What. A. Weekend. After a thrilling three game series against a worthy opponent in the East Carolina University Pirates, Texas Tech will be heading to Omaha for the second time in three seasons to face TCU in the College World Series.
After earning the #5 national seed, not only was Texas Tech selected to host a Regional in Lubbock, but the Red Raiders were fortunate to host the Super Regional over the weekend as well. And boy did it pay off. There’s no way to know if Texas Tech would have won the series at a different site, but having nearly 5,000 fans behind you with a "Raider! Power!" chant has to help.
The three game series was an emotional rollercoaster for the Red Raiders. Game one was frustrating in that Tech seemed to let one get away. Six of East Carolina’s eight runs came with two swings of the bat from Travis Watkins on a pair of home runs – one a grand slam, the other a two run shot. Other than Watkins, ECU didn’t hit the ball extremely well. Instead, they got runners on base by taking walks and getting hit by pitches. Additional Texas Tech blunders allowed ECU baserunners to advance without the Pirates hitting the ball.
The wind was blowing towards home plate from the outfield all night long, halting some would-be hits from the Red Raiders that resulted in fly outs instead. By the end of the game, it just felt like the better team didn’t win.
Despite their season being on its death bed in game two on Saturday, Texas Tech seemed calm and composed during pre-game warmups, likely a byproduct of Tim Tadlock’s outstanding leadership. It was an outstanding day on the mound and in the field for Tech, as freshman Steven Gingery and junior Robert Dugger pitched five marvelous innings each, with Ryan Moseley and Hayden Howard also contributing.
But at the plate, the Red Raiders couldn’t break through. Through nine innings with the score tied at 1, Tech had only five hits as Stephen Smith walked nearly every at bat and Big 12 Player of the Year Eric Gutierrez was slumping, eliminating two of the most potent bats in the lineup.
But Gutierrez broke through when it counted the most. In the top of the 13th inning, he got out of a 2-24 slump with a single up the middle that scored two runs (including Tyler Floyd, who was called out on what would have been the game winning run in the 9th inning despite replay showing him to be safe).
The stadium erupted after the final out, a show of relief indicative of the confidence that if the Red Raiders could just force a game three, surely they could dominate a depleted ECU bullpen.
Sure enough, a record-breaking crowd showed up again at Dan Law Field on Sunday to cheer on their beloved team. Texas Tech broke through early and often, scoring six runs in the first three innings. Freshman Erikson Lanning threw an absolute gem, going seven scoreless innings and giving up just two hits. When he didn’t come back out to pitch in the 8th, the home crowd clamored for a curtain call, and Lanning gave it to them, tipping his cap to thousands of admirers.
When it was all said and done, Texas Tech had scored 11 runs and completely shutout ECU. Gutierrez was plunked in his final at bat at Dan Law Field, but was given a standing ovation by the crowd nonetheless.
The celebration was on after the final out, with the stereotypical dogpile in the middle of the infield, and water being sprayed everywhere.
TEXAS TECH IS OMAHA BOUND pic.twitter.com/wIKsbpmL2p— Viva The Matadors (@vivathematadors) June 12, 2016
It was the perfect end to a fantastic season. Texas Tech’s final home game ended with not only a punched ticket to the College World Series with the Super Regional win, but a Big 12 championship, and a Regional victory as well.
I’m obliged to tip my cap to East Carolina and their fans who travelled so far to watch their team play. They were respectful all weekend and their team enjoyed an amazing season as well. Advancing to the Super Regionals and defeating the defending champions in Virginia are no small feats.
All in all, the final Texas Tech home game was as good a note as you can end on until next season. What a treat for the fans to see the Red Raiders make history, and they certainly did their part not only in cheering for their team, but in being a good host as well and earning some national respect for being a classy fan base.
See you in Omaha!