Can Texas Tech Break Through?

Baseball players and fans are superstitious by nature. There are certain things players don't want to do, because they will anger the baseball gods. Some teams are well known to have angered the baseball gods to the point of a curse. For some odd reason, the baseball gods never allowed a member of the Hays family to win a regional championship at Texas Tech.

Of course, prior to the Tim Tadlock

Coral Gables Regional Schedule
(All Times CDT)

Game 1: Columbia vs. Texas Tech
1 p.m. Friday

Game 2: Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami(FL)
6 p.m. Friday

Elimination Game
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
1 p.m. Saturday

Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
6 p.m. Saturday

Elimination Game
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
1 p.m Sunday

Championship
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5
6 p.m. Sunday

Championship
Game 7: *Game 6 Repeated if necessary

era, Larry Hays was the only baseball coach to take Texas Tech to a regional. Since Hays never won a regional with Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have never won a regional. Hays is by far the most successful head coach in Texas Tech baseball history.

Under Hays, the Red Raiders won their only Southwest Conference Championship. Two years later, the Red Raiders won the Big 12 Conference. The following season they won the Big 12 Conference Tournament. In April 1997, the Red Raiders were ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. Larry Hays did a lot of great things with the Texas Tech baseball program, but he couldn't get over the hump of winning a regional. Even hosting three regionals and being a one seed in two of their nine regional appearances, the Red Raiders never advanced. Texas Tech is 1-6 in regional championship games and the lone victory came in a game where Texas Tech had to force a second game. The Red Raiders lost that particular second game.

Hays is not a coach that chokes in the post-season. He is a national championship winning coach. Lubbock Christian won the 1983 NAIA National Championship under the direction of Hays. Hiring Hays as the head coach of Tech baseball was a no doubter and the fan base loves him.

Not only could Larry not win a regional championship, but his son Shanon couldn't win the regional championship with the softball team. Shanon, much like his father, won a national championship at Lubbock Christian. Not only did Shanon win the NAIA National Championship at LCU, but he did so in the program's first year of existence. Again, Texas Tech stole Hays from Lubbock Christian and success came immediately. Shanon took the Red Raiders to three NCAA regionals in his first three seasons at the helm. In his first season, the Red Raiders went to the regional final.

Despite the early success, Shanon recently resigned after Tech was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee in favor of Kansas, a team Texas Tech had swept on the road and finished higher than in the Big 12 standings.

How can the Hays family find such great success at Texas Tech, yet never advance out of a regional? Until Texas Tech wins a regional, this question will always linger. Even more ironic is the fact both father and son made it to the regional final in their first appearance and lost to the same team, the Stanford Cardinal. Larry's baseball club beat Stanford in the first game. Tech baseball started off the 1995 Midwest I Regional, played in Wichita, Kansas, 3-0. The Red Raiders slaughtered Providence 24-5 and outscored Arkansas 14-10. Game three came against the Cardinal and Tech won 3-1. Larry's team needed one more victory to advance to the College World Series. Stanford would win their elimination game and advance to the final to play Tech.

The Cardinal had to beat Tech twice to win the regional. Stanford started a relief pitcher, Mario Iglesias, in the first game. Iglesias allowed five hits and tossed a complete game for a 3-2 victory. For game two, Stanford gave the nod to an underclassman, Kyle Peterson. He too would throw a complete game and the Red Raiders were eliminated after a 6-5 loss with Stanford scoring the winning run in the eighth inning.

Earlier this season, Tech ended a drought against Rice which dated back to 1996. Included in this drought is another regional final let down. The year was 1999. Rice, a national seed, had to travel to Lubbock for the regional. The Owls dropped their first game to the four seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers. Texas Tech found themselves in the driver's seat and cruised to victories over Rutgers and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Rice eliminated Rutgers before humiliating Wisconsin-Milwaukee 27-1. In the first game, Rice took an early 1-0 lead. Tech finally tied up the game in the top of the ninth, but Will Ford blasted a walk-off home run to force the if game. The Owls used a 10-run inning in game two to propel themselves to the Super Regionals with a 15-11 victory. Another golden opportunity for the Red Raiders was left at the doorstep.

Perhaps, it wasn't the 1999 regional or the 1995 regional that is the most haunting. Texas Tech was once ranked as the No.1 team in the nation in 1997. The Red Raiders hosted the Central Regional that season as a number one seed. The Red Raiders were upset by a six seed in the first game of the regional. Texas State pulled off the 7-6 upset.

Had Tech won, they would have played four seed Nevada. Tech was eliminated in two games after a 4-2 loss at the hands of Missouri State. Assuming Tech would have defeated Nevada had the Red Raiders won their first game, who knows how far the 1997 squad could have gone. The Rice Owls eventually won the regional and did so without ever having to play a Red Raider squad who was once the top ranked team in the nation.

The Red Raiders do have that one victory though. The lone victory came in the 2001 Fullerton Regional. Texas Tech opened up the regional with a loss at the hands of Arizona State. After slaughtering Temple, Tech obtained sweet revenge by eliminating the Sun Devils. The victory against Arizona State placed Tech in the Fullerton Regional Championship. Cal State Fullerton had yet to lose though, so Tech had to beat the Titans twice.

Game one was an easy victory for Texas Tech as the Red Raiders pounded the Titans 11-5. Tech struck first blood in game two and it seemed as though the Red Raiders might advance to the Super Regionals, but Cal State Fullerton scored nine runs in the later stages of the game and ended up reaching the semifinals of the College World Series.

Hays would take the Red Raiders to a regional one final time in 2004 and the Red Raiders reached the championship game of the Atlanta Regional, but fell to Georgia Tech for the second time.

One decade later, the Red Raiders are back in an NCAA regional. This time it comes under the direction of Tim Tadlock, who once played for the Red Raiders under Larry Hays. Like Hays, Tadlock has spurred a quick turnaround for the Red Raider baseball program and has won a national championship at a non-NCAA program.

With some budding underclassmen including a sophomore who was named Big 12 Player of the Year, the future looks bright for Tadlock. Fans just hope that Texas Tech baseball isn't cursed. If it is cursed, how do the Red Raiders reverse the curse? If there is a curse, it certainly came into effect in 2010 when the Red Raiders had a winning record and tremendous RPI going into the final two weeks of the season. That was until RHP Chad Bettis was ejected from a game for "intentionally throwing at a batter".

Bettis was suspended for four games and the Red Raiders were swept by the team who finished last in the Big 12 Conference, ultimately costing Tech a winning record and automatically knocking Tech out of an NCAA regional. The swing of events considerably hurt Dan Spencer's chances of being successful at Texas Tech. Spencer never took the Red Raiders to an NCAA regional, despite producing several MLB draft picks including nine in one season.

Despite the Hays connection, Tadlock will look to create his own success with the Red Raiders and hope the jinx is only on Hays. Spencer may have something to say about the jinx, but if Tadlock can't win a regional during his tenure as Texas Tech head coach, perhaps there really is a curse. If so, what is the curse and how do the Red Raiders reverse it?

Texas Tech will look to end the curse in the Coral Gables Regional starting Friday when the Red Raiders take on Columbia in Game 1 at Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CDT.

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