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Tech takes the Baylor series 2-1

Red Raiders shellacked the Bears for 26 of 27 innings, get shellacked in the 27th inning to drop the sweep.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Coastal Carolina vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a goofy sport. Most team sports have this thing called a game clock. That clock lets you know when your lead should be secured. Let’s say you’re a football team with a 21 point lead with a minute to go. If this isn’t a Big 12 game, you’re probably safe. But baseball doesn’t work that way.

The beauty, and sometimes agony, of the game is that as long as one out remains, the game is still able to be won or lost by either side. That’s my explanation for what happened in the 9th inning of Sunday’s game. Now let’s talk about the good stuff because there’s plenty of it.

This week featured only one midweek game, but the Red Raiders scored enough for at least 2 games in it. Tech played New Mexico State on Tuesday and knocked out the starting pitcher after he faced 6 batters and couldn’t record a single out. Before a TTU pitcher took the mound, Tech had a 6-0 lead.

Tech wasn’t done scoring runs after that; the Red Raiders would go on to score 9 more runs in a 15-4 win over the Aggies. Offensive leaders for the game were Grant Little and Michael Berglund who both had four hits and a double. Pitching was handled by committee, with Kaleb Kilian, Jake McDonald, and Parker Mushinski each working 2 innings and others working just 1.

Friday’s series opening game with Baylor set the tone for a comfortably dominating weekend for Texas Tech. With Davis Martin still out, John Henry Gonzalez got the start. The freshman lasted only 2 innings and was outshone by Kaleb Kilian and Erikson Lanning who each pitched 3 perfect innings in relief.

This Red Raider offense gave the pitching staff more than enough cushion to feel safe in Friday’s game. The 1-4 hitters combined to go 9-17 with 3 walks, 6 RBI, and 6 runs scored. Orlando Garcia also hit a 3-run homer.

Steven Gingery had his worst start of the season in Saturday’s game. Here’s the thing, it wasn’t a bad start. Gingery pitched 5.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 walk, 2 runs (1 earned), as he struck out 3. His 1 earned run was actually given up by the reliever after he was taken out.

In 2017, Gingery has started 8 games. In those 8 games he has pitched 54 innings, struck out 57, allowed only 50 base runners, and has a 1.00 ERA. Among Big 12 pitchers with at least 2 starts, he’s 1st in ERA, 2nd in innings pitched, tied for second in strikeouts, and tied for first in wins if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, Saturday’s game? Tech scored their first run in the fourth inning off of another Orlando Garcia home run, a solo shot. Each side scored a single run in the 6th to tie the game at two each. After Baylor retook the lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 7th, Tech snatched the lead back in odd fashion in the bottom of the frame.

Here’s how the bottom of the 7th inning unfolded: single, walk, sac bunt, walk, fielder’s choice fielding error, popup, bases loaded walk, bases loaded walk, fly out. The result of this crazy inning was 3 runs and a 5-3 lead that Tech would not give up thanks to John McMillon and Jose Quezada.

Now Sunday’s game looked like it was going to be a nice and easy end to yet another series sweep. Ryan Shetter filled his role in the Sunday started slot but only lasted 4 innings after 77 pitches. He allowed 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs in his eighth start of the season, a fine outing.

The first inning saw a 3-run homer by Hunter Hargrove and a Tanner Gardner RBI single to give Tech a 4-0 lead. Baylor cut it to 4-1 after a solo shot in the next half inning. Orlando Garcia extended the lead to 7-1 with a 3-run bomb in the 3rd inning.

Baylor struck back with a solo homer in the 4th and 2 more runs in the 5th to bring the score to 7-4. The Red Raiders responded with a pair of runs in the 5th from an OG solo blast and an Anthony Lyons RBI triple to put Tech up 9-4.

That score would hold until the top of the 9th inning when Tim Tadlock brought on Josh Jung for his first collegiate pitching appearance. It made sense at the time to try a guy on the mound who pitched well in high school. The bullpen worked a lot of innings this week, so why not give a guy an inning with a 5 run lead, right?

Maybe that’s a fine idea, if you give him one clean inning that’s his own. But that isn’t what Tadlock did. After Jake McDonald hit a batter, then walked one on four consecutive pitches, Tadlock brought in Josh Jung from third base to pitch with runners on first and second and no outs.

It’s easy to blame Jung for his bad outing, but he shouldn’t have been in a position to make those mistakes. Jung hadn’t pitched in a collegiate game before, so bringing him in from third, after playing the field the whole game to a dicey situation out of the pen, it’s not something that should have happened. It’s a situation he’s unfamiliar with and left him out to dry. That said, it was still a very bad outing. Here’s how it went.

Kameron Ethsay flies out to right field, Aaron Dodson smashes a 3-run homer to right center field on the first pitch. 9-7 Tech still leads. Davis Wendzel walks on a full count, followed by a Richard Cunningham 2-run blast to left center. 9-9 tie game. Josh Jung moves back to third base and Jose Quezada takes over.

Quezada walks the first batter he sees on 4 pitches, then a single moves him to third base, followed by a sacrifice fly to bring him home and give Baylor a 10-9 lead. Another single and a wild pitch fail result in no more runs as Quezada gets Baylor’s best offensive threat, freshman catcher Shea Langeliers, to fly out to right field.

After that kidney punch of a half inning, the Red Raiders were only down 1 and could still win it. Orlando Garcia and Connor Beck put together back to back one out singles to bring Tanner Gardner to the plate with the tying run in scoring position. Here is where Tim Tadlock makes his second baffling decision of the 9th inning: he pinch hits Zach Rheams for Gardner.

For the season, Rheams is 6-44 for a .136 average. Granted 2 of those 6 are homers, and his on base percentage is .328, but still. Rheams hits right handed, the reliever Troy Montemayor is right handed, Gardner hits lefty. Unless Gardner was injured, there is absolutely no excuse for this. Rheams struck out and Cody Farhat popped up to end the game a 10-9 loss.

Games like that happen, it’s best to shake them off. Tadlock made two really bad decisions, but he’s an excellent coach that has made this program a nationally recognized powerhouse.

That said, I’m not doing my job if I’m not mad online about these bad decisions. Nobody wants to keep reading me saying “everything is flowers, there is no reason for dismay.” It gets old. But don’t think that means I’m not recognizing how awesome this season is and how good this team is. I’ve become long-winded, let’s get to the awards.

Hitter of the week: Orlando freaking Garcia. The junior shortstop hit the ball so hard this week it’s like the baseball said a yo mama joke to him before each at bat. OG went 8-17 with 11 RBI, 3 walks, and 4 HOME RUNS!

In 9 games of conference play, Garcia is 2nd in batting average hitting .394, and leads the conference in slugging (.909), RBI (12), and home runs (5).

Pitcher of the week: Caleb Kilian had a really solid two outings this week after a tough week last week. The freshman worked 2 innings against New Mexico state in which he allowed 1 run on 3 hits. Kilian’s gem came on Friday’s game against Baylor where he threw 3 perfect innings and struck out 4 Bears.

Looking on this week as a whole I’m encouraged by what I saw. This team is relatively young, and a meltdown like Sunday’s 9th inning is a learning experience for all involved.

Big blown leads happen sometimes and this one happened at a relatively safe time. This team will learn how to not do that anymore, and move on.

Texas Tech is ranked 6th in all major rankings this week and is second in the Big 12, just two games behind TCU in conference play. Next week Tech travels to Manhattan Kansas to take on the Wildcats.