Tonight at Dan Law Field, Texas Tech will begin the most important series of the season against...West Virginia? While the headline is correct, I could not have anticipated all that has happened in the last month, and I could not even imagine needing a series win as bad as the Red Raiders need one now.
The last month, and more specifically the last three weeks, have not been kind to this Tech Baseball squad. While there has been a sweep of Kansas State in the time frame, there have been sweeps of your own squad against TCU and Grand Canyon, a loss against OU where you were never really in the game, and everything culminated this Tuesday, when after being up by a score of 9-3 after the top of the sixth, you get walked off by a score of 11-10 against a New Mexico team that with their win, moved to 15-21 on the year.
The Red Raiders have lost five straight, and eight of their last eleven games.
Tech desperately needs a series win this weekend, and if you want to get back into the conversation of hosting a regional, you almost need a sweep. I think a series win keeps you on the fringe of hosting, but a sweep would put you firmly in the conversation.
First though, Tech needs to handle the business on the field. That is something that has eluded the Red Raiders as of late. When the pitching has been strong, the bats have been weak, and vice versa when it comes to good bats and poor pitching. This team has looked lost as of late, and maybe a home series is just what the doctor ordered, as Tech is 18-1 at Dan Law this season.
West Virginia is probably the biggest surprise of the year in terms of the Big 12, it would be between the Mountaineers and Baylor, but for completely opposite reasons. Everyone expected Baylor to compete and they haven’t come close, however no one really thought West Virginia would do much in the conference, and that has not been the case. Currently WVU sits at 6-3 in conference and 23-12 overall. They have swept Baylor and won their series against TCU in Fort Worth. Their lone series loss was in Stillwater against an Oklahoma State team that looks poised to pull away for a regular season Big 12 title barring a monumental collapse.
West Virginia is led at the plate by McGwire Holbrook, who is currently hitting .354 on the year with four homers and 26 RBIs. The Mountaineers currently have four guys including Holbrook hitting over .300 and all of them have more than 25 hits on the year. The way West Virginia hurts opposing teams though, is on the base-paths. The Mountaineers steal bases extraordinarily well and they run quite often, as a team they are 125-for-155 on steal attempts this season, which is 40 more successful attempts than second place Oklahoma, which has 85 steals this year. Bottom line: they run a lot and they are good at it. Hudson White and Cole Stilwell will be busy this weekend.
On the mound, their weekend rotation consists of Ben Hampton and Jacob Watters to anchor the rotation, and then Zach Bravo pitches Sunday. Hampton and Watters both have ERAs under 3.30 which is impressive, and Bravo is somewhat of a Sunday wild card as his ERA is in the upper five range at 5.65. Their pitching staff is similar to Tech’s with the front two pitchers holding down the weekend and then kind of having a free for all on Sunday.
If Tech wins this series, it will be behind the mound presence of Andrew Morris and Brandon Birdsell on Friday and Saturday, they need run support and hopefully they get it at home. Tech also can’t leave as many runners on base as they have of late.
To put it bluntly its put up or shut up time for the Red Raiders. All they have heard over the last 14 days is negativity. Is there fight left in this team? I think there is, and I think you’ll see it this weekend at Dan Law Field.
If you can make it out to the ballpark this weekend, do it. There are only seven home games left this season, and the Red Raiders need your support now more than ever.
Game 1: Friday April 22- 6:30 p.m. ESPN+, TTSN Radio
Game 2: Saturday April 23- 2:00 p.m. ESPN+, TTSN Radio
Game 3: Sunday April 24- 1:00 p.m. ESPN+, TTSN Radio