Can you believe it’s almost the end of March? I feel like this year is blowing by and thus, here we are gearing up for Big 12 play already.
First I would like to briefly touch on the two game series against Iowa over the weekend that Texas Tech split, and give a brief look into Cal Baptist before a Texas preview. This past weekend, the Red Raiders won game one by a score of 11-3 and lost game two by a score of 6-3.
In game one, Easton Murrell led off the game with a no doubter over the right field wall and put Tech up 1-0 after one batter, Tech would never look back. After some poor fielding by the Hawkeyes that allowed a Ty Coleman foul ball to drop and give him another chance in an at-bat, a throwing error to home after a ground ball allowed two more runs to score. making it 3-0. Dillon Carter tripled in the top of the fourth, then scored on a wild pitch, later Cole Stilwell went yard for the first time this year to make it 6-0 after four innings and that was more than enough for the Red Raiders to get the win. Brandon Birdsell has been fantastic this year and he threw yet another gem in this one, as he went five innings and was followed out of the pen by Friday starter Andrew Morris, who didn’t pitch Friday because the game was cancelled. They combined tho throw eight innings and Iowa never had a chance.
Game two however, was different. Tech seemed a little out of sorts all day, as the strikeout bug reared its ugly head again for Tech hitters. Tech struck out a whopping 17 times on Sunday and seemed to be swinging at just about everything. Mason Molina pitched well for Tech but just got no support at the plate, as he finished with eight strikeouts of his own over five innings. The bullpen was very shaky on Sunday allowing four runs in three innings, in a game no one on the mound from Tech looked particularly comfortable in.
This week on Tuesday, Tech will play Cal Baptist in the last tune-up game before Big 12 Play. The Lancers are 13-5 on the year and 2-4 in WAC play. They really haven’t played anyone other than Grand Canyon, who Tech plays later this year, and in that series Cal Baptist got swept. That game will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Dan Law Field, and can be streamed on ESPN+ and heard on the TTSN radio.
Now the big ticket series.
Texas Tech will host #2 Texas this weekend in what could quite possibly determine the Big 12 regular season champion if both teams take care of business down the line. TCU has been inconsistent and Oklahoma State is all over the place at times so this could be the biggest series of the season.
Texas will most likely come in to this series with an 18-5 record (pending a mid-week win at home against Central Arkansas) and I’m going to be honest; They are elite in every facet of the game. They have great hitting, great pitching, and are great in the field as well. This will be a tall task for the Red Raiders this weekend.
Texas is led at the plate by the “Hispanic Titanic” Ivan Melendez, who leads the Big 12 in HRs (9) and is second in RBIs (33), Murphy Stehly is third in average (.458) and tied for fourth in HRs (5) and Trey Faltine is tied for second in HRs (6) with Parker Kelly.
On the mound, Texas recently lost one of their star pitchers to Tommy John surgery in Tanner Witt, who had a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings of work prior to his injury. The UT pitching staff will throw Tristan Stevens and Pete Hansen who the Red Raiders from last year’s roster will be familiar with. Stevens pitched in the game last year on Saturday, resulting in the 5-3 Tech victory that had to be resumed early Sunday after a rain delay. Hansen pitched in UT’s lone win against Tech last year, the Sunday finale of a series Tech had clinched by winning the first two games.
Witt had been the Sunday starter for Texas, but now it seems that role has been picked up by Lucas Gordon, who had been the mid-week guy until Witt’s injury.
The Red Raiders will most likely stick with the same rotation they have had all season, with Andrew Morris (2-0 4.84 ERA 22.1 IP), Brandon Birdsell (3-1 1.80 ERA 25 IP), and Mason Molina (1-2 2.70 ERA 20 IP) in that order.
The batting order for Tech has been a little all over the place and I feel like we have seen a different one in almost every game this year. This past weekend we saw Easton Murrell back in the line-up which is a good sign he is getting past his hamstring injury. The same can be said for Ty Coleman who missed about five games with a hamstring issue as well.
A series win for the Red Raiders would be absolutely huge to start the conference slate out, and would make a huge statement, not only to the Big 12, but the country to make sure they know Texas Tech is still a team to be worried about. With the series’ against TCU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor all on the road this year, this will be the biggest home series of the season. These are two good ball clubs and there is no doubt in my mind that Dan Law Field will be rocking this weekend.
My keys to the series are the same for both teams: the bullpen. Both bullpens will be tested, and for both teams, which bullpen will we see? For Tech will it be the one we saw against Arizona who couldn’t do anything right? Or will it be the one we saw in game two against Mississippi State who could do no wrong? For Texas, how will the re-shuffling of the bullpen effect them after the Witt injury? Is Lucas Gordon going to be able to handle the Sunday slot in Big 12 play?
A lot of questions will be answered by this time next week. I can’t wait for this series and I know that UT is anxious to try and come get some payback for last years’ series as well.
One last thing I would look for in this series is for this guy to make some noise:
Let’s go win a baseball series and let’s get to another Final Four!
How to watch/listen:
#2 Texas @ #16 Texas Tech
Friday March 25, 6:30 p.m. Dan Law Field
#2 Texas @ #16 Texas Tech
Saturday March 26, 2:00 p.m. Dan Law Field
#2 Texas @ #16 Texas Tech
Sunday March 27, 2:00 p.m. Dan Law Field