About 7 minutes reading time.

Big 12 Baseball Championship Preview: West Virginia Could Win First Conference Title in 27 Years

 Matt Tallarini  |    May 24th, 2023 12:09pm EDT

A detailed view of the Big 12 championship trophy held by the Oklahoma Sooners after winning the 2022 Big 12 championship game against the Texas Longhorns at Globe Life Field on May 29, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Bailey Orr/Texas Rangers/Getty Images)

The Big 12 conference baseball tournament begins on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, at Globe Life Field. All eyes will be on the three programs in the current Top 25 NCAA Division I rankings.  

Oklahoma State University, at No. 18 in the nation, has a 37-16 overall record and is 15-9 in the conference. The Cowboys have the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and will open up against their in-state rival, the University of Oklahoma, at 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Last year, the University of Texas appeared in the 2023 Division I College World Series after posting a 47-20 overall record and 14-10 record in conference play during the regular season under head coach David Pierce. This season, the Longhorns are ranked No. 20 in the country and are the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 conference tournament with a 38-18 overall record and 15-9 in conference.

West Virginia University, ranked no. 21 in the country after posting a 39-16 record during the regular season, went 15-9 in conference play to earn the second seed in the Big 12 Conference tournament. Last year, the Mountaineers went 33-22 overall and 14-10 during conference play and lost to the University of Oklahoma in the first game of the Big 12 tournament.

Sophomore West Virginia University Infielder J.J. Wetherholdt has split time between second base and third base this season and is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, becoming the second semifinalist in program history, joining current Major League starting pitcher Alex Manoah as the only Mountaineers so honored. During the regular season, Wetherholdt started in 49 games and had 206 at-bats, hitting 15 home runs with 56 RBI, 24 walks, and struck out 20.

Wetherholdt is second in the country in batting average at .447 and leading the Big 12 in five categories: hits (92), slugging percentage (.786), stolen bases (34), is tied for runs scored at (65), and 21 doubles. He’s currently second in his on-base percentage at .510, just behind Nolen Hester from Texas Tech at .537.

West Virginia University, now in their 10th season in the Big 12, has not won a conference tournament since 1996 when they were in the Big East.  Mountaineers head coach Randy Mazey has been leading the program since their first season in the Big 12, and with his record at 319-239 and 102-116 in conference, adding a Big 12 title will add a missing piece to his resume if the Mountaineers can get the job done down in Arlington.

A Player To Watch From Each of the Other Teams (In Order of Seeding)
*Stats used are from all games played, not conference games only.

University of Texas (38-18, 15-9 Big 12)
Junior utility player Dylan Campbell was seventh in OPS at 1.065 in the Big 12 and fifth in hits with 73 during the regular season. Utility player Peyton Powell was fourth in the conference in batting average at .369 and tied for sixth with 73. Starting pitcher Lucas Gordon posted an ERA of 2.58, good for second in the conference, and went 7-2, pitching 83.1 innings and allowing 63 hits, walking 28 and had 85 strike outs in the regular season.

Oklahoma State University (37-16, 15-9 Big 12)
The Cowboys’ corner outfielder and third baseman Tyler Wulfert is one player to look out for during the tournament, as he finished sixth in batting average in the Big 12 and is the program’s leader at .355. He was fifth in the league in OPS at 1.096. Roc Riggio is another offensive machine in the Cowboys lineup – he batted .354 and was third in the Big 12 with 17 home runs, along with being second in the conference with a 1.212 OPS. Cowboys starting pitcher Isaac Stebens will be watched by Major League scouts during the tournament. Stebens was first in ERA in the conference at 2.44 and went 4-1, pitching 55.1 innings and allowing 63 hits, walking 16, and striking out 75.

West Virginia University (39-16, 15-9 Big 12)
West Virginia University‘s lineup outside of JJ Wetherholdt can set the tone with key role players during the conference tournament Grant Hussey produced quality numbers this year, batting .289 in 50 games with 45 hits, 13 home runs, 45 RBI, and 27 walks. Starting pitcher Blaine Traxel contributed immensely, recording a 3.79 ERA through 14 starts and pitching 99.2 innings while walking just 20 batters, allowing 48 hits, and posting 71 strikeouts.

