The Texas Tech baseball program looks to live up to the expectations they set two seasons ago and return to the College World Series in 2016.
Last season the Red Raiders finished 31-24, which left some disappointed after their Omaha appearance the season before. The team struggled offensively, couldn’t capitalize on mid-week games and now is not even on the national radar going into this season.
After the first week of practice Eric Gutierrez said he is very confident in the team they have now, which is composed of 17 returners and 15 newcomers. The last time he felt this confident was during the College World Series.
Tyler Neslony said he thinks this team does better when they are under estimated and have something to prove, than when they are trying to meet high expectations, as they were last year. No doubt, they have a chip on their shoulder he said.
Let’s break down all the facts you need to know for opening day.
Texas Tech is bringing back many familiar faces this season, and now with another season under their belt they are hungry inch their way back up to the top. The key returners in the infield being first baseman Eric Gutierrez, a key offensive player who averaged .315 last year with a on base percentage of .444. Also returning in the infield is Orlando Garcia, at third base, who was also key offensively for the Red Raiders with an average of .259 and on base percentage of .326.
In the outfield you will see all returners most likely. In center senior Zach Davis, but you could also consider senior Cory Raley or sophomore Tanner Gardner there as well depending on offensive production. In right, sometimes center will be no doubt junior Stephen Smith is often the leadoff spot in the lineup lead the team in home runs last season with 10. In left will be Tyler Neslony, who is right next to Gutierrez in the line up, a guy you rely on for offensive production. Neslony ended last season with a .286 average, .369 on base percentage.
On the mound the key returner is Ryan Moseley, who threw the first pitch of last season, and was deemed the Friday night guy. Moseley has compiled a 5-8 record with a 3.19 ERA in his 35 appearances, which includes 17 starts over the last two seasons. Moseley will have to take some young guys under his wing as over half of the 18 man pitching staff are newcomers.
That’s right; Texas Tech fans are going to have to embrace many new faces this season. One guy Moseley is already familiar with through the Cape Cod summer league is righty Chandler Eden from Yavapai College in California. Eden, who was selected in the MLB draft right after high school and did not sign, will make an immediate impact with his 90-plus mph fastball. His sophomore season at Yavapai he went 3-2 in 17 appearances and ended with a 5.49 ERA.
Filling in the two positions not covered by veterans in the infield will most likely be freshman Trey Ochoa at second base and Tyler Fowler at shortstop. Tadlock has been high on Ochoa since fall ball and rightly so. Coming from Rockwall High school, who advanced to the 6A Regional semifinals his senior year, he hit .345 that season and earned District Offensive Player of the Year honors. Fowler is from Cleburne high school where he has racked up many MVP honors after leading his team to the playoffs all four years. Most impressively his junior year he averaged .345 and slugged .644 with 10 stolen bases.
This will also be the first time fans will see junior Kholeton Sanchez, a New Mexico Junior College transfer, behind the plate, after he redshirted last year due to Tommy Johns surgery. This is a position that has been a question mark the past two seasons but coach Tim Tadlock said he would have started last season if he weren’t injured. Now this season you have Sanchez, and senior Tyler Floyd who can both take care of things behind the plate.
Schedule (Key Matchups)
The Red Raiders will play 27 games at Dan Law Field this season, but will also play in two major league ballparks this season.
Texas Tech will open the season with a four game series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday and will play the first nine of 13 at home. Looking beyond the first weekend the Red Raiders have one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the country.
They will play 13 games against opponents who advanced to the NCAA regional less than a year ago. Two of those teams will be hosted at Dan Law Field, which are San Diego State and 2015 College World Series attendees Cal State Fullerton.
The Red Raiders will also face California, who made it to the NCAA regional last year, in mid-March for the first time in program history. Another key matchup will also be on the road against Arkansas, who fell to Miami in their second game in the College World Series last season.
Other non-conference NCAA regional contenders include: Oral Roberts, Houston, and Louisiana Lafayette. Texas Tech will also play 12 midweek games this season, an area where this team struggled last year, although the majority of them will be at home.
Texas Tech has a pretty tough road ahead of them, but coach Tim Tadlock intended it to be that way. Will Texas Tech be able to climb their way to the top as they did two seasons ago? Stay tuned.