This Texas Tech team has been full of surprises throughout the season, but after the season they have had winning the Big 12 title is hardly a shocker.
Before the season started Tyler Neslony said this team does better when they have something to prove. After being picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll they have exceeded every expectation.
Oklahoma State's two losses to Oklahoma combined with TCU dropping one to Baylor this weekend clinched the regular season conference championship for the Red Raiders despite Tech being off for finals.
This is the first time Texas Tech (38-13 overall, 17-4 in the Big 12) has won the league since 1997. Opening 11-1 in the Big 12 marked the best start in school history and their 10-game overall win streak marked the longest since 2002 before it was snapped in the second game against New Mexico in April.
Maybe the most impressive aspect to this team is that they did so with a freshman starting rotation. Coach Tim Tadlock and staff with freshman pitchers is comparable to Kliff Kingsbury’s way with quarterbacks and this year that is especially true.
Friday starter Davis Martin sports an 8-0 record through the Kansas series, marking the only freshman to have eight wins and remain undefeated in the country. His most impressive win being in the must-win series against No. 6 TCU where he pitched a career high of 6.1 innings allowing one run on three hits and recorded three strike outs.
That game was the biggest defining moment for this team this season. The series came down to a rubber match on Sunday, and Texas Tech defeated TCU 3-1 despite the Horned Frogs getting in scoring position with one out left in the game.
Freshman Steven Gingery, the regular Saturday starter, is 4-1 on the season with perhaps his most notable performance coming just last week in Lawrence. He pitched seven shutout innings to help Texas Tech get its fourth conference sweep of the season. After that series hitters were only batting .198 against the southpaw, the second lowest in the Big 12.
Both Martin and Gingery have picked up Big 12 New Comer of the Week honors this season. The Sunday starter has been switched up later in the season, but for the first several series it was freshman Ty Harpenau getting the job done.
The offensive production from Texas Tech has been just as impressive. This team has outscored their opponents 375-237 heading into the regular season three-game series finale against West Virginia. Texas Tech has also scored 10 or more runs 15 times this season, the highest outburst coming at Sam Houston's expense, 20-3.
Tech's timely hitting has been impressive as well primarily because there is always a guy to step up for Texas Tech and produce when others are struggling. Early in the season that was Michael Davis, recently it has been Tyler Neslony and Hunter Hargrove, but guys like Tanner Gardner and Cory Raley have also had nice spurts throughout the season.
After the Kansas series Texas Tech was second in the Big 12 for batting with a team average of .311 and on base percentage of .409. That is led by outfielder Tanner Gardner, who also leads the league in hits, and first baseman Eric Gutierrez who are batting .381 and .341 respectively.
Coach Tadlock’s motto of one pitch and one game at a time has really stuck with this team who have proven to have a short memory. For example, the demoralizing 17-1 loss at home to Texas didn't stop the resilient Red Raiders from going on the road and winning the series over TCU in Forth Worth.
Just when you think something’s got to give with this team, they go out and surprise you and that was their goal from the first day of practice. Now they are Big 12 champs. It will be interesting to see if the Red Raiders can close out the season by adding some more hardware.