Texas Tech Bats Have Awoken

The Red Raiders took two from the Horned Frogs last weekend and now prepare to host the Longhorns. Tech's offense got going just in time, in fact the output coincided with a superhero's appearance at the park in Fort Worth. Coincidence?

Prior to Sunday's game,
a member of TCU's promotions crew came into the press box dressed as Batman.

If TCU knew that Texas Tech needed a dark knight to help crank their offense up, perhaps they would've dressed him as Robin.

One week after the Red Raiders scored one run in 25 innings before an error allowed Tech to escape a three-game sweep in Waco, the offense showed up. Friday night seemed like a re-run to Tech fans with Brandon Finnegan pitching a complete game shutout against a Red Raider lineup that seemed so cold it could be considered lost in a blizzard.

The scarlet and black decided enough was enough Saturday and placed 10 runs on TCU. The 10 runs was more than the previous four conference outings combined.

TCU gave the nod to Tyler Alexander the next day and the Horned Frogs started the game taking care of business. Alexander retired 12 of his first 13 batters faced and had yet to give up a hit.

Stephen Smith came up in the top of the fifth and cracked a single up the middle. Tech would go on to score four runs in the inning. The Red Raiders followed it up with a five-run sixth inning and added three more in the ninth. After starting off conference play with six road games, the Red Raiders are now 3-3. Not only does the road record place Tech in a comfortable position, but nine of Tech's next 12 conference games are at the friendly confines of Rip Griffin Park. Lubbock certainly favors Tech as the Red Raiders are 16-2 and have outscored opponents this season 124-65.

Granted the home victories came against teams with a combined 86-102-1 record. Yes, just two of the teams (New Mexico, Indiana) have winning records. Look at the games away from Lubbock though. Tech is 5-5 away from Rip Griffin Park and features victories over Rice, Baylor and TCU. Each of the three programs named have made it to a super regional in the past three seasons and two have made it to the College World Series in the past decade.

If things weren't looking up after outscoring the Horned Frogs 22-4 in the final two games of the series, Tyler Neslony and Tim Proudfoot made appearances in the Arkansas-Pine Bluff doubleheader. Tech was able to remain unbeaten in the all-time series against teams from the SWAC.

It should be common knowledge to fans who follow Tech baseball that Proudfoot is a seasoned veteran. What some may have forgotten is Tyler Neslony launched a grand slam on each of the first two Saturdays of the season. That's power with runners in scoring position Tech certainly could have used against Baylor.

Going back to the part about Batman, Tech needed a dark knight to start up the offense against TCU. Bruce Wayne is a well-known man in Gotham City, but in Christopher Nolan's version laid low for a while before becoming the dark knight who starts cleaning up the mess of a city that is Gotham. This is fitting because Bryant Burleson broke out of a slump Saturday and cracked his first career home run. He followed up Sunday by knocking in five RBIs and scoring a run himself. I encourage Burleson to flaunt a cape in the locker room this week. He is more than deserving of my player of the week honors.

My pitcher of the week could go to Dylan Dusek, but it will not. Dusek allowed three hits, striking out seven batters on his way to a 3-0 start in his career. While that is impressive it did come against a team from the SWAC and for strength of schedule reasons, I must go with Jonny Drozd. The left-hander out of Grayson County College pitched six innings of relief Saturday and stymied what seemed like a hot TCU offense to pick up the win in a crucial Big 12 Conference game. Drozd allowed three hits and a walk while striking out four. He is now 2-0 with two saves and a 1.07 earned run average.

Last week was a wonderful weekend for Texas Tech baseball, but it's in the past. The Red Raiders still have a lot more work to do and one of the most important things to do is defend the home turf. Not only is the upcoming weekend series at Rip Griffin Park, but it's against the evil empire. Call them Carmine Falcone if you will. College sports fans who live in the Lone Star State either join the faithful in Austin or despise the color of burnt orange.

Each team will enter Friday's contest with at least a four-game win streak. Texas is on pace to make a regional. However, this is certainly not your typical Longhorns team. Texas finished last in the Big 12 Conference one season ago. They were the only team Tech finished ahead of. The Longhorns have certainly improved since, but they're still not a very strong team. One could say they are because they went 3-0 in the Houston College Classic, split a four-game road series against Cal and won a home series against Stanford. Look on the flip side though. The Longhorns dropped their opening conference series to Kansas in Austin. The Jayhawks currently sport a winning record, but have not faced the stiffest of competition and were picked to finish last in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll.

Texas took home the Houston College Classic trophy, but they were far from the most impressive team to participate. The Longhorns basically robbed Sam Houston State of the title. Texas was losing against the Bearkats Sunday starter until the late innings when Texas came back and won the game. The Longhorns also did not face the ace for the Houston Cougars, Aaron Garza. The Cougars gave Texas a run for their money. The Longhorns struggle to produce runs. Texas is strong in their pitching. The two consistent starters, Dillon Peters and Parker French, each have ERAs under 2. Nathan Thornhill sports a 1.01 ERA in nine appearances, but it is unclear whether Thornhill will start or act as the Longhorns closer. He's appeared in both roles this season. Against Kansas, Thornhill started Sunday's game pitching three shutout innings. He was replaced and Texas lost. The other potential starter is Lukas Schiraldi (4-1, 2.45 ERA) who while may not be the Longhorns best choice, is certainly not a bad one.

Taking a peek at the lineup for the team whose home is located just minutes away from a place where politics and protests take place, and the names in it are a lot better looking than their statistics. One notable name in the lineup is Kacy Clemens, the son of former Major League pitcher Roger Clemens. He's certainly on pace for a plaque in Cooperstown with a .225 average with a whopping two extra base hits, both being doubles. Just two consistent starters are hitting over .300 (Collin Shaw and Mark Payton). That number matches with consistent starters hitting under the Mendoza Line.

This Texas team has a weakness and that weakness is offense. Tech's pitching has been stout all season long. The Red Raiders will not need the amount of offense they used on TCU. If Tech can score at least three runs in each ball game this weekend, a sweep is very possible.

b First pitch Friday is set for 6:30.

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