The Texas Tech baseball team finished its first series of the season against Oregon, losing its season opener, 9-4, and ending the series with two straight wins, 12-11 and 6-4. While the series initially consisted of four consecutive games, the last one was cancelled Monday due to frigid weather.
This early in the season, head coach Tim Tadlcok is still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. He has multiple newcomers that can contribute in all phases of the game or they might not. The potential each player shows in practice is completely different from what you can see when the pressure of gameday is on. Tadlock has some time to figure out which players fit the best in each particular spot, which pitchers need to start and which ones need to come out of the bull pen, etc. It’s only the first three games of what we hope will be a very long season and it will take time. The team has a lot of really good players, and based on last weekend’s performance, the they have shown an amazing ability to get back into a game even when they are down. That is not a bad quality to have as a team.
In the bullpen, the starting pitchers were off to a rocky start, but Tadlock made the necessary arrangements to get the job done. Saturday’s game was a perfect example of this. The sophomore transfer from Arkansas, Bryce Bonnin, previously named the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, was first to pitch for the Red Raiders. Unfortunately, he did not stay on the mound very long. After only pitching 0.1 innings, Bonnin gave up six runs off two hits. Then Tadlock brought Lanning out to pitch. That didn’t solve any issues for the Red Raiders. By the end of the first inning, Tech was down by eight runs. Four more pitchers followed after that. Perhaps the most surprising of adjustments on the mound was when junior Taylor Floyd stepped in. After striking out five batters and allowing no runs to be scored in his 2.2 innings pitched, it can be said he was a huge contributor to the win. In all three games, the starting pitchers struggled, but Tadlock isn’t worried. Ultimately, the Texas Tech Red Raiders were able to rally in some runs and get stops on the field to win the game, 12-11. The last time Tech baseball won after trailing by eight or more runs was in 2010 against Dallas Baptist.
Offensively, the Red Raiders are not in a bad position. The leading batter for the Red Raiders after the series is sophomore catcher Braxton Fulford, who leads the team with a .500 batting average. Though he saw no action in game one, I suspect we will be seeing him as a started a lot more often. Gabe Holt led the team in stolen bases this weekend after successfully taking six bases in six attempts. He also leads the team in runs scored with four and is also in a three-way tie for most hits along with sophomore Dylan Neuse and junior Josh Jung with four. Holt also has a .444 batting average, which is the second highest on the team, after nine at-bats. Jung leads the team with four RBIs, including one that gave the Red Raiders the lead in their third game against Oregon. He currently has a .333 batting average with four hits and two runs this season. Let’s not forget Josh Jung was named the preseason Big 12 player of the year and was a first-team All-Big 12 honoree. It is only my humble opinion, but he is arguably the best player in the history of Texas Tech baseball.
What does this mean? It means the team is prepared for the season. A lot of fans, including myself, panicked when they lost on opening day, but even winning teams lose a few games every now and again. The Red Raiders got the series win and they did it with a lot of new faces handling bats and pitching. Some veterans did exactly what we expected them to do, and some made mistakes. Some of the newcomers really impressed while some didn’t. The important thing is that they get back up and give it their all, which they showed they could do through the latter part of the series.
Tech’s next matchup will be a three-game series against Kentucky, starting at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. See you there Red Raiders.