It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was eight months ago that Texas Tech was eliminated in the Statesboro Regional Final against Notre Dame, who then went on to stun the top seeded Tennessee Volunteers on their way to Omaha.
Another thing you might have forgotten: Last year was considered somewhat of a “down year” for Tech Baseball. There were some head scratching losses at times, paired with some injury issues in the bullpen, and the Red Raiders still managed to only finish one game back of Big 12 Champion TCU.
Oklahoma ended up in the National Championship, riding a two-and-a-half month hot streak unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and UT made it to Omaha before being the first team eliminated.
That was last year.
Now, Texas Tech must find a way to replace the entire weekend rotation and infield. That seems like a tall task (because it is), but Tim Tadlock and Co. have a very talented class that has made the South Plains’ their home over the past few months.
That being said, this team will look exponentially different. Keep in mind this is the first time since 2016 there won’t be a Jung on the roster for Tech. You have to replace Jace, Kurt Wilson, Cole Stilwell, Easton Murrell, and Parker Kelly. Let’s not forget Brandon Birdsell, Andrew Morris, and Chase Hampton as well.
I know that was a bit repetitive but I want to drive home just how big of a task it is to replace these Red Raider mainstays for years. Replacing half of them would be a chore.
Now, lets talk about what the present/future looks like for Tech Baseball.
In a word? Bright.
Hudson White, Ty Coleman, Owen Washburn are back along with Dillon Carter. Those are the four guys with significant experience at this level. Carter missed some time this fall with a shoulder injury, and the outfield isn’t short of hungry players looking for some playing time. Ryan Brome, Nolan Hester, Jeric Curtis, and Gage Harrelson are all D1 caliber starters and with a healthy Carter and Washburn added to the mix, Tech might have the most talented outfield in the conference. I’d look for Harrelson and Curtis -two guys with elite speed- to make a solid push for a role in this outfield. Give me Hester/Curtis in left, Carter in center, and Washburn in right to start the year.
On the infield, Travis Sanders, the talented freshman from Copperas Cove, will no doubt get some playing time, seeing as he can play at 2B, SS, and 3B. He was the #4 SS in Texas and after being drafted by the Red Sox in the 14th round, decided to come to Tech. Gavin Kash looked good at first base during the Red & Black series during the fall, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Oregon State transfer Jake Dukart as well to log serious playing time. Tracer Lopez is the hot name right now among the freshman, he was the #10 SS in Texas, and he had a fantastic fall camp. With Sanders’ ability to play anywhere, I’d look for Lopez at SS.
Something that will be a bit different for fans is a newer development as of late, and it is the fact that you will most likely see Hudson White at 3B at some point early this season. This speaks to the talent that Dylan Maxcey has brought behind the plate this off-season. Kevin Bazzell, White, and Maxcey will all get reps behind the plate and at third base it seems.
At this point, I truly believe that Tim Tadlock has potentially two full completely different lineups he could roll with, meaning 16-18 different P5 caliber starters on this roster.
Ty Coleman also returns for the Red Raiders, and while 99% of his reps will most likely come at DH, he might get some reps on the infield as well at times.
Now, the bullpen. You have Mason Molina returning who has good experience in the rotation. He has also improved quite a bit this offseason from what I’ve read and heard through the grapevine. Also returning from injury is Brendan Girton. A key piece of the bullpen as a freshman two seasons ago, Girton received a medical redshirt and will be classified as a sophomore. Trendan Parrish returned way earlier than expected from his season-ending arm injury last year, as the injury was not as bad as first thought, thus, not requiring long term surgery. He has been throwing most of fall, and still has that heater working strongly.
Another returner this season is Andrew Devine. I know a lot of us were very excited with the strides Devine made at the end of last season, getting closer to the elite level he was at in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
New to Lubbock are some exciting arms, such as, Zane Petty (13th round pick- Milwaukee) the number 6 ranked RHP in the state chose to head to the South Plains instead of jumping right into pro ball. Tate Yardley, the #23 ranked RHP in Texas is also new to the 806 and is a live arm I’m interested in seeing this season. Remember the name Taber Fast. I know its hard to forget, but he’ll most definitely get some run out of the bullpen this season. Fast was the #1 LHP out of the state of Washington, and as a freshman he’s already sitting at low-to-mid 90s on that fastball with a good array of secondary and tertiary pitches as well.
Transferring in from National Champion Ole Miss, is Jack Washburn, brother of RF Owen Washburn. Jack pitched out of the bullpen for the reigning champs last year after starting the season in the rotation before being moved back to the pen. I was anticipating him to be in the starting rotation until he injured his throwing shoulder recently. Unfortunately, it appears he will miss an extended amount of time before we see him on the mound.
I’m not going to beat around the bush with y’all. I find that most of you that read these like when I cut to the chase, so here it is: I expect a legitimate Big 12 contender. I understand you might think that is a leap with the youth around the roster, and I understand why you would think that. You can look across campus and see what too much youth does to a roster without a true leader on the field.
However, this schedule is weak. I mean really weak. Yeah, two games at Stanford and a game against Texas A&M at a neutral site are your best non-conference games, and with a front-loaded conference schedule, I could see a lot of favorable matchups as the season goes on and we figure out who is going to see a majority of the reps at each position. The Red Raiders play 37 of 56 games at home this year, and they will need to win a majority of those, because the committee will not look kindly on a weak schedule when it comes time for seeding in the Regionals.
I think the weak schedule gives somewhat of a reprieve for a young roster, and lets these kids get their feet wet before conference play.
Red Raider Baseball is in an interesting place. A lot of youth and new faces to learn. A more than favorable schedule. A front loaded conference slate. An extremely deep roster.
Tim Tadlock is entering his 11th year as the skipper at Texas Tech, and after agreeing to a lifetime contract last season, he is facing one of his toughest challenges yet. I know I don’t trust anyone with the task more than Coach Tadlock and he will no doubt have his guys ready to go for this season.
I am so ready for these guys to lace them up and hit the diamond, and I hope y’all are too. There are ample opportunities to hit the Law this season for a game and I hope you take advantage.
Baseball Season is almost here.