The bar for Texas Tech baseball is set high. In the past year the Red Raiders picked up their first College World Series win in school history, signed another top 25 recruiting class and now for the third year in a row have sold out of season tickets.
Many are anticipating the upcoming baseball season, especially after looking at the schedule Tadlock and company have put together. The Red Raiders will play a third of their games (18) against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year and host three College World Series opponents.
There is no doubt Texas Tech will get their fair share of competition this year. Here is a breakdown of the 2017 schedule month by month.
Feb. 17 Western Illinois, Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
Feb. 18 Western Illinois in Starkville, Miss.
Feb. 19 Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
Feb. 21 New Mexico State
Feb. 24-26 California-Berkeley
Feb. 28 New Mexico
February could be a very good month for Texas Tech baseball, it presents an opportunity to start strong but also to see where this team is at early. Tech opens the season on the road for the first time since 2008. They will travel to Starkville, Mississippi to play a pair of games against both Western Illinois and Mississippi State.
That first series should be manageable for the Red Raiders despite it being on the road. Western Illinois went 14-36 overall last year, 11-19 in conference play and 0-5 against ranked teams (#14 Arkansas and #12 Missouri State). Mississippi State on the other hand made the NCAA tournament after winning the SEC West Title and going 44-18-1 on the season. They were eventually knocked out by Arizona, the NCAA runner up, in the Super Regional round.
Texas Tech should be able to handle business in Starkville against Western Illinois and even split the games with Mississippi State. Doing that would be considered a solid start before their home season opener against New Mexico State.
The New Mexico State Aggies can not be overlooked as Texas Tech split a midweek series against them last season in March. They are a team the Red Raiders are familiar with and one that will have a chip on their shoulder coming to Lubbock which sets up an exciting home opener at Dan Law Field.
Key Series: California-Berkeley
Five games into the season Texas Tech will get a true dose of west coast baseball with Cal-Berkeley coming to town. This is a non-conference opponent Texas Tech fans should be excited about, because the Golden Bears are a solid program that could help Texas Tech’s RPI. This is a team who last season split a two game series with Texas Tech (the other two games were rained out), pulled off a four game sweep of Texas in Austin, and went 14-16 in the Pac 12. In their win against Cal, Texas Tech scored six runs behind Hayden Howard, who pitched the final three innings only allowing one run.
Winning this series would start to confirm the preseason hype that Texas Tech is receiving and make head coach Tim Tadlock look like a scheduling wizard. A win is entirely possible if Texas Tech can adjust to the west coast baseball pace and find a solid rotation of arms this early in the season.
March 3 Texas A&M in Houston
March 4 Ole Miss in Houston
March 5 LSU in Houston
March 7 Arizona
March 10-12 UTSA
March 14 at UTA
March 17-19 at Texas*
March 21-22 UNLV
March 24-26 at Wichita State
March 28-29 Texas Southern
The challenges will continue into early March for Texas Tech with the Shriner’s College Classic, where they will see all NCAA tournament teams. Although, they will be able to catch somewhat of a break with UTSA and UT-Arlington in the middle of the month before starting conference play in Austin.
Key series: Shriners College Classic, Texas
Texas Tech will take on some very talented teams in the Shriner’s College Classic this year in Houston. It is set up with a Big 12 vs. SEC theme where the Red Raiders will be matched up with old rival and CWS contender Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU.
Texas A&M finished second in the SEC West last season but is adding many new pieces to this year’s team. LSU is returning the majority of their team who finished as one of the top offenses in the SEC. Ole Miss finished right behind the Tigers and despite having a solid pitching staff the Rebels should be the most winnable game in Houston.
It will be a successful series if the Red Raiders could leave Houston with two wins, but even one win would still be impressive (especially if it is against the Aggies.) This series should be significant for Texas Tech’s RPI and probably be the biggest challenge they will face thus far in the season.
The other key series in March will be over Spring Break in Austin because, well, it’s Texas. Starting conference play with a series win in Austin would start to build positive momentum for the Red Raiders, and help prepare for the adversity that is bound to be hit during Big 12 play. Texas Tech lost the series against Texas in 2016 in Lubbock, but beat them in Austin the year before. Beating the Longhorns is never easy, but by this point in the year this team should already be somewhat battle tested and ready.
