Two things are certain this Texas Tech baseball.
First, the Red Raiders will play in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Oklahoma City next week. It's just a matter of time until the Red Raiders hear their name called during the NCAA Selection Show.
Secondly, Texas Tech is a lock for a regional and could potentially be a regional host. Tim Tadlock will probably receive an extension after this season, considering the team will make their first regional appearance since 2004. Of course, all of this is speculation until it actually happens. It would certainly be puzzling if this were not the case though.
This team has completed the 180 degree turnaround from the 2013 season and fans are excited. The Red Raiders need to take this weekend seriously though. Tech wants to stay in Texas for the regional and would love to stay in the Lone Star State for a Super Regional. Tim Tadlock's squad is 2-6 outside the state of Texas. Inside the Lone Star State, the Red Raiders are 35-10 including a 28-4 record at the friendly confines of Rip Griffin Park.
There are more reasons Tech wants to take this weekend seriously other than regional positioning. The Red Raiders are coming off a long break in which they were cold. Yes, they plated 18 runs on the road against Dallas Baptist. Prior to the demolition of the Patriots, Tech was swept by the Kansas Jayhawks. Texas Tech has lost their last six games against teams who are virtual locks for a regional. The Patriots are on the bubble. Their bubble is very close to bursting at the moment. All six of the games were away from Rip Griffin Park and the Red Raiders allowed at least four runs in each of the games.
Texas Tech does not need to sweep the series against West Virginia, but they do need to win the series and go into the Big 12 Conference Tournament with momentum. A lot of the time, the regionals are not about who the best team is, but who Is the hottest team. For example, two years ago a team out of the America East Conference named Stony Brook got hot at the right time and made a run to Omaha. The Seawolves went into Coral Gables, Florida and started off the regional by defeating the Miami Hurricanes 10-2. Miami was the host and laid a complete egg by being the first team eliminated after losing to Missouri State 12-2. The Seawolves ended up winning twice against UCF to move on to the Super Regionals. There was no way Stony Brook was going into possibly the most hostile college baseball environment, Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, and knock off nationally seeded LSU. They did. The Seawolves dominated the best of three series and punched their first ever trip to Omaha.
Another team who got hot at the right time came last season. You know this team as the nationally ranked opponent who Tech took three-out-four from in this year's opening weekend. After dropping five-out-of-eight games during the month of May, it looked like the Hoosiers were running out of gas. The Hoosiers won their final two regular season games at Ohio State.
They entered the tournament and won their first two games to enter the championship. All they needed was one more. Nebraska forced a second Big Ten Championship Game after an 11-inning affair, but the Hoosiers answered back to win the automatic berth. The Hoosiers were placed in a fairly easy regional with Valparaiso, Austin Peay and a Florida team who posted a losing record during the month of May. The Hoosiers never played the Gators and scampered to the Super Regionals. A lot of folks said the run ends in Tallahassee and the Hoosiers were a fluke to be in the Super Regionals, but Indiana scored 21 runs and swept the nationally ranked Seminoles.
These two teams combined for a 1-4 record in Omaha, but it goes to show that the right team can make a run if they are hot.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are currently projected as a two seed in the Nashville Regional. Despite what many say, the Mountaineers are team who will bite in the backside when disrespected. Ask the Texas Longhorns. The Mountaineers knocked the Longhorns out of contention for the Big 12 Regular Season Championship by taking two of three against Augie Garrido's squad. Prior to a series against one of the nation's hottest teams, Kansas, the Mountaineers won 11 of 13. This is not the most talented squad and head coach Randy Mizey has done a spectacular job in Morgantown, but they are vulnerable. Good teams including Oklahoma State and TCU have swept the Mountaineers. If the Red Raiders take the Mountaineers seriously, Tech will win the series.
West Virginia has some good hitters who will test the Tech pitching staff. Senior Ryan McBroom holds the boomstick with eight home runs and 11 doubles. He's also hitting .344 on the season.
Junior Bobby Boyd is fourth in the Big 12 when it comes to stolen bases. He's 16-for-18 on the base paths and is currently leading the Mountaineers with a .374 average.
Thursday's matchup will be interesting. Tadlock has tabbed RHP Corey Taylor (5-2, 1.88 ERA) to face LHP Harrison Musgrave (5-3, 2.23 ERA). Musgrave is currently second in the Big 12 Conference in strikeouts. The only pitcher ahead of him is TCU's Brandon Finnegan. Taylor will be making his second career Big 12 Conference start. While his record is 1-2 in the four games he started, Taylor sports the lowest ERA of the Texas Tech pitching staff.
Friday's game will be a duel between left handers. Chris Sadberry (4-2, 3.34 ERA) will face Ross Vance (3-2, 3.16 ERA) in what could be the most unpredictable game of the series. The two pitchers have near-identical stats being within four strikeouts and two walks of each other. Both pitchers came from the junior college ranks.
Freshman Dylan Dusek (5-0, 2.63 ERA) will look to finish the regular season off with an undefeated record as he takes the mound Saturday. Dusek, a lefty, will face another lefty in John Means (6-1, 2.87 ERA). Dusek received his sixth no decision against Dallas Baptist, but did not give up a run in the four innings he pitched.
Tech needs to get hot right this weekend and catch on fire at the Big 12 Conference Tournament. First pitch Thursday is set for 6:37.
Texas Tech Baseball in Great Position
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