Texas will have a chance at a small accomplishment, but a big opportunity if they can take care of business this weekend. The reigning conference tourney champs are fighting not to be the one team left out of the Big 12 tournament. Texas can clinch with a win or Kansas loss, and avoid a 2013 repeat of the embarrassment of last place.
Thankfully, their opponent is a weak one. Just as Baylor's school and football program are in shambles, so too is its baseball team. Unfortunately, that means they are an evenly matched opponent. Like Texas, Baylor lacks power on offense, with only 29 home runs on the year. However the Bears do have three hitters above a .300 average, including junior catcher Matt Menard, who averages .336.
Defensively, Baylor is extremely shaky. The team has an ERA of 4.89, with no one in the starting rotation to reliably turn to. Their series starter, Drew Tolson, has a 5.35 ERA, and has given up a .309 batting average to opponents. Daniel Castano is their number two starter with an also worse than average ERA of 4.37, but has a penchant for striking batters out (58 in 78 innings). Despite their generally poor numbers, both pitchers beat TCU last weekend.
Baylor has never been a baseball powerhouse, but any series is scary when looking how close Texas is to last place. Like Texas' last Big 12 opponent, West Virginia, Baylor may be on an upward trend. The Bears took their series against TCU last weekend. Meanwhile, Texas has only won one of their last eight games, which was against Prairie View A&M, ranked 295th out of 300 teams. However, the Longhorns have only played one game in eleven days, so they may take the field better rested than the Bears.
If the Big 12 Tournament began today, Texas would play TCU. The odds are still highly in Texas' favor to make the tournament, since these three things would need to happen for them to miss:
1. Texas gets swept at home by Baylor.
2. Kansas sweeps #12 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
3. Kansas State takes two of three at TCU.
Texas hopes to clinch from a win, not another team's loss. As mentioned in my post yesterday, if Texas does get swept, it will give them their second worst record since their inaugural season in 1896. These final games are Augie Garrido's last stand -- literally, this could be the last home stand of his career. In a season full of lost wars, winning the small battle of a Big 12 Tournament birth would be worth celebrating this weekend.
This post will be an open thread for tonight's game. The series will start at 6 PM CST at Disch-Falk field in Austin. You can catch in on the Longhorn Network, or 104.9 the Horn.