Some guys are catchers, some guys are pitchers. Some are natural-born leadoff hitters, others wouldn’t be comfortable in that spot.
Kolbey Carpenter is just a baseball player.
The Oklahoma junior started at four different positions for the Sooners this season and moved up and down the batting order before settling in the three-hole. Ultimately, it didn’t matter where he landed, because Carpenter excelled wherever OU coach Pete Hughes used him.
“I’m pretty versatile, I’ve kind of played all over the infield at different times,” Carpenter said. “Because of different injuries to guys, I’ve been asked to move around a lot. I’m kind of used to it.”
Carpenter proved to be the Sooners’ caulk gun, because he filled in the cracks whenever a hole arrived. A former West standout who was Super Centex Player of the Year as a senior, Carpenter hit a team-best .367 with 49 runs scored, eight home runs, 37 RBIs and a .538 slugging percentage for the Sooners this season. His 36 hits in Big 12 play led the conference, and he also ranked third in the league in runs, fourth in total bases and fifth in RBIs. He tied a Big 12 record by winning the Player of the Week honor three times.
All that, while earning starts at first base, second base, left field and designated hitter.
Carpenter said that, more than anything else, this year was a testament to the importance of preparation.
“I put a lot of work in over the offseason last year, and I think that really helped,” Carpenter said. “I worked on my swing speed, worked on getting stronger, put in a lot of time in summer ball. That work paid off when I was able to be in the lineup every day and really help the team.”
West coach Cory Beckham, who has continued to follow the career of his old protege, hasn’t been surprised at Carpenter’s development. He remembers Carpenter being one of the most motivated players he’s ever coached.
“I knew that it might take some time to adjust as a college player, because that’s a whole other level,” Beckham said. “But once he settled in and made a few adjustments, his competitive nature took over. He’s got such a strong mind and a competitiveness that is out of this world, and that’s what takes him to the top.”
Carpenter pummeled a Class 3A-record 48 home runs during his career at West. He had a number of college suitors, but felt most comfortable at Oklahoma. He hit .264 with 24 RBIs while making 50 starts his freshman year, then endured offseason shoulder surgery following that season. He was limited to just 34 games a sophomore, but still hit .300 and clubbed the game-winning hit in a game against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.
After a strong summer season with the Brazos Valley Bombers of the Texas Collegiate League, Carpenter made a significant leadoff jump in his development this year.
He is draft-eligible for the upcoming Major League Draft, which will be held June 8-10. It seems only a matter of time before he joins the professional ranks, following in the cleat marks of such past West standouts as Scott Podsednik and Garrett Mattlage.
“Definitely, playing pro ball has been my dream for a long time,” Carpenter said. “Hopefully it works out (this summer), but if not I’ll be back here at OU next year and give it another shot next year.”
Beckham expects Carpenter to make it, just based on sheer desire.
“He’s a baseball player, and when he gets drafted that what he’ll drafted as, is a baseball player. He’ll play wherever they put him,” Beckham said. “Who knows when that will happen, but it seems like it’ll happen one day.”
Other Trib honors
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle won the Trib’s Coach of the Year honor after directing the Frogs to their first Big 12 title in their third season in the league. TCU was remarkably consistent throughout the year, fashioning a 43-9 regular-season record and an 18-5 mark in the conference. The Frogs closed the regular season on a nine-game winning streak.
The well-rounded Frogs led the Big 12 in team ERA, fielding percentage and batting average. The Big 12 coaching award is the first for Schlossnagle, who was a seven-time Coach of the Year honoree in the Mountain West.
Oklahoma State’s dominant Michael Freeman mowed down batters on his way to the Pitcher of the Year superlative. He was named the Big 12’s pitcher of the week four times during the year, and was especially stingy in Big 12 play, going 5-2 with a 0.80 ERA. The 6-foot-8 southpaw has 92 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings on the year.
TCU designated hitter Connor Wanhanen claimed the Freshman of the Year honor, hitting .364 in Big 12 action, while Kansas pitcher Ben Krauth was picked as Newcomer of the Year. Krauth, a transfer from Diablo Valley (Calif.) College, led the Big 12 in strikeouts in conference games (54) and finished the year with a 7-5 record and 3.65 ERA in 91 1/3 innings.
2015 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 BASEBALL TEAM
|Player of the Year: Kolbey Carpenter, 2B/1B, Oklahoma|
|Pitcher of the Year: Michael Freeman, LHP, Oklahoma State|
|Coach of the Year: Jim Schlossnagle, TCU|
|Freshman of the Year: Connor Wanhanen, DH, TCU|
|Newcomer of the Year: Ben Krauth, P, Kansas|
|C||Gage Green||Sr||Oklahoma St.||.285||5||29||18 steals|
|1B||Eric Gutierrez||Jr||Texas Tech||.315||4||46||39 walks|
|2B||Kolbey Carpenter||Jr||Oklahoma||.361||8||37||.538 slug.|
|SS||Sheldon Neuse||So||Oklahoma||.279||6||43||10 steals|
|3B||Kevin Bradley||So||Oklahoma St.||.279||3||22||17 walks|
|DH||Connor Wanhanen||Fr||TCU||.339||0||31||.418 OBP|
|OF||Cody Jones||Sr||TCU||.376||4||30||25 steals|
|OF||Stephen Smith||So||Texas Tech||.291||10||32||0 errors|
|OF||Ben Johnson||Jr||Texas||.345||5||31||16 steals|
|UT||Taylor Munden||Sr||West Virginia||.266||11||31||11 steals|
|SP||Michael Freeman||Sr||Oklahoma St.||10-2||1.05||92||.183 OBA|
|SP||Preston Morrison||Sr||TCU||11-2||2.63||71||2 CG|
|SP||Cameron Smith||Sr||Texas Tech||6-5||2.83||77||1 save|
|SP||Alex Young||Jr||TCU||9-2||2.05||77||2 SO|
|RP||Riley Ferrell||Jr||TCU||1-2||0.67||42||14 saves|
|C||Michael Tinsley||So||Kansas||.337||3||39||15 2Bs|
|1B||Anthony Hermelyn||So||Oklahoma||.322||6||49||12 2Bs|
|2B||Tim Arakawa||Sr||Oklahoma St.||.301||1||35||46 runs|
|SS||Donnie Walton||Sr||Oklahoma St.||.336||4||28||.513 slug.|
|3B||Derek Odell||Sr||TCU||.280||3||29||106 ASTs|
|DH||Kyle Davis||Fr||West Virginia||.353||4||31||.491 slug.|
|OF||Ryan Sluder||So||Oklahoma St.||.317||6||22||35 runs|
|OF||Logan Brown||Sr||Baylor||.293||1||20||21 steals|
|OF||Tyler Neslony||Jr||Texas Tech||.286||6||35||.460 slug.|
|UT||Tres Barrera||So||Texas||.291||8||29||.482 slug.|
|SP||Ross Vance||Jr||West Virginia||7-5||3.26||81||1 SO|
|SP||Mitchell Traver||So||TCU||7-2||1.89||60||.190 OBA|
|SP||Parker French||Sr||Texas||4-3||2.25||54||21 BBs|
|RP||Jacob Evans||Jr||Oklahoma||6-1||1.67||53||8 saves|
|RP||Dominic Moreno||Sr||Texas Tech||3-3||1.85||73||7 saves|
|* Statistics through Friday's games|
— Compiled by sports editor Brice Cherry