2021 Big 12 Baseball Stock Watch
For the second straight full season, the Big 12 provided a photo finish in the conference standings. Two years after Texas Tech caught Baylor during the final weekend of the regular season, Texas caught Texas Christian with no time to spare. By virtue of holding the tiebreaker over TCU, Texas was officially the regular-season champion.
The league’s showing in the postseason was uneven at best. Four teams—Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State—made it into the field, and the first three of those hosted regionals. Once the College World Series rolled around, only the Longhorns were left standing, but they ended up just one win short of the CWS finals.
Presented here is a team-by-team analysis for every team in the Big 12, as well as the trajectory of the program moving forward.
Baylor (31-20, 11-13), no postseason ⬅️➡️
Baylor toyed with earning an at-large bid down the stretch, with a series win over Texas Tech in late April serving as a catalyst in that effort, but series losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in the Bears’ final two regular-season series and an 0-2 result in the Big 12 Tournament kept them out. That they ended up being the committee’s first team out of the field only makes the stumble the last two weekends more painful.
In the big picture, Baylor under Steve Rodriguez has been incredibly consistent. It made regional appearances in the three full seasons prior to 2021, and even with the near miss last season, there is little reason to believe that the Bears will be anything but a regional contender again in 2022.
Kansas (30-27, 8-16), no postseason ⬇️
With a finish tied for last in the Big 12 standings and a quick exit from the Big 12 Tournament with a loss to West Virginia in a play-in game, Kansas missed the postseason for the sixth consecutive full season.
There were bright spots in the Jayhawks’ 2021 season, such as the emergence of a pair of freshman phenoms in outfielder Tavian Josenberger and shortstop Maui Ahuna, but KU also lost good players to graduation and just about all of its would-be fifth-year players exited via the transfer portal after the season ended. To compete for the postseason in 2022, Kansas needs a real spark, and it’s not clear right now where that would come from.
Kansas State (34-23, 10-14), no postseason ⬆️
In a vacuum, the 2021 season was a success for Kansas State. It was the program’s first time winning more than 30 games overall since 2013, just the second time it has finished over .500 overall since 2013 and the first time it has won 10 or more conference games since 2015.
And yet, with the talent it had assembled last season, especially on the mound, it’s hard to fight the feeling that the Wildcats left a little bit on the table. Pete Hughes and his staff have made big strides in Manhattan. The next challenge is taking the next step and truly competing for a trip to the postseason.
Oklahoma (27-28, 11-13), no postseason ⬇️
Like Baylor, Oklahoma took care of business well enough during Big 12 play to find itself in the discussion for an at-large bid (albeit more on the periphery of the discussion when compared to the Bears). It won series against the teams it was supposed to beat and struggled against those more talented, save for beating Oklahoma State in a series in late May.
But also like Baylor, an 0-2 showing in the Big 12 Tournament torpedoed its chance to get into the field of 64. The Sooners continue to recruit well and it’s fair to wonder how things could have ended in 2020 when they looked the part of a national title contender before the season was canceled. But there will undoubtedly be urgency to get back to the postseason in 2022 for the first time since 2018.
Oklahoma State (36-19-1, 12-12), reached regionals ⬅️➡️
The Cowboys opened up new O’Brate Stadium in style by extending their streak of postseason appearances to eight, the longest such streak in the conference. Oklahoma State was a much more pitching-focused team than fans are used to seeing, with righthander Justin Campbell serving as a breakout star, but it showed its ability to win games in a variety of ways on the way to the postseason.
OSU has been very active in the transfer portal this offseason, suggesting that there could be a new-look team on the field in 2022, but at this point, it seems like a safe bet to go ahead and pencil the team into regionals as long as Josh Holliday and his staff are in place.
Texas (50-17, 17-7), reached CWS ⬆️
Texas won the Big 12 regular-season title in a tiebreaker with TCU atop the standings, went 5-0 through regionals and the super regional and came up one game short of the CWS finals, led by one of the best pitching staffs in the nation.
It wasn’t that long ago that Texas was on the CWS stage—just 2018 in fact—but whereas that was an older team led by Kody Clemens that preceded a last-place finish in the Big 12 in 2019, the 2021 Omaha appearance very much feels like the beginning of something greater, and the Longhorns could be the top-ranked team in the country going into the 2022 season.
Texas Christian (41-19, 17-7), reached regionals ⬆️
After a few down years by TCU’s extremely high standard, the Horned Frogs, with as veteran a team as likely existed in the major conferences, bounced back in 2021 and hosted a regional for the first time since 2017.
Now, TCU will go into a period of transition. For one thing, many of the veterans from last season have now moved on. Perhaps more notably, longtime coach Jim Schlossnagle departed at the end of the season for Texas A&M, but it would be foolhardy to expect the level of play to drop in the program, given that pitching coach Kirk Saarloos, who has been in place since the 2013 season, stepped up into the lead role.
Texas Tech (39-17, 14-10), reached super regionals ⬅️➡️
Texas Tech fought through a somewhat tumultuous 2021 season. It lost several key players to injury during the course of the season and suffered more losses at home than fans are used to seeing, including a series to Kansas State in early April.
Still, Tech ended the season as a top-eight seed in regionals, right where it was expected to be. But after breezing through regionals, it tripped up in super regionals with two resounding losses to Stanford, handing the Red Raiders a rare postseason defeat at Dan Law Field. Texas Tech returns a superstar in second baseman Jace Jung, but otherwise might be another team that looks quite different in 2022. With its recent track record, though, it deserves the benefit of the doubt that it will put an excellent team on the field once again.
West Virginia (25-27, 8-16), no postseason ⬅️➡️
At this point, it’s reality that West Virginia is going to go through more ups and downs than many of its conference competitors. And by finishing tied for last place with Kansas, the 2021 season was a down year with a team that was quite inexperienced when you consider that it lost a lot of talent after the 2019 season and didn’t get much of a chance to break in new regulars during the canceled 2020 season.
There should still be a lot of optimism about the trajectory of the West Virginia program, as it has time and again enjoyed successes under Randy Mazey that had not previously been seen in Morgantown. The hope is that the 2022 season is the jumping off point for the next team that will match or better the 2019 team, which hosted a regional.