Red Raiders Show Resiliency

Texas Tech baseball has proven to be a tough, gritty squad this season. The past week was no different as the Red Raiders swept Kansas State and rallied for a dramatic walk-off victory against Dallas Baptist.

Texas Tech baseball is a weeble.

A weeble is a toy meant for children to push down. If the child is anything like me, they probably punched it and kicked it too. The thing about weebles though, is no matter how hard a child hits it, it will always pop back up.

Texas Tech was punched in the gut a few times in the past week. The Red Raiders have been knocked down several times this season. Whether it's being shut out on a Friday night or the bullpen collapsing, the Red Raiders almost always come back stronger.

The bullpen collapse at Oklahoma State is almost an afterthought now. The starting pitching was not at its best against Kansas State. Even Mr. Consistent, Chris Sadberry allowed four earned runs. Tech still managed to complete the sweep thanks to a bullpen that not only was called for duty by the sixth inning of each game, but allowed two runs in the midst of it all.

The offense must be credited too. After all, the Red Raider starters allowed 16 runs in four games. Tech's offense at points this season has shown some ugly performances, particularly on Friday nights. However, given the option of pouting about being shut out on a Friday night or coming back to compete the rest of the weekend, Tech takes the latter. The Red Raiders are 7-2 on Sunday and Tech has won the Saturday before each of the two Sunday losses. One of the Sunday losses went into the twelfth inning.

After sweeping the Kansas State Wildcats, Tech went down again Tuesday. With a 4-0 deficit, it seemed Dallas Baptist would hand the Red Raiders a much-needed home victory. Once again, the Red Raiders proved their toughness and crawled back for a walk-off victory.

The Red Raiders are now in the midst of a five-game winning streak and could make it a ten-game win streak before hosting the Oklahoma Sooners April 25-27. Tech is hot. They're not blazing and the team in scarlet and black is not invincible. However, the Red Raiders are just plain hot.

Credit the fans, because the home field advantage is working at the moment. Texas Tech is 22-4 at Rip Griffin Park and three of those four losses came against teams who have made a College World Series appearance in the past three seasons.

It's not all home field advantage though. The Red Raiders are playing .500 ball away from the friendly confines of Dan Law Field. Tech is 5-5 in true road games and is 2-2 at neutral sites. Tim Tadlock's squad is currently 4-5 in conference road games and could easily have won three of the five losses with a bloop single at the right time or a bullpen that did not have an off day.

My player of the week is Stephen Smith. With freshman Dylan Dusek making his first start in a Big 12 Conference game, Smith followed up a nice first inning from the newcomer to start a six-run first inning Sunday. The first inning would come in handy as the Red Raiders won 11-7. Smith followed up the performance with a walk-off single, producing two runs, to cap off the comeback against a stout Dallas Baptist team.

The entire bullpen earns my pitcher of the week award and the pitcher I'll let hold the trophy first is Cameron Smith. On a must-win weekend where the starters do not bring their A-game, the bullpen cleaned up the mess left for them. This not only comes during a crucial series, but it comes a week after the bullpen had their worst outing of the season.

Cameron Smith gets special recognition after he pitched double the amount of innings this weekend than any starter did. Smith tossed 10 scoreless innings in two outings of five innings each. He allowed a total of four hits and four walks in those 10 innings accounting for a WHIP under one. While he is a major factor in the five-game win streak, there are several pitchers who made key contributions out of the bullpen that shall not go unnoticed.

Now the Red Raiders have a break from conference play. Tech will play a three-game series against a SWAC team. Prairie View A&M is currently 15-18 with six wins against teams from the Red River Athletic Conference of the NAIA. As a former member of the Bacone Warriors, I am proud to say the team I once played for is ahead of all three teams Prairie View A&M has defeated.

This should be an easy sweep and a great opportunity for students walking from the engineering key to grab a home run ball. Let's hope they're all keeping an eye out. If the Red Raiders do not sweep the Panthers, Tech will take a serious drop in RPI.

After Easter Sunday, the Red Raiders will face two tough midweek games away from Lubbock. These two games are not must-win, but would certainly help the Red Raiders cause considering they've already beaten both teams. Going 1-1 in the two midweek games will keep the Red Raiders in about the same spot they already are in for a potential regional spot. Win both and Tech's cause is boosted for a short period of time before the home series against Oklahoma.

First pitch Thursday against Prairie View A&M is set for 6:30 at Rip Griffin Park.

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