Well folks, the best time of the year (in my opinion) is finally upon us. It is time for the college baseball postseason tournament.
Texas Tech received the number eight overall national seed, meaning that if they advance past the regional round, they are guaranteed to host a super regional at Dan Law Field.
The Red Raiders are in the top eight nationally for the fourth time in five years, and are the ONLY team in the country to have hosted in the regional round for five straight seasons.
The other teams in the Lubbock regional are UCLA, North Carolina, and Army. Tech will face Army at 11:00 a.m. on Friday on ESPNU and UCLA will face North Carolina at 6:00 p.m. Friday on ESPN3.
I’m going to take an in depth look at these three squads starting with Army and moving on to the other two.
*THE NUMBERS PRIOR TO THE SCHOOLS ARE THE SEEDS IN THE LUBBOCK REGIONAL*
The Army Black Knights are coming off a 28-23 season with a 15-10 record in Patriot League play that earned them the second place finish overall.
Offensively, Army is led by Anthony Giachin, Ross Fredrick, and Jeremiah Adams. Giachin and Fredrick are above .300 average hitters and Adams is right there close at .297. Giachin and Adams both have 12 doubles, while Nick Manesis leads the Black Knights with 5 homers on the year.
On the mound Ray Bartoli appears to be one of their top pitchers, with a 3.05 ERA in six starts this season. Army also has a solid duo of relievers in Connelly Early and Brian Dawson, as both of them have double digit appearances with sub-two ERAs this season.
The UCLA Bruins finished with a 35-18 season and placed fourth in the Pac-12 with an 18-12 record in league play.
The Bruins have six or seven guys that consistently start every game while the other two or three positions are in flux or have someone different starting in every game which is different than the set in stone eight or nine like the Red Raiders use.
Offensively, JT Schwartz, Kevin Kendall, and Matt McLain lead the Bruins in average as they are all comfortably over .300 while Schwartz is at a whopping .405 average in 40 games this year. All six or seven regular starters can absolutely crush the ball, as all but one have over 10 doubles this year. The bottom line is this: UCLA can absolutely rake.
On the mound, UCLA has the pitcher with the most amount of wins in the Pac-12 in Sean Mullen with nine wins and only won loss in 12 starts this season and 22 appearances. Their closer Max Rajcic has seven saves and a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings as well this year. Outside of Mullen, the other two weekend starters, Jesse Bergin and Zach Pettaway both have over 4.00 ERAs and both have right around 70 innings of work this season.
#3 North Carolina
The Tar Heels were a bubble team at 27-25 overall and 18-18 in ACC play, finishing fourth in the Coastal division of the ACC.
Angel Zarate and Justice Thompson lead the Heels as the only two batters hitting above .300 this season. Caleb Roberts leads the team in homers (10), RBIs (36) and on base percentage (.437). Danny Serretti also has eight homers 36 RBIs and 17 doubles.
Starting Pitcher Austin Love is the ace of the staff with a 9-4 record and 3.68 ERA over 95 innings of work. He is also the only pitcher on the staff with more than nine starts, as five other pitchers have at least five starts. Gage Gillian leads he bullpen with 22 appearances and is second on the team with 47 innings of work, however he leads the team with a 2.11 ERA.
#1 Texas Tech
Texas Tech finished the year 36-15 overall and 14-10 in Big 12 play finishing third. Tech has been a top eight national seed four out of the last five seasons and hosted five straight regionals in Lubbock.
The Red Raiders are led by Big 12 Player of the Year Jace Jung who finished the regular season with a .342 average along with 20 homers and 65 RBIs. Tech is also led by All Big 12 first teamers Dru Baker and Cal Conley, as well as second team member Braxton Fulford. Baker leads the Red Raiders with a .372 batting average while Conley hits .337 and Fulford hits .273. Cole Stilwell also has a top batting average at .278.
On the mound, Tech is led by a starting rotation of Micah Dallas, Mason Montgomery, and Patrick Monteverde. All three have sub-four ERAs and have over 58 innings of work, with Monteverde leading the way with 77 innings. The bullpen has been iffy at times this year but there is a solid core out of the bullpen that has been mostly reliable all season. Ryan Sublette and Connor Queen lead that core and are joined by Brendan Girton, Chase Hampton, and Derek Bridges.
The winner of the Lubbock Regional will face the winner of the Stanford Regional
Tech should be favored in this regional as UNC was not expected to get into the tournament at all, and UCLA has somewhat underperformed this year. The Bruins are a team to watch for when they are at the plate, as that team can flat out hit the baseball very well.
The Red Raiders will need solid pitching from its starters and even better pitching from its bullpen which has been shaky at times this year to say the least. On the offensive side of things, Tech will need to hit well with RISP and will need to take advantage when they put the first couple of runners on in the inning.
This has been (in my opinion) Tim Tadlock’s best coaching performance since he has been at Tech. The Red Raiders have been hit harder this season than any in recent memory with injuries and despite multiple All Americans being injured, Tadlock has this team as a number eight national seed. We all need to take a moment and realize how good this team has performed despite all of the injuries.
It is Omaha or bust now folks. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Be sure to follow @vivathematadors and @hubcityhomers for all of your Texas Tech Sports updates. @JackBellSports will also have all the info on this weekend’s Lubbock Regional.