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HOW THEY STACK UP
3. Texas A&M
5. Kansas State
6. Oklahoma State
8. Texas Tech
C Tyler Ogle, Oklahoma
1B Cameron Seitzer, Oklahoma
2B Davis Duren, Oklahoma State
SS Brandon Loy, Texas
3B Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma
OF Nick Martini, Kansas State
OF Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech
OF Logan Vick, Baylor
DH Cody Asche, Nebraska
SP Taylor Jungmann, Texas
SP Cole Green, Texas
SP John Stilson, Texas A&M
RP Ryan Duke, Oklahoma
Oklahoma: The Sooners have experienced plenty of success during the Sunny Golloway era, but took a huge step forward last season with a trip to the College World Series. Now, with almost every key player back, the Sooners are aiming for their first national title since 1994. There’s no reason why this team shouldn’t compete for a national title.
Nebraska: Fans were grumbling in Lincoln, Neb., last season when the Huskers finished near the bottom of conference. But look for a much different club this spring. The Huskers welcome back some solid arms and add the elite arm of freshman Logan Ehlers. Offensively, Cody Asche gives the Huskers a solid bat to build around.
Kansas State: There was a time not too long ago when the Wildcats were just happy to reach an NCAA Regional. Now, coach Brad Hill has turned the Wildcats into a program that expects to make the postseason. That expectation won’t change this season with a solid offense and pitching staff expected.
Texas A&M RHP John Stilson: Stilson jumped on the college baseball scene in a big way last season when he tallied an impressive 0.80 ERA in 79 innings as the Aggies’ closer. Now, Stilson, the No. 2 draft prospect for 2011, takes his talents to the weekend rotation. Stilson has a huge opportunity to elevate his draft stock.
Missouri: It would be a surprise if the Tigers made an NCAA Regional this spring. The Tigers took a step back last season when they finished near the bottom of conference. Now, they’ll again have to fight to stay out of the cellar without several key players from last year’s club. Missouri needs several players to step up, but is particularly excited about offensive cog Conner Mach.
Texas Tech: Coach Dan Spencer is a great teacher and eventually will guide the Red Raiders to a postseason berth. But that season likely won’t be 2011. The Red Raiders had a solid one-two punch last season with Chad Bettis and Bobby Doran leading the way. But now, without those two, they have some serious question marks on the mound. Tech could surprise if the pitching staff exceeds expectations.
Kansas: The Jayhawks finished near the bottom of conference last season, and that was with three of the league’s better hitters in Tony Thompson, Brian Heere and Robby Price. KU will have a tough time making up ground this season unless pitcher T.J Walz and others elevate their level of play.
Oklahoma State It’ll be interesting to see what type of campaign the Cowboys have this season. They finished last in conference last season and hope to turn the tide. The Cowboys have talent and experience on the mound, while the offense has something to prove despite the return of Davis Duren, Mark Ginther and others. The Cowboys expect to be much improved, but how much is the question. It’s a big year for OSU.
RHP Taylor Jungmann, Texas: The right-hander is expected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming MLB draft. Jungmann is coming off a great sophomore campaign, where he went 8-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 120 innings. He also struck out 129 and walked 41. Jungmann and Cole Green formulate a fantastic one-two punch.
3B Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma: Buechele was one of the nation’s most consistent hitters last season and is expected to have another strong campaign. The clutch hitter batted .359 with 16 doubles, two triples, 17 homers and 65 RBIs last season. He also was and is expected to continue his role as a vocal leader.
