The Red Raiders are hitting the road for 11 straight days, and will face some tough competition along the way into conference play.
The first stop will be a four-game series in Berkeley California against No. 12 Cal, a name brand West Coast team in college baseball. This will be the end of the tough non-conference schedule Tadlock strung together being the last four of the ten games against a preseason-ranked opponent.
So far the Golden Bears stand at 9-12 and most recently pulled off a historic four-game sweep of the Longhorns in Austin. Cal made a seven run comeback in 11 innings in order to win the final game, marking the first time the Longhorns were swept in a four-game series after 79 attempts.
Coach Tadlock mentioned Cal’s appearance in the NCAA Regional last season in College Station in order to define this team. Cal beat Coastal Carolina 9-3 in their opening game before just taking one of the three games against A&M that weekend.
One thing Tadlock knows will be a challenge in the Bears’ Friday starter, junior Daulton Jeffries, who is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA this season.
“Obviously the guy at the front of the rotation, Jeffries is going to be a challenge for any hitter, much less a college hitter…When a guy throws 90-95 [mph] and his best pitch is a change up you have your work cut out for you, he can also command a breaking ball,” he said.
Another troublesome thing for the Red Raiders will be the left-handed dominance they have throughout their lineup. Coach Tadlock said a guy they will have to watch out for is third baseman Mitchell “El Gaucho” Kranson who “saw the ball against left handed pitchers very well last weekend.”
The Red Raiders (8-5) have been focusing on this series since the end of the last one, which they dropped 2-1 to perennial power Cal State Fullerton. The feeling around the clubhouse is that learning experience can possibly carry over to the series against the Bears.
“We were talking this weekend about how we just didn’t put everything together on one day, so one day the pitching will be there but the hitting won’t be,” senior catcher Tyler Floyd said. “We are going to try to put everything together this weekend.”
Texas Tech’s pitching staff is full of young talent, and coach Tadlock said this weekend they are planning on letting them run with some opportunities they have created for themselves.
“Going into the next weekend we want to give some guys the opportunity to start that we feel like might be able to fill those roles and put a guy that’s been at the front end and see what he looks like out of the bullpen, we really feel like starting is easier than coming out of the bullpen. We will let those young guys run out there and see what they got,” he said.
The West Coast teams the Red Raiders have and will face are known for playing a certain style of baseball. Tadlock said some of those qualities are common things seen during Big 12 play, which will start the following weekend after Cal.
“We see it in our league,” he said. “You see it from Austin, you see the base running aspect we just saw from Fullerton from TCU and Kansas State. Those teams really press the issue as far as base running goes. If they can take advantage of you, they will try to do that.”
The Red Raider’s first conference test will be at the tail end of their road trip against Baylor in Waco. They will be coming off a midweek game against UT-Arlington at Globe Life Park, the second major league stadium this team will play in this season.
Tadlock and company are eager to take advantage of an opportunity of back-to-back solid competition that doesn’t always come around in the preseason and ride that in to conference play. How will they respond to the big road test? Stay tuned.