The deeper into 2014 the baseball season goes, the more the 2013 season seems like an aberration.
All nine Big 12 baseball teams rank in the top 87 of the latest ratings percentage index rankings, according to the RPI-tracking website Boydsworld.
That’s a far cry from a year ago, when just three teams from the league earned postseason berths.
Longtime postseason fixtures such as Texas and TCU were left behind after failing to earn automatic bids. The Longhorns’ and Horned Frogs’ regular-season résumés weren’t strong enough to earn at-large bids and the two teams that met just three years before in consecutive Super Regionals stayed home.
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Only two teams finished in the top 30 in RPI, which the NCAA uses to help seed teams in its 64-team postseason tournament. The other seven were 52nd or lower, including two outside the top 100 in Texas Tech (101) and TCU (107).
Those teams meet in a nonconference game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crutcher Scott Field on the campus of Abilene Christian.
Both teams have not only rebounded from down seasons a year ago, but they’ve also made sure their nonconference games didn’t hurt their RPIs in 2014. TCU played at Oklahoma earlier in the season in a nonconference game.
“You’re showing the selection committee that you’re making an effort to play good teams,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. I think at least five [Big 12] teams should make it.”
TCU has won 11 of its past 12 and is coming off a three-game sweep at Texas over the weekend. The Horned Frogs (26-13, 10-5 in the Big 12) have seen their RPI shoot to No. 18. The NCAA’s official RPI rankings hadn’t been updated since April 15 as of Monday afternoon. The Red Raiders, who went 26-30 a year ago, are 32-11 and rank 12th in the RPI.
“I’m not surprised. They’ve done a great job recruiting and they had a young team last year from a position player standpoint and they have all those guys back,” Schlossnagle said.
An RPI ranking inside the top 40 should ensure most teams with a good league record an at-large berth to the postseason. But it often comes down to the end of the season and which teams are sizzling and which teams are fizzling.
Right now, there are few hotter teams than TCU and Tech, which is 10-3 in April and had its eight-game winning streak snapped Monday at New Mexico. The Red Raiders took two of three games against TCU in Fort Worth in March.
Since then the Frogs have gone 13-3 overall and 9-3 in the league. TCU is receiving votes but failed to crack this week’s USA Today coaches’ Top 25. Tech ranks No. 21. The Frogs are ranked in both the Baseball America (No. 23) and Collegiate Baseball (No. 15) polls.
“I think guys have just focused more on their role versus trying to do anything outside of that,” Schlossnagle said. “The last three weeks we’ve been talking about just trying to win every midweek game and win series on the weekend and that if we did that we’d put ourselves in position to play in the postseason and the guys have really bought into that.”
• Second baseman Garrett Crain and pitcher Riley Ferrell earned Big 12 weekly honors. Crain led the team with a .538 batting average and four RBIs as TCU went 4-0, including a sweep at Texas. Closer Riley Ferrell struck out five in 3 1/3 innings and earned the save in all three wins at Texas over the weekend.
• TCU lowered its team ERA to 2.51, tied with Rice for 15th lowest in the nation. The Frogs’ staff is fourth in strikeouts (356) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.1).