Big Test Awaits Tech in Houston

Texas Tech baseball is off to a meteoric star, but will face stiff competition at the Houston College Classic this weekend. RaiderPower.com staffer Cameron Brock riffs what this weekend's results could mean for the rest of the season and much more in his weekly baseball column.

Each Red Raider baseball fan will understand how they look at the glass of water this week.

Argue about the glass all you want. The one thing every Tech fan wants, is for Tim Tadlock to end the argument by picking up the glass, drinking it and walking away without saying a word.

Usually by the end of a sequence similar to this, everyone stares into space with their jaws dropped.

Texas Tech enters the 2014 Houston College Classic with rankings in two polls plus a top 15 spot in ESPN's Power Rankings. The Red Raiders are on a seven game win streak including three victories over a then-No.3 ranked team. Put all of it in the past. This week could be the final time in 2014 Texas Tech is in any poll.

The Red Raiders boast two victories in their last four trips to Minute Maid Park. Texas Tech knocked off Houston in 2012 and defeated Tennessee in 2008. In these four trips, the Red Raiders are 2-10. Tech has never defeated Rice in the Houston College Classic and the last time the Red Raiders placed Rice in the loss column was in 1996.

Never mind the No. 12 Owls. They're actually 0-2 against Tech's other opponents in the Houston College Classic. Sam Houston State went into Reckling Park Tuesday and left with a 3-1 victory. Houston also left Reckling Park with a mid-week victory this season. The two opponents, who are unranked according to Baseball America, have one loss combined. Those with a good understanding of college baseball will look at the schedules and understand why, but they both bolster victories against a college baseball powerhouse inside a facility that almost assures the visiting team to leave with a loss.

Rice opened their season by going to Stanford and dominating the Cardinal. The Owls embarrassed Stanford 10-3 in the season opener. Wayne Graham's team followed up with a 3-1 victory before losing the Sunday game. Speaking of Graham, Rice's 4-3 victory over Texas State placed him in the 1,000 win club.

All eyes are on the Houston College Classic and rightfully so. Texas Tech has three key matchups, but the Red Raiders play four games in four days. Tech will play against Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches Thursday. The Lumberjacks are a battle tested team whose losing record could easily by a winning one. The team in purple has lost games against Oklahoma State and in College Station to Texas A&M. The Lumberjacks nearly stole a road series against Alabama after forcing extra innings in the rubber match. Tim Tadlock cannot stress the "one game at a time" mantra more this week than any other this season.

The Red Raiders are riding momentum into the four-game weekend. The entire nation seems to know Tech took three of four against Indiana. The scarlet and black followed up with a 4-0 record in the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic.

A number of players can be given the player of the week honors. Some notables include Tyler Neslony, Jake Barrios and Ryan Long. Neslony, who apparently lives for Saturdays, blasted his second grand slam in as many Saturdays as Texas Tech has played in. Barrios not only shook some rust off his bat, but also turned himself into a brick wall at the hot corner. The senior third basemen looked like a gold glover snagging web gem after web gem. Long was a key contributor throughout the weekend batting .500 and was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

My player of the week award goes to freshman Matt Broadbent, who stepped in for an injured Tim Proudfoot and made a huge impact in Friday's victory over Oral Roberts. The Cypress native blasted two doubles and produced all three RBIs which made the difference in a 3-2 ball game.

Freshman Dylan Dusek edges out Cameron Smith for my Pitcher of the Week. Smith produced two victories and was stellar out of the bullpen, even on short notice due to Chris Sadberry being drilled by a comebacker. Despite Smith's performance, Dusek tossed five scoreless innings in his collegiate debut with a 60-pitch limit hanging above his hat. Not only did Dusek shut down the BYU Cougars, but he managed to shrug off an error in the fourth inning which allowed the first base runner of his collegiate career.

Tech must put everything behind them now and focus on this weekend alone. Forget the seven game win streak. Forget the polls and the pats on the back. Business picks up Thursday.

This is the most important non-conference weekend for Texas Tech. Depending on how the conference season shakes out, it could make or break Tech when their resume is placed in front of the NCAA selection committee.

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