others have had 10-game hitting streaks this season.
- 16 - Total bases for Robbie Rea of Oklahoma State vs. Alabama A&M last weekend. Tied a conference record for total bases in a single game.
- 23 - Career saves by the 2011 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Southpaw Corey Knebel of Texas. With one more save, he will enter the NCAA top-10 list for career saves.
- 44 - Strikeouts by Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Heaney, the NCAA leader in that category.
- 63 - Career stolen bases by Texas Tech's Jamodrick McGruder. Three more and McGruder will break into the NCAA top 10 all-time.
- 109 - Bases on balls drawn by Kansas State batters this season, the most in the Big 12.
- 705 - Fielding chances by Texas A&M during which the Aggies committed 23 team errors, the most in the league.
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