In game one of the Lubbock Super Regional, it was the Texas Tech baseball team that wilted under the record 108-degree West Texas heat, not the team from northern California. In fact, in Friday’s 15-3 Stanford victory, the home-standing Red Raiders were never really in the game.
Right off the bat, the Cardinal would plate four runs off of Red Raider starter Chase Hampton before the home team ever got to swing the bat, not that it would matter with Stanford ace Brendan Beck in top form.
The senior would dominate the Red Raider lineup for most of the afternoon by painting the strike zone with his assortment of four pitches. Over the course of 114 pitches and 7.1 innings of work, he would allow only two runs on six hits while striking out 13 batters.
It was one of the most dominant postseason pitching performances in the history of Dan Law Field and one that has now pushed the Red Raiders to the brink of elimination from the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought Brendan Beck was outstanding,” Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said following the game. “He was ahead in the count the whole day. 110 pitches in, he’s still ahead in the count, still held his stuff; had outstanding command of two breaking balls and a fastball…He just kinda showed you why he’s the PAC 12 Pitcher of the Year.”
For the day Tech would muster just seven hits. And if there was a bright spot for the Red Raiders, it would have been Cole Stillwell.
Belting a solo homer in the 4th inning, he briefly gave the sellout crowd some hope of a comeback by cutting the Cardinal lead to 4-1. Then, in the bottom of the 6th, he would drive home Jace Jung with a single to cut the deficit to 6-2.
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However, the Red Raiders would never come any closer as Beck would not surrender another run. And by the time Nate Rombach blasted a solo shot in the ninth inning, all hope of a Red Raider comeback had long since melted in the oppressive heat of the day.
Almost as hot as the temperature on Friday were the Stanford bats. The Cardinal scored the most runs of any Texas Tech baseball opponent in 2021 and tied the mark for the most runs ever scored at Rip Griffin by a postseason foe.
What’s more, this loss was just the second-ever sustained by the Red Raiders in the opening game of a Super Regional. But the good news is that the other instance, 2016 when Tadlock’s team fell to East Carolina in game one, resulted in a three-game Red Raider series victory.
To make that happen again this year, Tech will turn to starter Patrick Monteverde on Saturday. He’ll have to fare better than Hampton did on Friday.
Suffering his first loss as a Red Raider, the true freshman pitched only 3.2 innings allowing four runs on five hits over the course of 74 labored pitches. It was the first time since March 15 that he failed to pitch at least four innings in a start and the first time Tech has lost a game in one of his seven starts on the season.
His day got off to a rocky beginning when Stanford second baseman Tim Tawa homered down the left-field line. But still, Hampton would battle back to get the next hitter to move within one out of getting out of the inning with minimal damage.
However, a double, a walk, and three straight singles would turn the first Cardinal at-bat into a game-defining half-inning. That took the life out of the capacity crowd and gave Beck more than enough breathing room.
Now, the Red Raiders face a do-or-die game at 2 pm on Saturday. The good news is that Tech is 24-6 at home on the year and has not lost back-to-back games at Rip Griffin Park all season. But with Friday’s series-opening loss, the road to Omaha now becomes all the more difficult to climb. Now, it’s time to see how the Red Raiders respond when their backs are to the wall.