Time to Enjoy Tech Baseball

Texas Tech picked up a big win over Rice to salvage a 2-2 road trip before returning home to defeat New Mexico on Tuesday. The Red Raiders now have just five games remaining before they begin Big 12 play. Cameron Brock riffs in his weekly column about the importance of sweeping the four-game series with the Aggies this week.

Texas Tech baseball dropped in both of its rankings and completely fell out in one this week. This may worry some and perhaps raise the blood pressure of a few die-hard fans.

Now is a perfect time to sit back and watch the team without the stress of conference play.

Tech finished the weekend 2-2 and defeated a top 15 Rice team. Yes, Rice is 6-5 and scored the least amount of runs of all six teams in the Houston College Classic, but its Tech's first victory over the Owls since 1996. More importantly, Rice's losses came on the road against Stanford and against tough opponents in Houston and Sam Houston State. Tech experienced first-hand just how strong the Cougars and Bearkats are this season with the two teams combining for 19 runs against the good guys.

There was a time when many considered the series victory over Indiana a great achievement and Sam Houston State was "just a Southland Conference team". Most college baseball experts know the Southland Conference is much better than the Big Ten Conference. The Hoosiers are now 4-5 while the Bearkats were just nine outs from shutting out the Texas Longhorns, who broke into Baseball America's top 10 this week, and leaving Minute Maid Park undefeated against three Big 12 Conference teams.

All six teams in the Houston College Classic are potential regional teams. Not one team left the tournament without a victory or a losing record.

At this juncture in the season, the least impressive of the six teams is TCU. The Horned Frogs have dropped home games to Jacksonville and UT Arlington. The team in purple was on the verge of being shut out by the Bearkats until they scored four runs in the ninth inning and still lost by five runs.

The classic proved Tech is not among the elite teams in college baseball right now and will not compete for a conference championship, but it did show Tech can compete with the best teams in college baseball without two of its best players.

The Red Raiders are very well in the hunt for a regional selection right now and the team is only getting better with two straight Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards and a tremendous displays from freshman Stephen Smith, Ryan Long and Ryan Moseley this week. Admit it. We all jinxed Smith's chance for the cycle Tuesday after he hit the triple. You were thinking about it as well I did.

Of course, we can't forget about the thriller in Nacogdoches. The Red Raiders are 1-0 in true road games after sophomore first basemen Eric Gutierrez unleashed the game-winning hit in the ninth inning. The game winner, a two-RBI double, is the biggest reason Gutierrez earns my player of the week award. It doesn't hurt that Gutierrez produced a hit in all four-weekend games. This includes Sunday's game against Rice where the Red Raiders managed just two hits, neither of which produced any runs.

Other notable mentions this week include Adam Kirsch, Ryan Long and Stephen Smith. Kirsch extended his hit streak to 11 game Tuesday.

Freshman Ryan long continues to be impressive after starting a four-game hit streak including two multi-hit games. As mentioned earlier, Smith was a home run away from the cycle, but Smith has not been a consistent starter. He's a freshman and his lead-off double against New Mexico was his first collegiate hit. He finished the game 4-for-5.

My pitcher of the week is Chris Sadberry. Freshman Ryan Moseley may be dialing 911 if he ever reads this, but the truth is Tadlock would not have used Moseley to close out Sunday's ball game if the defense didn't commit three errors in the seventh inning leading to an unearned run. Sadberry was absolutely stellar against Rice tossing seven innings without giving up an earned run. He allowed just five hits and did not surrender any walks or plunk any batters. This comes just a week after he was taken out of a game due to his hand being hit by a line drive.

Moseley notched up the save against Rice by shutting down the final four batters in order. He came into the game with two runners on base to replace Jonny Drozd in a one-run ball game.

This week the Red Raiders host a New Mexico State team that is 7-5 in 12 home games. The Aggies are in a once great Western Athletic Conference, which now is outright sorry after receiving a botched makeover through conference realignment. The Red Raiders should have no problems against the Aggies, but at the same time Tech needs to take them seriously. The Red Raiders are 5-5 in the last 10 games of the series, but hold a 29-6 series advantage when the games are in Lubbock.

It's tough to sweep a four-game series, but Tech can afford to slip up once this weekend. Tech needs to use this series to gain confidence at the plate and improve in the field.

The four-game home series against New Mexico State starts Thursday with first pitch set for 6:30.

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