They say that the game of baseball is all about pitching. If that’s the case, the Texas Tech baseball team is rounding into form at just the right time of the season.
Thanks in large part to 18.1 innings of scoreless baseball from the starting rotation, head coach Tim Tadlock’s squad took two of three games from Kansas in Lubbock this weekend to close out the regular season. By doing so, the Red Raiders secured the No. 3 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament.
But the big question that remains to be answered is whether or not Tech has done enough to secure one of the eight national seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Doing so would ensure that Tech would play at home in both the regional and super-regional rounds of the tournament.
Entering the weekend, Tech was squarely in the mix for one of the national seeds but it was believed by most that Tech was fighting for one of the final available spots among the top eight. The final host sites will be announced on May 30th meaning that the conference tournament could be of extra importance to the Red Raiders this season.
Unfortunately, the Red Raiders couldn’t muster a sweep of the Jayhawks to bolster their tournament resume even more than they did by taking two of three from KU. That’s because the Red Raiders lost a game on Thursday that it appeared for most of the evening they would easily put in the win column.
After taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, Tech would score just one more run the rest of the way in a 7-4 defeat. KU would put up five runs in the top of the seventh to stun the Red Raiders and take the lead for good. What was frustrating was that in that inning, a pair of Red Raider errors helped the Jayhawks’ comeback.
It was a shame that Tech couldn’t get that game into the boat because the Red Raiders received a brilliant performance from starting pitcher Patrick Monteverde. The lefty gave up just two unearned runs over the course of 6.1 innings while striking out ten hitters.
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But the Tech bullpen let him down as Ryan Sublett allowed two inherited runners to score while also giving up three runs of his own in the seventh. That would prove to be too much for the Red Raiders to overcome.
However, on Friday, it was the Kansas pitching staff that melted down. In fact, the Jayhawks would issue 17 walks to Red Raider hitters equaling a record for walks by a Tech opponent. Interestingly, every Red Raider hitter who would appear in the game would draw at least one free pass in the 13-4 Red Raider romp.
In a rather strange turn of events, in that game, Tech would score more runs than it had hits as the Red Raiders produced just ten base knocks, a modest number considering the team’s run total.
Again though, it was the starting pitcher who set the tone. Micah Dallas would toss six complete innings giving up no earned runs and only two total (both in the first inning) while striking out six and walking none.
In the rubber match on Saturday, Tech shut out the Jayhawks 5-0. The day featured a brilliant outing by freshman starter Chase Hampton, who tossed six scoreless frames giving up just two hits while striking out seven.
At the plate, Tech got homers from Cal Conley and Nate Rombach as the offense did enough to secure the series win. But will that be enough to pick up a national seed or does Tech need a strong showing in Oklahoma City next week at the Big 12 Tournament?
Earlier this week, Baseball America released its tournament projections and Tech was the No. 10 overall national seed. That would mean that the Red Raiders would not host a super-regional, even if an upset were to occur in a regional given that the super regional sites will be determined prior to the start of the tournament.
Thus, it would appear that Tech still has some work to do next week, and not sweeping the lowly Jayhawks was a missed opportunity. But by at least taking the series from KU, Tech kept alive its hopes of seeing the road to Omaha go through Lubbock.