Baseball Team Opens Action on West Coast

<p>NO. 21 TEXAS TECH LOOKS TO REBOUND ON THE WEST COAST, via a five-game road swing this weekend in Los Angeles, Calif. Four teams meet in the 2005 Public Storage Classic hosted by USC. The round robin tournament also features No. 20 USC, UC-Irvine and ninth-ranked Wichita State. <p> The Red Raiders will start tournament play against USC on Friday before playing UC-Irvine on Saturday. Tech and Wichita State will wrap weekend play with a 3 p.m. (CT) game on Sunday.

The Red Raiders enter the weekend looking for answers from the pitching staff; Tech has watched its ERA drop 71 points in the last four games after dropping to a season-low 3.85. Red Raider hurlers gave up eight earned runs against a potent TCU squad on Tuesday night in a 9-2 loss to the No. 24 Horned Frogs in Fort Worth.

Tech will try and jumpstart a talented group of arms by throwing junior right-hander Brian Wyatt on Friday night against the Trojans. Wyatt, who just returned from a six-week illness, has been impressive out of the Tech bullpen and already has two wins in three appearances and totals a 1.00 ERA. Sophomore right-hander Randy Gattis is expected to take the mound on Saturday against UC-Irvine and Sunday's game against Wichita State will feature RHP Adam Lawford.

USC comes into the weekend having lost three of its last four games, including an 8-3 loss on Tuesday to UC-Riverside. The Trojans went 1-2 this weekend at the Round Rock College Classic at Dell Diamond. UC-Irvine is 9-7 on the season following an 8-6 loss to San Diego State on Tuesday. Wichita State enters the tournament on a four-game win streak and owns a record of 15-1.

Following this weekend's tournament in Los Angeles, Texas Tech will take the short drive down south to Midland to take on the Houston Cougars Tuesday night. Tech and Houston are scheduled for a 7 p.m. first pitch at First American Bank Ballpark (home of the Double-A Midland Rockhounds). Texas Tech will open the Big 12 Conference season over the weekend as arch-rival and ninth-ranked Texas A&M comes to Dan Law Field for a three-game series (March 18-20).

Senior right-handed pitcher Tanner McElroy has been the biggest surprise for Texas Tech through the first half of the 2005 season. McElroy, a senior from Dallas, was used sparingly in his three previous seasons as a Red Raider and entered the 2005 campaign with a career ERA of 7.63 and a record of 2-2 with no saves. This year, however, things are much different. McElroy picked up his third save of the season over the weekend when he factored into a 6-5 win over Northern Iowa on Saturday. His three saves are tied for second in the Big 12 Conference. He leads the team with a 0.00 ERA through 10 innings of relief work and is averaging one strikeout per-inning (10).

Texas Tech baseball fans are well accustomed to the music played over the Dan Law Field speakers when outfielder Cody Fuller comes to bat. For three seasons now, Fuller has made his way to home plate to the tune of Theme From Superman but not until this year did the song have its true effect. Fuller, a four-year senior from Smithson Valley, has played much like Superman all season long for the Red Raiders both defensively and offensively. He currently leads the Red Raiders with .468 batting average and is fourth on the team with 15 RBI. He has made all 17 starts in centerfield this season and has a perfect fielding percentage in 40 chances. He also leads the squad with 15 stolen bases and is just three stolen bases shy of moving into third place on the all-time career stolen bags list at Tech. Fuller is a two-sport athlete at Tech as he has spent three seasons as a wide receiver on the Red Raider football team. He finished the 2004 season as the fifth best receiver on the team with 43 catches and 505 yards for an average of 11.7 yards-per-catch.

Junior right-hander Brian Wyatt has quickly become a major factor within the Texas Tech pitching staff. Wyatt just returned to the team following a six week absence due to a case of mononucleosis. He made his first appearance of the season in relief against New Mexico State on Feb. 28 in the Rockhounds College Classic. Against the Aggies, he pitched three innings allowing just two hits and struckout three to earn his first win. Wyatt, a transfer from nearby Amarillo, came to the rescue again for Tech over the weekend as he pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief on Saturday to help give Tech a 6-5 win over the Panthers. He allowed one earned run on five hits and improved to 2-0 in what was his second win in relief. He totals a 1.00 ERA through nine innings of work and has allowed just six hits and no walks along with five strikeouts.

Opposing pitchers and catchers--BEWARE--Tech is on the prowl again in 2005. After sporting the quickest team in the Big 12 in 2004, the Red Raiders are looking for a repeat. Just 12 games into the season, Texas Tech leads the league with 57 stolen bases, 28 more than second place Texas who has 29 on the year. Tech has four players who rank in the conference's Top eight: Cody Fuller, Chris Williams, Joseph Callender and Cameron Blair.