Texas Christian University (33-2, 13-11 Big 12)
Anthony Silva has had a remarkable season, leading the team in batting average at .351, scoring 43 runs, smacking seven home runs, was team leader in hits with 60, had 40 RBI, and walked 20 times in 171 at-bats. Starting pitcher Kole Klecker recorded a 3.84 ERA over 72.2 innings of work with a 9-4 record in 12 starts. He allowed 55 hits, walked 24 batters, and led the program with strikeouts at 53.

Kansas State University (33-22, 13-11 Big 12)
Kansas State University redshirt sophomore Brady Day batted .354 this season with 181 at-bats in 52 games. He clubbed 64 hits, swatting three home runs, 26 RBI, and 46 walks.

Texas Tech University (37-19, 12-12 Big 12)
The Red Raiders have four players that are inside the conference top 10 for hits this season. Gavin Kash tied for second in the country with teammate Kevin Bazzell at 83, and Nolen Hester was fourth in the conference with 75 hits. Gage Harrelson finished eighth in the conference with 70 hits.

Oklahoma University (30-24, 11-13 Big 12)
Starting pitcher Braden Carmichael has been lights-out for the Sooners this season. Carmichael During the regular season, Carmichael went 8-0 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts. He pitched 78.1 innings, allowing 77 hits, walked 12 batters and struck out 17. The Sooners will have to really get the offense going and win the Big 12 in order to reach the NCAA tournament due to their strength of schedule and below .500 conference record. In 42 games, Dakota Harris batted .339 with 57 hits, 12 doubles, seven home runs, and 43 RBI in 168 at-bats during the regular season.

University of Kansas (24-30, 8-16 Big 12)
The Jayhawks in the basement as the eighth seed in the Big 12 conference tournament. Kodey Shojinaga is second in the conference in batting average at .380 this season. Through 50 games, he had 70 hits in 184 at-bats with six home runs,15 walks and 31 RBI. Starting pitcher Collin Baumgartner was tied fifth in the conference with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts. He went 5-1, pitching 73.2 innings and allowing 76 hits with 21 walks and striking out 62 batters during the regular season.

Broadcast Info
All games will be broadcast on ESPNU through local cable providers or streamed via ESPN+ with a paid subscription and through the ESPN App. Each game will be live on SiriusXM Big 12 Radio channel 375.

Big 12 Baseball Championship Schedule
All Games at Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas

Wednesday, May 24
Game 1: 10 a.m. EDT – No. 4 TCU vs. No. 5 Kansas State – ESPNU
Game 2: 1:30 p.m. EDT – No. 1 Texas vs. No. 8 Kansas – ESPN+
Game 3: 5 p.m. EDT – No.2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Oklahoma – ESPN+
Game 4: 8:30 p.m. EDT – No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 6 Texas Tech – ESPN+

Thursday, May 25
Game 5: 10 a.m. EDT –  Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser – ESPN+
Game 6: 1:30 p.m. EDT – Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser – ESPN+
Game 7: 5 p.m. EDT – Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner – ESPNU
Game 8: 8:30 p.m. EDT – Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner – ESPNU

Friday, May 26
Game 9: 4 p.m. EDT – Game 7 Loser vs. Game 5 Winner – ESPN+
Game 10: 7:30 p.m. EDT – Game 8 Loser vs. Game 6 Winner – ESPN+ 

Saturday, May 27
Game 11: 10 a.m. EDT – Game 7 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner – ESPN+
Game 12: 1:30 p.m. EDT – Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner – ESPN+
Game 13: 5 p.m. EDT – Game 11 Loser vs. Game 11 Winner (if necessary) – ESPN+
Game 14: 5 p.m. EDT or 8:30 p.m. EDT – Game 12 Loser vs. Game 12 Winner (if necessary) – ESPN+

Sunday, May 28
Game 15: 6 p.m. EDT – Championship Game – ESPNU