Texas Tech is Omaha bound. For the second time in three seasons after they crushed Eastern Carolina 11-0 in the winner-take-all game on Sunday.
Texas Tech fans were more at ease today as the offense they have watched all season returned. The Red Raiders were able get a 3-0 start after East Carolina’s starting pitcher Jacob Wolfe issued a bases loaded walk to Tyler Neslony and Eric Gutierrez hit a 2-RBI single. That got them into ECU’s bullpen sooner than later, freshman RHP Chris Holba came in relief just one out into the game.
Texas Tech tacked on three more in the third inning to put them up 6-0. That inning started with a single from Cory Raley, which was followed by a stand up double from Tyler Neslony. East Carolina then intentionally walked Eric Gutierrez to load the bases with 1 out. Hunter Hargrove made them regret that decision with a two-RBI double down the left field line. They scored the last run of the inning on a pass ball.
Getting to East Carolina's bullpen was key. The Pirates brought out six different guys to try to slow down Texas Tech's offense, but couldn't get to them like they have the past two games.
The run support is what put starting pitcher Erikson Lanning completely in the zone. He was all nails for Texas Tech and gave them a career high seven innings only allowing two hits, two walks and set a career high six strikeouts . At one point he retired 10 straight batters and threw five three up, three down innings.
After soaking it all in, Lanning was asked if it was the best game of his short career Texas Tech he simply replied, "yes" and mentioned getting the start was a "once in a life time opportunity."
Tadlock admitted that the decision to start Lanning wasn't made until about 11 a.m. the morning of the game, but after looking at his success in some big environments this season they were confident he could get it done.
The Texas Tech offense kept playing like it was a one run game. In the bottom of the seventh inning they got three doubles in a row from Neslony, Gutierrez and Hargrove to add some insurance runs. Tyler Floyd made his last game in the Law count with a RBI-single to score Tech’s 10th run of the game.
Eric Gutierrez, who tipped his helmet to the 4,817 fans who were on their feet for his last at bat at the Law, said he could not be more thankful for their support.
"It was--I didn't know what to say. I was really happy" he said. "These fans have supported me. They've believed in me these four years. Nothing but being thankful for them."
Coach Tadlock then went to the bullpen in the seventh, which most expected to have a bigger role in today’s game. Hayden Howard got the call and kept things rolling for the Red Raiders. He continued the shut out not even allowing a hit, and recording two strikeouts in the last three.
Texas Tech's offensive performance was easily the best of the post season so far, and they look to take that momentum up north.
"I mean, everybody who coaches college baseball is doing everything they can each day to try to reach Omaha and to try to win the whole thing," Coach Tadlock said. "You know, but really you need to realize players win games, and you can get them here, but then they've got to perform. You can coach all you want, but these guys, we're along for the ride, our staff is. These guys have done a great job. It's really fun watching them. Just really proud of them."