In the season-opening State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, the Texas Tech baseball team was swept thanks to some awful work from the bullpen and a lack of timely hitting.
At any level in the game of baseball, your bullpen can either make you or break you. Over the last three days, the Texas Tech baseball team suffered the latter of those fates in being swept at the State Farm College Baseball Classic in Arlington, Texas.
Losing to three top-10 opponents, the Red Raiders, who entered the weekend ranked as high as No. 3 in the national polls, saw that time and again, their fate went south as soon as head coach Tim Tadlock turned to his bullpen. Overall, Tech relievers allowed 23 runs to score during this event as the powerful bats of three SEC powers teed off at the plate.
It began on Saturday night when the No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks scored 13 runs off of the Tech bullpen in the final five innings of their 13-9 win over the Red Raiders. That included five off of Red Raider closer Andrew Devin in the top of the 9th to rally from a 9-8 deficit.
On Monday, in an 11-5 loss to No. 7 Mississippi State, the Red Raider pen surrendered ten runs in five innings. And again, it was a huge late-inning rally that doomed Tech as the Bulldogs plated five runs in the top of the 9th after entering the frame with just a 6-5 lead.
In between, the Red Raiders lost 5-4 to No. 6 Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon in a game that actually saw the pen give up no runs in 5.1 innings of work. But that came after starter Micah Dallas allowed five runs in 2.2 innings. However, only two of those runs were earned as Tech’s top returning arm was let down by his defense, which committed a pair of errors in the bottom of the third when the Rebels scored all five of their runs.
But that performance aside, Tech has to leave the 3-game set concerned about the arms in the pen. That’s because seven of the 12 relievers that Tadlock turned to gave up at least one run. And of that group, six gave up multiple earned runs. That performance overshadowed what was a decent showing from the starting rotation in Arlington.
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Against Arkansas, Tech saw the Red Raider debut of transfer Patrick Monteverde who impressed by giving up no runs in four innings while striking out five hitters. And though Dallas’ start was not sterling against Ole, Miss, he only surrendered three hits and two earned runs. Finally, on Friday, lefty Mason Montgomery gave up just a run on three hits in four innings of work.
But early in the college baseball season, coaches are quick to protect their team’s arms and they typically have a quick trigger, especially with their starters. Thus, had these games been played in a month or in June in Omaha, things might have gone differently as Monteverde and Montgomery would have gone much deeper into the game than Tadlock allowed them to go in the State Farm Showdown. Thus, there is reason for Tech fans to pump the brakes on any panic that might have arisen from seeing our Red Raiders get swept by three top-10 teams.
As for the bats, outside of Saturday’s game against the Hogs, Tech was unable to come up with the timely, multi-run hits that break games open. In fact, during the three games, Tech left 31 men on base, including 13 on Monday against Mississippi State.
Collectively, the Red Raiders hit only .214 in the three games with just one player, infielder Cal Conley, hitting over .250. Originally thought to be out of this event because of a hand injury that kept him out of intrasquad scrimmages prior to the season, Conley started all three games, the first two at third base and the final at shortstop. For the event, he hit .400 collecting six hits and four RBI.
But only one other Red Raider managed to drive home more than two runs in the three games, catcher Braxton Fulford, who also had four RBI. Three of his RBI came on one swing of the bat when he belted a 3-run homer on Saturday night to push his team to 9-8 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning against Arkansas.
However, the bullpen couldn’t hold that lead and in two of this weekend’s games, it couldn’t hold much of anything. That’s certainly something that is going to have to change for this team to get to where its talent suggests it should.