By Jason Elmquist
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Baseball was the last thing on anyone’s mind Tuesday at the Big 12 Conference baseball awards luncheon in Oklahoma City.
With Monday’s tragedy in Moore, just a few miles south of the Bricktown Ballpark where the Big 12 baseball championship will be held for the ninth-consecutive season, the focus of the day was on those in need.
Instead of Big 12 baseball coaches addressing the media about their team as is the norm at the luncheon, the microphone was turned over to Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday and University of Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway.
“It’s really scary and horrifying to think of what so many people are going through and our heart goes out to them,” said Holliday, whose players will wear a special Oklahoma decal on their helmets during the tournament. “I know several of our players are obviously from the state of Oklahoma and the kids not from the state are realizing just how powerful tornadoes can be. It’s very humbling and something very scary.”
Golloway added, “Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the victims. I know in the coaches meeting, the sentiments were all the same ... but everyone was unanimous that baseball takes a backseat right now to what’s going on in our great state of Oklahoma. ... We deferred to a lot more intelligent people to make that decision.”
It was announced that the Big 12 championship would still be held, but it would be modified in respect to the tornado in the Oklahoma City suburb.
After talks with city and state officials, the Big 12 elected to hold the tournament but postpone it a day. Instead of starting Wednesday, the championship will begin Thursday and will shift from a bracket-style to a pool play 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 in a release by the Big 12 office. “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 in the same release, “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 the last time being in 2010, 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 Sunday.
OSU, the second seed in the conference, will still open against TCU at 7:30 p.m. The Cowboys will play Kansas at 7:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a 4 p.m. game against West Virginia on Saturday.
Bedlam rival OU will take on Baylor at 9 a.m. Thursday and Texas Tech at 9 a.m. Friday. The fourth-seeded Sooners will take on Big 12 regular season champion Kansas State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
After the announcement of the changes, the Big 12 yearly awards were handed out. K-State claimed three of the five major awards — Ross Kivett earned Player of the Year, Jake Matthys was named Newcomer of the Year and Brad Hill was recognized as Coach of the Year. West Virginia pitcher Harrison Musgrave won Pitcher of the Year, while Kansas junior closer Jordan Piche was named the Newcomer of the Year.
The Cowboys landed two players on the All-Big 12 First Team — which was dominated by KSU with seven Wildcats. Sophomore outfielder Zach Fish and junior relief pitcher Vince Wheeland earned first-team nods, while seniors Victor Romero and Randy McCurry, junior Tanner Krietemeier and sophomore Jason Hursh landed on the All-Big 12 Second Team.
Brendan McCurry, Tyler Nurdin, Mark Robinette, Saulyer Saxon and Donnie Walton earned Honorable Mention nods. Walton was OSU’s lone representative on the All-Freshman Team.