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Baby Steps: This baseball program keeps taking the little steps needed to win the big one

Not only is this team headed in the right direction, they are improving in what was considered a rebuilding year.

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

As our editor, Zach Mason, mentioned in his article yesterday (which you can read here), it is really, really hard to win a National Championship. The final game of what was a historic season for the Red Raider baseball team will be remembered as a blowout, and a game where the Red Raiders never really had a shot after the fifth inning. What we should remember is what it takes to win a championship and why the Red Raiders shouldn’t have come close this season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida State vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s look at last year’s team, 11 draft picks and a ton of experience. Names like Grant Little, Cody Farhat, and Davis Martin come to mind. Guys with gobs of experience at this level, especially guys like Martin who had been a three year starter for the team. This season, you had a defined ace in the rotation in Caleb Kilian, a guy who had been coming in to his second season as a starter. The rest of your rotation, you honestly didn’t know what you were gonna get from them.

Let’s look back to February. Here’s who started for the Red Raiders:

Game 1: Caleb Kilian

Game 2: Erikson Lanning

Game 3: Mason Montgomery

Two of these guys didn’t pitch in Omaha and one of them wasn’t even on the Omaha roster. Your pitching staff has changed tremendously this season and you ended up getting depth from this bullpen. While the bullpen didn’t change a whole ton from the 2018 team, how they were used did. Caleb Freeman went from a guy you could rely on at least once a weekend and came in as a preseason All-Big 12 honoree fell flat and didn’t really find a groove this season.

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

John McMillon essentially missed a full season of development as a bullpen guy because the coaching staff used him as a starter for the majority of the 2018 season. He was still pretty solid, but you could see he still has control problems. Dane Haveman came on late but struggled pretty early in the season. This bullpen was supposed to be a strength for this team and they kind of didn’t live up to it for a majority of the season.

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

Looking at this lineup, you saw a ton of new faces. The only full-time returners from the 2018 team were Gabe Holt, Josh Jung, Cameron Warren, and Brian Klein. The great news for this team is that there were a ton of young guys that stepped up. That young depth is what allowed this team to gain their first top-4 finish ever in College World Series.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida State vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 recruiting class is really talented. They will have at least one more season as a solid group and maybe even two seasons as a pretty collective core. You had guys step up from almost every position group and you will have a solid leader at every level from this group.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Michigan vs Texas Tech Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Mason Minzy and Cole Stillwell are two names we didn’t hear much of this season. Catcher has always been a weird position for the Red Raiders. Braxton Fulford held that position down pretty well this season aside from some questionable throwing errors late in the season. Stillwell could be a someone who turns into a nice piece in the near future. He can really swing the bat and had a good run playing DH this season.

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

At the infield level, you have a couple of guys that made contributions. Dru Baker was a regular contributor at multiple positions for the Red Raiders. He really complimented Josh Jung well on that side on the infield. I think he’ll most likely fill in the shortstop position next season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Texas Tech Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Max Marusak would already be playing minor league ball if he wanted to. He was projected very high coming out of high school but told all of the MLB clubs that he was going to play for Texas Tech. This is a good way of increasing your draft stock as Josh Jung did a similar thing going into college. His speed is unmatched and his hitting will come along next season as I see him starting in the outfield. Tanner O’Tremba is another name to watch as his hitting ability was on display a ton this season. He will play more next season whether it be in the outfield or in a DH role.

We’ve all seen what Micah Dallas can do. We’ve also seen that he isn’t quite there yet. He’ll most likely be your day one starter next season but a ton can change in the offseason. He’ll definitely be the leader of your pitching staff one day. He’s got a good mix of pitches and has good speed on his fastball.

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

These players are primed to be the next great core at Texas Tech. A ton of people came into this season thinking it would be a “rebuilding” year for the team and that they wouldn’t make it to Omaha. They defied the noise and not only made it, but made it farther than any other team had in the program’s history. This team will still have to replace the production of Josh Jung, Cameron Warren, and Caleb Kilian going into next season. These new leaders will have to step up in a big way next year for these winning ways to continue. They will have other leaders on the team such as Brian Klein to help them along as they grow into the next core of this program.

If this core can continue to grow together, these Red Raiders might be holding up a National Championship trophy in a couple of years.