There’s no question that the 2021 Texas Tech baseball team isn’t as strong as it could be. After all, no team can sustain the mountain of injuries that Tim Tadlocks’ squad has endured this season and not miss a beat.
But this weekend, by taking two of three games in Austin against No. 3 Texas, the Red Raiders reminded the college baseball world that they are still an elite squad. What’s more, they put themselves back in the discussion for a national seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Friday afternoon, the Red Raiders got off to a strong start by topping Texas 6-3. But it will be the second game of the weekend that Tech fans will be talking about for quite some time.
On the surface, a 5-3 nine-inning victory doesn’t seem all that remarkable. After all, it wasn’t memorable because of a singular moment such as a late-inning homer or some extra-innings heroics. Rather, it was Mother Nature who stepped in and made game two one for the ages.
With Tech leading 5-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning, rain forced the game to be delayed to Sunday, a stoppage that came when the Longhorns had already mounted a 3-run rally in the inning and still had the bases loaded with an out to work with.
It was the perfect time for the weather to intervene on the Red Raiders’ behalf as momentum had certainly taken sides with the home team. And when the elements allowed for the game to resume Sunday afternoon, Tech made quick work of the Horns to clinch the series.
Tech skipper Tim Tadlock once again turned to his star bullpen arm, Ryan Sublette, with the game on the line. And the steadying presence of the Red Raider bullpen needed only three pitches to strike out pinch hitter Silas Ardoin to end the UT threat in the 8th. An inning later, Sublette would orchestrate a perfect 9th inning to seal Tech’s two-run win.
Unfortunately, a sweep was not in the cards for Tech as the Horns would easily take game three 11-3. In that contest, it felt as if the entire Red Raider roster let its collective guard down after clinching the series just over an hour earlier.
Tech would commit two errors, strand eight men on base, and issue eight walks to allow the Horns to salvage a game from the weekend. But make no mistake, this was a statement weekend for the Red Raiders.
The series win means that Tech has now secured series victories over both the Horns and TCU, the two teams that sit atop the Big 12 standings. And it was a reminder to the rest of the nation that Tech is still a force to be reckoned with. That’s something that seemed to have been forgotten by many in recent days.
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After the Red Raiders’ most recent run of misfortune on the injury front, many on the national scene were quick to write off Tadlock’s team. And dropping a home series to Baylor just over a week ago didn’t do much to convince the national pundits that Tech was still a favorite to get back to Omaha.
But even without the services of starting pitcher Brandon Birdsell, outfielder Dylan Neuse, and infielder Kurt Wilson, all of whom were lost for the season within the past two weeks, Tech still took down the nation’s No. 3 team. What’s more, those losses only compounded the injury woes Tech sustained earlier in the season when two shutdown relievers, Hunter Dobbins and Jakob Brustoski, were also lost for the season.
Yet this Red Raider team keeps rattling off impressive series wins. Sure, it has had its disappointments such as losing a series to lowly Kansas State, but more often than not, Tadlock is able to get the most out of his roster.
By winning its fourth series in its last five trips to Austin, Tech handed the Longhorns their first series loss of the season. It was also Tech’s first road series win over a top 10 foe since taking down No. 6 TCU in 2016. Thus, people should start taking Tech seriously again despite the injuries Tadlock is navigating.
Is this Red Raider team at full strength right now? Certainly not. And it won’t be for the remainder of the year.
But what we learned this weekend in Austin is that this squad is still capable of beating any team in the nation and that no one should consider the Red Raiders to be anything but a contender for Omaha. Especially if Mother Nature is going to intervene on Tech’s behalf.