Before I start, I want to spend some time on the fact that the Texas Tech Red Raiders will be hosting a regional for a fourth consecutive year, making it the only team in the nation to accomplish that feat. When we heard Kirby Hocutt talk about being “elite” in athletics in December, this is what he was talking about. This is elite.
Tim Tadlock deserves a lot of credit for this, but these players deserve just as much. There are legit expectations in Lubbock now. Coming from a program that couldn’t finish better than 5th this decade before Tadlock was hired in 2013, the strides this program has made is historic.
The players change, but now the expectations of the postseason are the same. That’s the sign of a truly great program.
Heading to the South Plains to join the Red Raiders this weekend will be the No. 2 seed Dallas Baptist University Patriots, No. 3 seed University of Florida Gators, and No. 4 seed Army Black Knights. Texas Tech will open with the Black Knights on Friday at 3pm, with the Gators and Patriots following at 7pm.
A couple of quick thoughts on each team.
- At 41-18, Dallas Baptist is quite the competitor in this regional. They are one of the best mid-major programs in the country, having made the NCAA Tournament six-consecutive years. This season, DBU has wins against teams like Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and TCU. This could be misleading, as mid-majors have the ability to throw their best against Power-5 teams since they usually play in mid-week.
- While the record could be misleading, the numbers suggest this is still a dangerous DBU club who hit a ton of home runs (70 this season, 13 more than the Red Raiders), a team ERA of 3.92, and a WHIP of 1.31. They are ranked in the top 25 in RPI, and are 5-3 against teams in the top 25 of RPI. The Patriots have two stud senior starters, RHP MD Johnson and LHP Jordan Martinson, who combine with over 184 innings pitched logging a 17-5 record with a 2.48 average ERA. Scary stuff.
- This selection rivaled TCU as the weirdest by the Selection committee. The Gators have no business being in the tournament, but with that being said, I wouldn’t count them out. This Gator team may be the one of the lowest-ranked Power 5 teams in the tournament, but make no mistake, this is still a talented team and I wouldn’t celebrate until they are eliminated. The Gators may be a very different team than their 2017 CWS team, but they do have Kevin O’Sullivan as their coach that knows how to manage his squad in the postseason, and that does count for something in college baseball.
- A positive note for the Red Raiders? The Gators carry a 6-12 road record and they have one of the worst team ERA in the Lubbock regional at 5.22. The fact the Gators made the tournament is truly baffling.
- Lastly, Tech’s Friday opponent the Army Black Knights won their way to a second-consecutive NCAA tournament bid by winning the Patriot League tournament. With an RPI of 150 and Strength of Schedule that ranks 244th in the nation, the Black Knights come into Lubbock largely un-tested. They only played on Power-5 team this season, a loss to top 25 LSU in Baton Rouge early in the season.
- However, if the Black Knights have a strength, it may be on the mound. The team boasts a team ERA of 3.86, with a deep pitching staff that has six pitchers with ERA’s below 3.50 and at least 130 innings logged this season. Again, these numbers came largely against mediocre competition, but nevertheless, they are impressive. The ace of the staff seems to be Senior RHP Daniel Burggraaf, who boasts a 5-2 record with a 2.85 ERA in 82 innings pitched.
I won’t leave you with a prediction, but instead a little advice. I assume if you’re reading this you are, at the very least, interested in College Baseball and, more specifically, Texas Tech baseball. I want to caution you, any of these teams can get hot and win this regional. As cheap as that sounds, we have recent history as evidence of this. Refer to the 2017 Lubbock regional, which saw scrappy Sam Houston State shut down one of the best teams in the nation that year, Texas Tech.
Much like the basketball tournament, what you did in the regular season doesn’t matter. And much like guard play in basketball, I will say one of the biggest factors in this tournament is how deep your pitching staff is, and how many guys can you trust to put up zeros when needed? The team that can answer that question usually is the last one to dogpile at TD Ameritrade.
Relax. Enjoy the ride. And above all, Trust in Tadlock.