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A way to improve the Big 12 baseball tournament

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Players in the OU dugout hang dejected in the bottom of the ninth inning in what became a 10-3 loss to Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament three weeks ago. (Photo by Nate Billings)
Players in the OU dugout hang dejected in the bottom of the ninth inning in what became a 10-3 loss to Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament three weeks ago. (Photo by Nate Billings)

A few weeks ago during the Big 12 Tournament, I posted a dispatch from a reader frustrated over teams not playing to win. Teams would set up their pitching staffs to be in shape for the NCAA Tournament the next week, rather than playing to win in Oklahoma City, and the result was a baseball hodgepodge.

You can read that blog here.

You can be angry about the product on the field at Bricktown for that week. But you can’t argue with the results.

Reader Chris Rein points out that NCAA baseball success has been found by teams who got in and out of conference tournaments quickly, or didn’t compete at all.

Here’s what Chris found for the eight-team College World Series field:

“Oregon State: No conference tournament
“Washington: No conference tournament
“Texas: Played to lose the tournament, 2 & (out)
“Texas Tech: Played to lose the tournament, 1-2
“North Carolina: 2 & (out)
“Mississippi State: One and done
“Arkansas: Three games (2-1)
“Florida: 1-2.”

The SEC has a quirky format – 12 teams, first round is single elimination, which leads to double elimination until the semifinals, when it reverts to single elimination. I said quirky, but I didn’t mean bad. For all I know, it works just fine.

But either way, of the eight World Series teams, only Arkansas had any success in a conference tournament this season.

Rein continues:

“Compared to the teams that won their tournament:
“ACC: FSU (4 games) Lost in Regional
“SEC: Ole Miss (5 games) Lost in Regional
“Big 12: Baylor (4 games) Lost in Regional.”

Not one conference tournament champion advanced to a Super Regional.

“Seems the smart move is to throw the conference tournament and rest up the staff,” Rein wrote. “Which sucks for the fans that enjoy it.”

Coaches play these conference tournaments this way for a reason.

Think about it. They play three-game series most every weekend all spring. Then they’re asked to go to a conference tournament where they might play two games but they could end up playing as many as six games in five days. With a four-team regional looming five days later that could require as many as five games.

It’s a flawed format.

Here’s what I thought about. How about a single-elimination Big 12 Tournament, only also playing consolation games so that teams are assured of three games and can set their pitching staffs like normal?

And don’t play on Sunday. Start on Thursday. Play the semifinals on Friday in the middle time slots, so that no winner’s bracket team is starting at 9 p.m. Play the championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday or 4 p.m. Saturday, followed by whatever place game you want.

Hold Sunday for a rain date for the championship.

Every team is guaranteed three games and three games only. No five games. No six games. No stretching your pitching.

Maybe that’s a way to salvage the Big 12 Tournament.

Related Photos
The OU dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Baseball Championship at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Baylor won 10-3 and eliminated OU from the tournament. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

The OU dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Baseball Championship at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Baylor won 10-3 and eliminated OU from the tournament. Photo by Nate...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-86ab201df06bc875c5043ab82c31ac22.jpg" alt="Photo - The OU dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Baseball Championship at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Baylor won 10-3 and eliminated OU from the tournament. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman" title="The OU dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Baseball Championship at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Baylor won 10-3 and eliminated OU from the tournament. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>The OU dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Baseball Championship at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Baylor won 10-3 and eliminated OU from the tournament. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew... Read more ›

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