Omaha caliber: Texas, Oklahoma
Super regional caliber: Texas A&M, Baylor
Regional caliber: Kansas State, Oklahoma State
TOP PROSPECTS (2011 MLB DRAFT)
Prospect lists compiled by Allan Simpson
1. RHP Taylor Jungmann, Texas
2. RHP/SS John Stilson, Texas A&M
3. RHP Burch Smith, Oklahoma
4. RHP Logan Verrett, Baylor
5. RHP Colton Murray, Kansas
6. LHP Sam Stafford, Texas
7. OF Nick Martini, Kansas State
8. 3B/RHP Adam Smith, Texas A&M
9. RHP/OF Brooks Pinckard, Baylor
10. OF/RHP Cohl Walla, Texas
11. RHP Chris Marlowe, Oklahoma State
12. SS Brandon Loy, Texas
13. 3B/1B Cody Asche, Nebraska
14. RHP Tanner Poppe, Kansas
15. RHP Matt Stites, Missouri
16. LHP Ross Hales, Texas A&M
17. 3B Mark Ginther, Oklahoma State
18. RHP T.J Walz, Kansas
19. RHP Austin Dicharry, Texas
20. RHP/SS Randy McCurry, Oklahoma State
TOP PROSPECTS (2012 MLB DRAFT)
1. RHP Michael Wacha, Texas A&M
2. LHP/OF Hoby Milner, Texas
3. 1B Max Muncy, Baylor
4. OF Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech
5. LHP Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma State
6. RHP Eric Anderson, Missouri
7. OF/2B Max White, Oklahoma
8. RHP Josh Urban, Texas
9. RHP Tom Lemke, Nebraska
10. OF/SS Logan Vick, Baylor
11. Ryan Gibson, Oklahoma
12. Krey Bratsen, Texas A&M
13. C Dane Phillips, Oklahoma State
14. C Jonathan Walsh, Texas
15. LHP Levi Schlick, Kansas State
16. OF/LHP Cayle Shambaugh, Oklahoma
17. RHP Ryan Hander, Nebraska
18. OF/1B Dane Opel, Missouri
19. RHP/3B Dillon Newman, Baylor
20. SS Chad Christensen, Nebraska
21. OF Blake Brown, Missouri
AROUND THE DIAMOND
• Oklahoma received bad news back in the fall when experienced shortstop Caleb Bushyhead went down with a leg injury. The injury will keep Bushyhead out of the lineup the first few weeks of the season, but he’s expected to return by Big 12 play. Bushyhead batted .327 with 16 doubles, six homers and 40 RBIs last season, and is a key leader for the Sooners.
• Kansas State reliever James Allen isn’t entering the season with too much fanfare, but he’s an arm to watch as the season progresses. Allen is a very good closer for the Wildcats, coming off a season where he recorded nine saves in 28 appearances and tallied an impressive 2.28 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. The right-hander is one of many reasons K-State is expected back in the postseason.
• Much of Kansas’ success hinges on the arms of pitchers T.J. Walz and Colton Murray. Walz entered last season with high hopes, but had a tough campaign that ended with a 5.06 ERA in 101 1/3 innings. He must be better this season. Murray, meanwhile, made 27 appearances last season and had a 4.83 ERA in 31 2/3 innings. Both pitchers are capable of dominant campaigns and must lead the way.
• Oklahoma State has some solid arms, but it can’t wait to get back talented right-hander Randy McCurry. McCurry had a promising freshman campaign two seasons ago, but missed last season due to injury. The Pokes expect McCurry to return to full strength from Tommy John surgery in mid-March. McCurry being healthy makes OSU a more dangerous club.
• Texas A&M has had a busy offseason with John Stilson moving to the weekend rotation and Ross Stripling moving to closer. But there also has been much buzz about left-handed pitcher Ross Hales. Hales was a stud as a freshman two seasons ago, but an injury hampered him all of last season. Now, the Aggies believe Hales is close to his old self. Hales’ resurgence would be huge for A&M.
• Texas had high hopes for JUCO transfer catcher Lucas Kephart, but chances are good he will miss the entire season with an injury. That puts much pressure on Jacob Felts, Kevin Lusson and perhaps even Jonathan Walsh. Felts is a true freshman that likely has the upper hand, while Lusson could be a catcher at the next level and Walsh arrived at UT as a catcher. It’s an interesting position battle to watch as the season nears.
Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org