The start of the 2020 baseball season is just weeks away. As the excitement mounts throughout Red Raider nation for Opening Day, some people still wonder if this team has the potential to repeat as Big 12 Champions. Well, to cure your curiosity, here are the five things this years baseball team can do to accomplish that very goal.
5. Make Dru Baker the designated hitter
The sophomore from Tomball, Texas had a stellar freshman campaign in 2019. Baker started in 32 games for the Red Raiders, was named the Big 12 newcomer of the week on April 8, 2019 and went onto be an integral part of Tech’s deep run into the College World Series. Baker made himself known throughout the country as the power-hitting sophomore knocked three home runs and 25 RBI’s with a .321 batting average which was third on the team. Along with being seventh on the team in runs scored with 30. He also had slugging and on base percentages of .445 and .395, respectively.
I listed Dru Baker as the DH in my 2020 season preview and I believe this can help the team in more ways than one. The first way is that having Baker in the DH spot can help boost hitting production. As the Red Raiders have a relatively young team this year, it helps to have a guy in the lineup that can get the bats going early on. The second way is that having one of the team’s best hitters in the most important spot in the lineup is a challenge I believe Baker can rise to and succeed. A .321 batting average as a freshman is pretty incredible and I believe he can capitalize on it in 2020.
4. Dominate at home
Dominating at home is what has propelled the Red Raiders into the national spotlight over the last few years, but it works time and time again. Since 2016, Tech is an incredible 100-26 at The Law and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. Students and fans consistently pack the stands with an average 2019 attendance of 3,901. During the 2019 NCAA Super Regional, The Law saw a total of 13,776 fans over the course of the weekend with an average of 4,592 fans in attendance each game. Just like any other sport, the fans showing out at home helps the team win and compete at a higher level, adding another level of energy to the team.
3. Have Andrew Devine close
The freshman right hander out of Simi Valley, California was ranked 273rd overall in the country and the 91st overall right-handed pitcher by Perfect Game as part of the 2019 class. Devine was incredible in his senior year at Simi Valley High, with a near perfect ERA of 0.48, throwing 98 strikeouts in 58 innings on top of allowing only four runs in 47 innings. With the departure of Dane Haveman, Devine could help close the gap he left. The freshman could absolutely have an impact on the mound the second he is called upon.
2. Give Tanner O’Tremba more starts
Outfielder Tanner O’Tremba was the overall best fielder the Red Raiders had in 2019. Racking up 34 catches, 32 putouts, and 2 assists, to gain a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. The sophomore from Parker, Colorado was also solid at the plate, hitting for 20 RBI’s, 2 home runs, and a slugging percentage of .402 and an average of .261. O’Tremba also drove in 18 runs.
O’Tremba started in just 25 games, but appeared in 32. Of course the lineup changes based on who the Red Raiders face, but to give Tech a better chance of winning the Big 12 in 2020, giving O’Tremba more starts is absolutely necessary.
1. Make Kurt Wilson a full-time fielder
This one may be a bit controversial as Wilson, who’s also a pitcher posted an ERA of 6.14, struck out 12 batters and had a win-loss record of 0-1. Wilson often came in for relief and despite the rather high ERA, the junior was still a valuable piece in the bullpen. However, I believe that Wilson’s abilities are better put to use in the field. In 2019, Wilson had a fielding percentage of .979 with 48 catches, 42 putouts and 5 assists against 1 error. At the plate, Wilson was also productive, with a .227 average, 17 RBI’s, 4 home runs, and scoring 11 runs. The junior also put up a slugging percentage of .386 and an on base percentage of .317, along with starting in 23 games, making appearances in 29. I believe that having Kurt Wilson convert to being a full-time fielder will be seamless, as he’s used to being in the field in the first place. I also believe that if Tech repeats as Big 12 champions in 2020, it will be largely in part to having Wilson in the field more.