A College World Series participation trophy is not enough for this Texas Tech baseball club. After two trips to Omaha in three years, Tim Tadlock and company are ready to win it all in 2017.
Last season an explosive offense and freshman pitching rotation led the Red Raiders to an exciting postseason run, which included hosting a regional, super regional and the first CWS win in school history. Texas Tech finished with a 47-20 record but they are now raising the bar higher.
Tadlock has instilled a winning culture in this baseball club. When the 2014 team returned from Omaha they had their heads up, that trip was historic. In 2016, despite getting a win this team was filled with “sincere disappointment.”
“That group could see what was in front of them and that they could compete with all of those teams...you think about it every day now,” Tadlock said on the first day of practice for the 2017 season.
Sophomore RHP Davis Martin said that this team has had a chip on their shoulder since, fueling a productive offseason in the weight room and on the field. He isn’t worried that this team lost huge sluggers in Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Neslony, Stephen Smith and Cory Raley. He is confident that this team, now made up of 17 returners and 16 newcomers, has the personnel to replace what they have lost and be better than they have ever been before.
This championship goal is obvious when you look at the tough schedule Tim Tadlock crafted for the upcoming season. The Red Raiders who ended last season with a 14 RPI ranking will play a third of their games against teams that made the NCAA tournament last year and host three College World Series opponents.
The season will start February 17th on the road with a pair of two game series against Mississippi State and Western Illinois. The Red Raiders will then endure a tough non-conference slate that includes a home series against Cal Berkley, single games against Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU and midweek series against New Mexico State and Ohio State.
The conference schedule might be the toughest challenge of the season. Luckily, Texas Tech receives home field advantage against TCU and Oklahoma State, the only two teams that were picked to finish ahead of them in the Big 12.
HERE is a link to the full schedule.
Texas Tech lost a lot of the big names on their roster to the MLB and graduation, but there are still plenty of familiar faces returning.
Those big names contributed to an explosive offense that averaged almost 10 runs a game last season. Now, it will be up to guys like Tanner Gardner, Orlando Garcia and Michael Davis, who have proven themselves at the plate in the past, to carry this team offensively. Last season those three combined for a .305 batting average and accounted for around 30 percent of Tech’s hits and runs scored.
Gardner ended the season last season with the leading batting average of .379 and also had 19 doubles, six triples and three home runs. This is the kind of performance that Texas Tech will be counting on this season to replace the likes of Eric Gutierrez.
Davis and Garcia both batted .268 and .265 respectively last season. Although, both were known for coming up with clutch hits at the perfect moments. If they can both still contribute those than Texas Tech will be able to do just enough at the plate to compete.
Fortunately, Texas Tech is returning the fiery freshman rotation they had last season. This group made up of Davis Martin (pictured above), Steven Gingery and relief pitcher Ryan Shetter should now be able to hold down their own and take pressure off of the offense.
Likely to stay in the starting weekend rotation is right-handers Martin and Gingery. They are one of the best 1-2 Friday to Saturday combos there is in the Big 12. Martin went 10-1 with a 2.52 ERA his freshman season. Gingery ended with a 4-2 record and 3.18 ERA. Right-hander Ryan Shetter will also bring back some experience to the bullpen, which will heavily rely on the newcomers.
Newcomers that are surely going to help out offensively are JUCO transfer outfielder Connor Beck and freshman third baseman Josh Jung. Beck played for TCU his freshman year and then Midland College before transferring to Texas Tech for his junior season. During the Red and Black series he hit a two run homer, a walk-off single to give the series win to the Black team and had three multi-hit games.
Jung who stands at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds will likely crack the starting lineup for what he can do on both in the field and at the plate. He will likely start at third base and be used on the mound as a closer when needed. During the Red and Black series he proved to be a solid defensive presence and provide power at the plate.
Another guy who could possibly work his way into the starting rotation later in the season is freshman John Henry Gonzalez. One reason is Tadlock’s magic with freshman pitchers and the other being his ability to buckle down in pressure situations. During fall ball he threw four scoreless innings only allowing one hit and striking out three.
The defense will also count on freshman Michael Berglund and Clay Koelzer behind the plate. Tadlock said on the first day of practice that he is confident with those two splitting time at catcher. Through fall ball Koelzer showed to have more impact with the bat, but Berglund has the advantage defensively. Either way the two of them will have to play at high level despite their age.
Projected Starting Defense
FIRST BASE- Hunter Hargrove
SECOND BASE- Michael Davis
SHORT STOP- Orlando Garcia
THIRD BASE- Josh Jung
LEFT FIELD- Ryan Long
CENTER FIELD- Tanner Gardner
RIGHT FIELD- John McMillon
CATCHER- Michael Berglund / Clayton Zoelzer
DESIGNATED HITTER- Cody Farhat
FRIDAY- Sophomore RHP Davis Martin
SATURDAY- Sophomore RHP Steven Gingery
SUNDAY- Sophomore LHP Erikson Lanning
MIDWEEK- Junior Parker Mushinski/ Freshman John Henry Gonzalez