Red Raiders Roll into Big 12 Play

Texas Tech looked impressive in non-conference play starting 15-3, but now the Red Raiders must prove their mettle against Big 12 opponents starting with a three-game series with Baylor this weekend in Waco. Cameron Brock riffs in his weekly column about the importance of getting off to a good start in conference play.

Spring time is just around the corner and usually that brings optimistic feelings to many people.

Some think of spring as a great time to clean while others, like me, want to flash the leather and swing for the fences.

Tim Tadlock's Texas Tech Red Raiders are doing both. After a disappointing first year campaign, Tadlock has his team on the right track and continues to receive national recognition.

Cleaning is just a fitting word after the Red Raiders swept a four-game series against New Mexico State and literally left Abilene Christian in the dust for a 6-2 victory in a shortened game due to weather.

Every week seems to have a first-year Red Raider come up strong and break out. The team produced its third consecutive Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award recipient in Adam Kirsch.

The newcomers are not the only ones getting the job done. Eric Gutierrez is blasting the ball all over the field and if Jake Barrios has yet to find his groove, opposing pitchers will wake up screaming from nightmares once he does.

Tech certainly deserves a pat on the back after acquiring seven straight victories for the second time this season, but right now is the wrong time to do it.

Business picks up this week and Tech's opponent is not on the tip of any tongues at the moment. Not only does this make the Baylor Bears dangerous, but Baylor is a strong home team who is road tested. The Bears have lost once this season in Waco and the loss came to a prestigious Cal State Fullerton team. Baylor dropped the series opener 11-0 a week ago, but took the final two games of the series. The Bears have played road games against Arizona State, San Diego, California and Houston.

The Red Raiders have played well in their seven game win streak, but five of the wins came against teams that were meant for Tech to build confidence on. Tech needs to validate their pre-conference schedule. To do so, the Red Raiders need to open conference play with a series victory. The selection committee wants to see road victories and Tech has one true road victory. Rice will be seen as a road win, but the Red Raiders have stayed home for the most part. This is one of the best opportunities Tech has to prove they're a regional team.

My player of the week award goes to sophomore Alec Humphreys. The first two games of the New Mexico State series, Humphreys had to contribute with some pom-poms. It seemed Humphreys would be a cheerleader again for Tech Saturday until he replaced Anthony Lyons after one at-bat. The sophomore broke out going 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs. The Tech bullpen uncharacteristically blew a 5-1 lead and had to force extra innings too.

Humphreys led off the twelfth inning for Tech and blasted a triple to eventually score the game-winning run. He followed up the performance with another 3-for-5 day scoring three runs and two RBIs. His Tuesday performance produced another multi-hit, multi-run scoring game.

Freshman Ryan Moseley receives my pitcher of the week award. Without Moseley's Saturday performance, Tech probably winds up with a loss against New Mexico State. Cameron Smith was due for a mishap and it came Saturday. Smith allowed five earned runs on three walks, two hits and a hit batsman. If that wasn't enough, he also committed a balk and produced just one out.

Moseley came in and cleaned shop. The Lubbock Cooper product tossed five-plus shutout innings. In those innings, Moseley surrendered five hits and one walk while recording three strikeouts. He did not receive credit for the win or a save as he was replaced prior to the twelfth inning.

Tech continues to do well, but the Red Raiders have not made a regional appearance since 2004 and will not receive any favors from the selection committee this season. The Red Raiders are currently beating down the door, but no one is home. Tech needs to run the gauntlet and the first opponent is a Baylor team that is not expected to contend this season.

This year was supposed to be another rebuilding season. Tadlock wants to end any thought of rebuilding. The Red Raiders were picked eighth in the Big 12 pre-season coach's poll. Tech is already making noise nationally, but they must solidify that noise in conference play. The Red Raiders have done a lot of damage without Tyler Neslony and Tim Proudfoot. Both are expected to return this season.

Texas Tech is not a rebuilding team. Baylor receives an unpleasant surprise Friday when the first pitch is thrown at 6:35.

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