After the series in Austin they will play a midweek series against UNLV at home, who was 24-32 last season. The Red Raiders split a midweek series with UNLV last season in March. Getting midweek wins, against teams like UNLV and others on the schedule has been a weakness in the past for Texas Tech. Therefore, this will be an important matchup for the Red Raiders before heading into their brutal conference schedule that will soon follow.
March 31-April 2 at Oklahoma*
April 4 at New Mexico State
April 7-9 Baylor*
April 11 New Mexico
April 14-16 at Kansas State*
April 18 New Mexico State in Midland
April 21-23 Oklahoma State*
April 25-26 at New Mexico
April 28-30 TCU*
By April, Texas Tech will be in conference play mode. They will play five conference series this month and luckily the toughest ones will be at home. The most winnable series during April will most likely be: Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State. Texas Tech won all three of those series last season and swept Oklahoma and Kansas State at home. While playing two of those teams on the road will be more difficult, if Texas Tech can pull of series wins against those three they will have serious momentum going into the harder Big 12 matchups.
Key Series: Oklahoma State, TCU
Those tough Big 12 matchups are College World Series attendee’s Oklahoma State and TCU. More than likely it will between Tech and these two teams competing for the conference title and possibly a NCAA Championship run. By the time of these two back to back series in Lubbock there is no doubt these teams will have something to play for.
First will be Oklahoma State, who finished right behind Texas Tech in the Big 12 last season and made it to the CWS for the first time since 1999. More impressively they defeated Clemson, a national seed, and South Carolina on the road to get to Omaha. The Cowboys are in a similar situation as Texas Tech, where they lost some very key players like All-Americans Donnie Walton and Thomas Hatch, but still have great talent on the mound with right handers Tyler Buffett and Trey Cobb. Texas Tech should be able to at least win a game against the Cowboys, but getting the series won’t be easy. Home field advantage will serve them well here.
It will continue to serve them well the very next weekend against TCU. The Horned Frogs finished third in the nation last season and have turned into a pretty big baseball rival for Texas Tech. Last season Texas Tech defeated TCU in Fort Worth, which was huge accomplishment and defining moment for this program. Tech saw them again the first round of the CWS and lost to them in the ninth inning. This series in 2017 will be just as crucial as in the past because both TCU and Texas Tech are coming into the season with high expectations. TCU was picked No. 1 in the 2017 Preseason Collegiate Baseball Poll, Tech No. 29. They will return a lot of talent including eight position players and five key pitchers and guys like RHP Brian Howard, slugger Luken Baker and even highly touted freshman pitchers.
Winning both of these series would most likely mean winning the conference, but if Texas Tech just wins one of these series it will be impressive. They definitely have their work cut out for them playing these teams back to back but momentum could really work in their favor here.
May 2-3 at Ohio State
May 5-7 at West Virginia*
May 19-21 Kansas*
April is definitely is the hardest month for the Red Raiders, but May brings just enough challenge to keep Texas Tech sharp before going to the Big 12 tournament and possibly the postseason. The tough midweek games continue at Ohio State at the beginning of the month. This is a team that made the NCAA tournament last year after going 44-20-1 overall and 15-9 in conference play. It won’t necessarily be easy, but Texas Tech should be able to manage at least one win against Ohio State.
Key Series: West Virginia
The most important series in May though will take place in Morgantown, West Virginia. The Mountaineers are a team that really proved themselves in 2016 and are on the rise as a program. They missed the NCAA tournament despite finishing fourth in the Big 12 with a 36-22 overall record and went 11-13 in the conference. They were defeated by TCU in the Big 12 tournament 11-10, which squashed their postseason chances.
Texas Tech won the series against the Mountaineers last season despite losing the final game, but they lost to them 9-4 in the Big 12 tournament when WVU was hot. If WVU continues the hot streak they were on last season and proves to be an even better team then that can make the Big 12 even more challenging and this matchup even more important. WVU lost a lot of key guys on the pitching staff leaving them with RHP BJ Myers and many underclassmen.
After travelling to Morgantown the Red Raiders will finish the season at home with a series against Kansas. While this team should not look over anyone Kansas finished last in the Big 12 with a 20-35-1 record and only six conference wins. It should make for a good final weekend at Dan Law Field for the regular season.
It will not be an easy road for Texas Tech who has not only a brutal conference schedule, but hard midweek nonconference games as well. Although, Tadlock did not intend for it to be easy and if anything the schedule should show the high expectation that he has and that many others should have for this team.