Texas Tech baseball: Red Raiders need Patrick Monteverde to regain form

There was a time earlier this season when left-handed starter Patrick Monteverde was not only one of the best pitchers on the Texas Tech baseball team, but he was also one of the best in the nation.  However, a month of struggles has left the senior searching for answers as he returns to the mound tonight to face North Carolina in a winners’ bracket game of the Lubbock Regional.

Many thought that Monteverde might not get this start as fellow starters Mason Montgomery and Micah Dallas have been far more reliable in recent weeks.  But Dallas came out of the bullpen to pitch the 9th inning of Friday’s 6-3 win over Army and it appears that head coach Tim Tadlock is saving Montgomery for Sunday when Tech will hopefully have a shot at winning the regional to advance to next weekend’s super regional.

Thus, it is time for Monteverde to regain the form he showed to begin the year.  Over his first nine starts of the year, the native of Pennsylvania went 6-1 with a 2.24 ERA.  During that span, he allowed more than three runs in a start only twice while also having five outings in which he didn’t allow a single run.  His average length per start during those nine outings was over 5.2 innings.

Thus far in 2021, Monteverde’s best outing took place just down the road from where he grew up.  Facing West Virginia in Morgantown, Monteverde tossed seven scoreless innings while striking out seven hitters and allowing just two hits to earn the victory in Tech’s 7-2 win.   But since then, he’s has failed to live up to his early-season performances.

Over his last five outings, he’s failed to pick up a win and Tech has gone 1-4.  That stretch includes an ERA of 6.48 and has seen Monteverde surrender seven runs on two occasions.

Facing Baylor in Lubbock, he gave up seven runs on seven hits in 4.0 innings of work, and against OU in Norman he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in just 4.1 innings of work.

What’s more, in the last five appearances he’s made, the pitcher who once looked like the staff workhorse has failed to give his team at least five innings of work on three occasions.  That’s one more such appearance than he had in his first nine outings. And in that stretch, he’s averaged just 5.0 innings per start.

But there are reasons to have confidence in the southpaw as he climbs the hill of Dan Law Field tonight.  That’s because his last two outings have been more in line with what we’ve come to expect from him after his hot start to the season.

Against Kansas in the regular season’s final series, Monteverde did not give up an earned run over the course of 6.1 innings.  That day, he struck out 10 while surrendering only six hits only to have his bullpen fail him in a 7-4 Red Raider defeat.

Then, in the Big 12 Tournament, he allowed just two earned runs in 6.0 innings of work against TCU.  Striking out six and giving up six hits, Monteverde was solid despite being saddled with the loss in Tech’s 7-2 setback.

The hope tonight is that Tech will get that type of effort from Monteverde again.  He’ll be facing a Tar Heel lineup that features only two hitters with an average over .300 so there’s reason to be optimistic about his chances of turning in a solid performance.

But he’ll likely be on a short leash.  That’s because Tech’s bullpen is in great shape after having to work only 3.0 innings and use only two pitchers on Friday.  Thus, at the first sign of serious trouble for Monteverde, Tech could turn to bullpen ace Ryan Sublett to try to keep the Heels in check.

But hopefully, that won’t be necessary.  Because for Tech to have the type of postseason run that we all hope to see, the Red Raiders need Monteverde to channel the pitcher that he was in the first half of this season.  Here’s hoping that is what we see tonight at Rip Griffin Park.