Going into the 2014 baseball season, nobody really knew what to expect. It was Tim Tadlock’s second season and the Red Raiders had not been truly competitive in baseball in years. At the start of the season, most fans would have been happy to finish in the top half if the Big 12 and maybe make the playoffs. A College World Series birth seemed like a pipe dream despite Tadlock’s promise the previous year to take Texas Tech to the CWS by his second year.
The Red Raiders opened the season with a four game series against the #3 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. They lost the first game as most fans expected. We thought “if Tech could just win one then we would be in good shape” already trying to justify a loss to a top five opponent. Then, in front of a wide eyed home crowd, the Red Raiders rattled off three straight wins to take down #3 Indiana 3-1 and suddenly it was clear that this was the beginning of a new era of Texas Tech baseball. The Red Raiders would make it to Omaha for the first time in program history that season and over the next three years cement itself as one of the premier baseball programs in the country.
As achievements add up, so do expectations. For many fans, taking even one step backwards feels like a sharp stick in the eye, yet in the grand scheme of things, we are still miles ahead of where we started. When it comes to success, people have increasingly short memories and past achievements quickly become the standard.
In the case of this team, the 2018 squad had been a victim of their own success. Since the Kentucky series, the general feeling has been that of frustration. The Red Raiders have spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 (as high as #4). Tadlock and company are 35-15 and are #5 in the RPI rankings, which will ultimately decide Tech’s postseason fate and yet, it seems like the Red Raiders still haven’t tapped into their full potential.
Ultimately it comes down to perception. Prior to the season, we expected Tech to not only make the trip to Omaha, but also return as national champions. Even after losing Gingery in the opening weekend, it seemed like the Red Raiders were unstoppable. Two consecutive losing weeks have brought fans back down to earth.
Earth isn’t a bad place to be. The thing about underachieving is that there is still plenty of potential to achieve. In the case of Texas Tech, we know what they are capable of. We know the pitching staff can play lights out and the offense can put up 20+ runs on any given night. It just takes one breakthrough and they are back in business. Hopefully the nine day rest will prove to be just what this tired team needs and when they return, they’ll have the energy and will to ride all the way to Omaha. It just takes one good series to turn a team around, and after a long break, the Red Raiders will have everything they need going into Stillwater. Hopefully they can come out on top and ready to set their sights on Omaha.