Oklahoma City —
Big 12 Conference athletic directors decided Tuesday morning to play the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship. The format has been altered, and play will start today instead of Wednesday.
The athletic directors met by conference call to discuss options following the devastating tornado that hit Moore Monday afternoon. Three options were considered: Move forward with the schedule as is, alter the schedule/format or cancel the event.
“We debated canceling the tournament in deference to the devastating tragedy in Moore but were encouraged by Oklahoma City leaders and the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association to go forward,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “We believe the tournament can serve as a testament to the strong Oklahoma spirit and to the resiliency of the Oklahoma people.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, “We are very appreciative of the consideration by the participating teams and the Big 12 Conference. We encouraged and supported the decision to play the championship in a format comfortable to the Big 12.”
The format, which has previously been used by the Big 12, will feature two pools. K-State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor will play in one pool, with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU and Kansas in the second pool. Each team will be guaranteed three games, and the team with the best record in each pool will advance to the championship game on Sunday.
The format will feature games at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. CT on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The championship game will be at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.
The Big 12 Championship determines the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament. The NCAA requires that the automatic bid be determined by midnight Sunday.
Tim Brassfield, executive director and CEO of the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, the host agency for the event, said that his organization reached out to Oklahoma City officials, and there was unanimous agreement that playing the games would help the area return to normalcy.
“We certainly wanted to be sensitive to all the people affected by this tragedy,” Brassfield said. “But the overwhelming opinion of all the officials we talked with was that it would help with the healing, to try to get back to normal. And in the end, we were going to do whatever the Big 12 decided to do.”
Emergency services management said that staging the tournament in Oklahoma City would have no impact on the relief effort that is ongoing in Moore, which is about 15 minutes south of OKC.
Bowlsby contacted University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former governor of the state. Boren agreed with the decision to play the games.
Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday and Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway spoke during the kickoff luncheon Tuesday.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims,” said Golloway. "In our coaches’ meeting, everyone was unanimous that baseball takes a back seat to what’s going on in our state. The coaches were in agreement with the decision to go forward.
“On a personal note, we’ve had some of our athletic department staff members affected. Oklahoma is strong and will recover from this. I talked with one of the first responders on the way here this morning, and the last thing he said was, ‘Good luck this weekend, we’re pulling for you.’ He thought we were playing.”
West Virginia closed its season at Oklahoma State on Saturday and then bused to Oklahoma City on Sunday. After witnessing coverage of the destruction, coach Randy Mazey and his team went to a local Wal-Mart Monday night to purchase clothes and supplies to donate to the victims.
“Baseball is trivial,” Mazey said with tears in his eyes during an interview Tuesday. “We just feel so bad for all these people here. We ran into a lady shopping with her children ... her house had been destroyed and they had lost everything.
“It doesn’t matter if we win or lose games. Our kids are benefiting from trying to help.”
No. 2 Oklahoma State
Record: 39-14 overall, 13-10 in Big 12.
Last 10 games: 7-3.
Coach: Josh Holliday.
Top hitters: Soph. IF Zach Fish (.287, 16 2B, 7 HR, 40 RBI), Soph. OF/C Gage Green (.294, 13 SB), Jr. IF Tanner Krietemeier (.329, 4 HR, 41 RBI), Sr. IF/P Randy McCurry (.321, 20 2B, 35 RBI).
Top pitchers: Soph. RHP Jason Hursh (6-4, 2.78 ERA), Soph. LHP Tyler Nurdin (4-2, 1.76), Jr. RHP Brendan McCurry (6-2, 1.52 ERA, 8 saves), Jr. RHP Vince Wheeland (8-1, 1.79 ERA).
Extra bases: The Cowboys have won 14 of its last 18. ... Oklahoma State is second in the Big 12 in hitting (.289) and is third in pitching with a 2.79 ERA. ... The Cowboys lead the Big 12 with 111 doubles. ... Shortstop Randy McCurry is hitting .321 and also has a 2-1 record with a save and a 2.16 ERA. ... Last season, opponents stole over twice as many bases (77) as the Cowboys (38). This season, Oklahoma State has 73 steals and has allowed just 37.
No. 4 Oklahoma
Record: 36-19 overall, 13-11 in Big 12.
Last 10 games: 3-7.
Coach: Sunny Golloway.
Top hitters: Jr. IF Matt Oberste (.389, 10 HR, 51 RBI), Sr. OF Max White (.299, 10 2B, 27 RBI), Fr. OF Craig Aikin (.288, 14 SB), Sr. IF Jack Mayfield (.257, 7 HR, 32 RBI).
Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Johnathan Gray (8-2, 1.69 ERA, Jr. LHP Dillon Overton (8-2, 3.08 ERA), Fr. LHP Jacob Evans (6-2, 1.38 ERA, 9 saves), Fr. LHP Adam Choplick (3-3, 5.74 ERA).
Extra bases: Matt Oberste led the Big 12 in total bases, in RBI with 51 and was second in doubles and home runs. ... Oberste set a school record with a 30-game game hitting streak. ... Pitcher Johnathan Gray passed the 100-strikeout milestone for the second straight season, becoming the sixth Sooner to do so in back-to-back years. ... Among active players, Max White is the Big 12 career leader in games played, at-bats, hits, runs, home runs,, RBI, and total bases. ... Oklahoma is one of just 16 programs to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of the past five seasons.
Thursday, May 23
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Baylor, 9 a.m.
No. 1 K-State vs. No. 8 Texas Tech, 12:30 p.m.
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 6 Kansas, 4 p.m.
No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 TCU, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 24
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Texas Tech, 9 a.m.
No. 1 K-State vs. No. 5 Baylor, 12:30 p.m.
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 7 TCU, 4 p.m.
No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Kansas, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 25
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 8 Texas Tech, 9 a.m.
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 K-State, 12:30 p.m.
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State, 4 p.m.
No. 6 Kansas vs. No. 7 TCU, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 26, Championship Game
Winner Pool One vs. Winner Pool Two, 1 p.m.