Big 12 Softball’s Top Storylines for Conference Play: Week 2

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

We’re heading into the second weekend of Big 12 play in the 2024 softball season, and heading in it appears that the conference has a wealth of competitive teams.

Oklahoma was the only team to start league play with a 3-0 sweep—albeit against Iowa State (9-14)—while the rest of the Big 12 saw their series decided via 2-1 splits.

In Week 2, will we see a few teams separate from the pack, or will the conference continue to prove that this will be a race to the very end? Here are the biggest storylines heading into the weekend.

 

Red Raiders’ Big Test

Texas Tech (25-4, 2-1) has gotten off to a hot start in 2024, coming into the weekend having gone 14-2 in their last three weeks of action. Last week, Tech went to Provo and handed BYU just its third series loss at home since 2014. However, this week’s home series against top-ranked Oklahoma (24-1, 3-0) will provide a much stiffer test.

The Sooners offense is starting to figure things out, having scored 45 runs in their last four games. Cydney Sanders is seeing the ball better than anyone in the country right now, going 6-for-9 (.667) with six home runs and 16 RBI in her last five games. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s pitching staff seems to have gotten back to form after struggling on opening weekend at Love’s Field.

Oklahoma has faced three of the nation’s top 11 offenses this season, allowing 10 of their 33 total runs on the year in those games. Texas Tech ranks 13th nationally in scoring offense (7.31 runs per game) and will need to rattle off some runs to pull off a major upset.

 

UCF Heads to Stillwater

UCF (14-8, 2-1) faced a challenging nonconference slate this season and got a much-needed series victory over a feisty Kansas team last weekend in Orlando. This week, the Knights will travel to Stillwater for their first Big 12 road series against Oklahoma State (21-3, 2-1).

The Cowgirls went to Waco last weekend and took down Baylor in a tough three-game series that saw just 12 total runs scored. There, the pitching staff continued to shine as Ivy Rosenberry (0.77 ERA) and Lexi Kilfoyl (0.77 ERA) have allowed just 16 combined runs on the year.

Sarah Willis (2.19 ERA) will need to start finding the 2023 version of herself if UCF is going to make it through a grueling Big 12 schedule, and this weekend would be a great time for her to start. Oklahoma State is hitting .339 (16th nationally) as a team and is scoring 6.62 runs per game (20th nationally).

 

Can BYU’s Offense Keep Pace in Austin?

BYU (16-6, 1-2) will head to Austin for a huge early season test against No. 2 Texas (21-3, 2-1) offense comes into Week 2 of conference play with the ninth-ranked offense in the country, scoring 7.64 runs per game. On top of that, the Cougars rank fifth nationally with a .355 team batting average and seventh in on-base percentage (.448).

Despite all of that, the Cougars offense will still rank behind its opponent this week in nearly every offensive statistic, as Texas has been next-level at the plate. The Longhorns rank second nationally in batting average (.398), fourth in on-base percentage (.471), third in slugging (.665), and third in scoring (8.71).

BYU’s team ERA of 3.92 (162nd nationally) tells the story of their struggles to this point in the year, and they’ll face the best offense (by far) they’ve seen. If the Cougars can’t slow down Texas’ offense early on in games, there’s a chance things could get very ugly for BYU.