Fuller leads the league with 15 stolen bases while Williams is tied for second with 13. The Red Raiders have averaged 110 stolen bases in each of the last four seasons.

Senior second baseman Carey Avants put together his best offensive performance of the season last week against UTA and Northern Iowa. Avants, a senior transfer from UTA, got off to a good start against his former teammates as he went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI. Avants finished the week with a combined batting average of .455 in four games as he was 5-for-11 at the plate with a double and four RBI. His offensive spurt helped raise his overall batting average 52 points from .250 to .302.

Tech makes its first trip to the west coast since 2001 when the Red Raiders were sent to Cal-State Fullerton for the NCAA Regionals. The trip will also be the first regular-season excursion to California since 2001, when Tech played in a tournament at San Diego State. The Red Raiders have an all-time record of 17-16 in the state of California since Tech made its first trip there in 1988. Tech is 1-2 all-time at Dedeaux Field as the Trojans won a three-game series over the Red Raiders in 1999.

The weekend tournament will be a homecoming for two current players - Adam Lawford and Carleton Hargrove. Lawford and Hargrove are both natives of San Diego.

Sunday's game between No. 21 Texas Tech and ninth-ranked Wichita State will feature two of the winningest coaches in college baseball history. Red Raider skipper Larry Hays and Wichita State Head Coach Gene Stephenson account for an amazing 2,875 career wins and have 63 years of combined coaching experience.

Stephenson currently ranks second among the NCAA's all-time winningest head coaches with a career record of 1,470-466-3. Hays is the fifth-winningest coach in NCAA history with 1,405 career wins. Factor in USC's Mike Gillespie who has a record of 704-421 in 19 seasons and the three coaches account for 3,579 wins, 45 NCAA Tournament appearances and three national championships.

Friday's game against USC will mark the seventh meeting all-time between the two schools and the Trojans hold a slight advantage at 4-3. Tech won the last meeting back on Feb. 13, 2000 when the Red Raiders prevailed 20-7 at Dan Law Field. Texas Tech and UC-Irvine will be meeting for the first time on Saturday. Texas Tech and Wichita State will meet on the diamond on Sunday for the first time in 10 years. The Red Raiders and Shockers last played in a regular-season round robin tournament at Dan Law Field with Tech earning a 15-6 win on March 4 and a 7-6 victory the following day. Wichita State leads the all-time series 15-10.

Texas Tech remained virtually the same in the national rankings this week except for moving up one spot to No. 21 in the Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll. The Red Raiders remained at No. 22 in the Baseball America Poll and No. 27 in Collegiate Baseball Magazine.

Senior center fielder Cody Fuller, who recently moved into fourth place on the school's all-time stolen bases list, now totals 71 stolen bases in his four year career. Fuller needs just three more stolen bases to move into third place all-time. His 15 stolen bases this year leads the Big 12 Conference.

With four games played last week, senior outfielder Madison Edwards has moved into third place on the career games played list at Texas Tech. Edwards has played in 181 games during his four-year career and that surpasses former All-American and current Cleveland Indians catcher Josh Bard who played in 177 games. Edwards needs 15 more appearances to move past Randy DuRoss (1992-95) into second place.

Texas Tech's team batting average of .352 leads the Big 12 Conference.

The Red Raiders have won six-straight games on two different occasions this year. Texas Tech has now played five of its last eight games without committing an error, after committing at least one error in the first nine games of the season. The bullpen was Tech's saving grace in the weekend series against Northern Iowa. Tech's three starting pitchers combined for just 4 1/3 innings pitched and tallied a 24.92 ERA after giving up 12 earned runs on 10 hits. The bullpen saved the day as Tech relievers went 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA through 22 2/3 innings. They allowed just seven earned runs on 20 hits and struckout 19.

Senior reliever Tanner McElroy had another outstanding weekend as he posted a 0.00 ERA through 3 innings of relief with one save.

Senior right-hander Adam Fry left the Friday game against Northern Iowa after dislocating his right shoulder. He is expected to return this weekend in California.

Redshirt freshman Casey Zachry is averaging one strikeout per-inning out of the bullpen. He has pitched seven innings so far this season and has an ERA of 1.29.

A BRIEF LOOK AT THE TOURNAMENT FIELD

USC: The Trojans have fallen short of making the NCAA Tournament field in each of the last two seasons and this year's squad is looking to reverse the fortunes. The Trojans are ranked in all four college baseball polls and are 7-5 on the season. The Trojans were projected to finish fifth in the Pac-10 this season by the coaches.

UC-IRVINE: The Anteaters are coming off the programs first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament a year ago and have a season record of 9-7. UC-Irvine has a team batting average of .272 and a staff ERA of 3.19.

WICHITA STATE: The Shockers just returned from a long trip to Hawai'i where the squad compiled a record of 9-1. They are 15-1 on the season and are in the last leg of a 13-game road trip.


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