Baseball

Preview and Lubbock Regional Thread: Texas Tech, Dallas Baptist, New Mexico & Fairfield

We preview the NCAA baseball Lubbock Regional as Texas Tech, Dallas Baptist, New Mexico and Fairfield descend on Lubbock.

Regional Details:

Dates: Friday, June 3rd – Monday, June 6th
Good Guys: #1 Texas Tech Red Raiders (41-16)
Bad Guys: #2 Dallas Baptist Patriots (41-17); #3 New Mexico Lobos (38-21); #4 Fairfield Stags (32-24)
Location: Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park | Lubbock, Texas
Game Notes: Preview | PDF
TV/Stream: ESPN3
Radio/Stream: Broadcast Affiliates

Texas Tech will play Fairfield to lead things off in the Lubbock Regional this weekend. The Red Raiders will start Davis Martin on the mound and is led offensively by Tanner Gardner, who leads the team with a .376 batting average, but the heart and soul of this team is Eric Gutierrez, who is hitting .345 with 12 home runs and slugging .624 on the year. The key for Texas Tech is that they have a loaded lineup and they’ll have to rely on what’s been a terrific offense all year. The pitching has developed over the course of the year and has been very good with lots of newcomers:

Part of that magic has been seen this season on the mound as possibility turned to reality and reality to opportunity. From the Big 12 regular-season crown to what lies ahead this season and those to come.

“Usually you only have five or six guys and then you go, ‘Oh, I don’t know about them,’” Hayward said. “Now we have guys we feel comfortable putting in. We probably have eight to 10 of them. That’s what’s helped us get along this year. We’re looking ahead to the future thinking we’ve got all these guys coming back. It’s exciting right now.”

Texas Tech met with the media yesterday and I think they’re certainly ready to get things started:

“We play in front of the best fans in the nation,” Tech junior Stephen Smith said. “It’s a sold out crowd. It’s going to be fun. We’re just looking forward to it.”

It’s the series the Red Raiders have been looking forward to all season long. But that’s not the message Tyler Floyd gives to a rotation full of freshmen who have already delivered in major moments already this season.

“It’s the same game we’ve been playing our whole lives,” the senior catcher said.

Fairfield arrived here by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and is led by outfielder Jake Salpietro, who is hitting .349 with 16 doubles and 42 RBI. This is the Stags first NCAA appearance and they arrived in dramatic fashion:

For Jake Salpietro, that moment came in the sixth inning of a 5-5 tie with Canisius in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semifinals, when he blasted a solo home run to give Fairfield a lead it would never relinquish in what would be an 8-5 win — the precursor to an 18-2 rout of Siena in the MAAC championship game, giving the Stags their first berth in the NCAA tournament.

The NCAAs begin on Friday in Lubbock, Texas, when Fairfield (33-24) takes on Texas Tech (41-16) at 3 p.m., a game that can be seen on ESPN3.

“It’s a great experience for a program that hasn’t been there before in the NCAA Regional to make this jump and we’re looking forward to it,” Fairfield coach Bill Currier said. “This is why we play some top-ranked teams early in the schedule to get us prepared for conference games certainly, and to feel like we’ve been there a little bit when we go to the regional and play these similar teams.”

Fairfield knows that they have a big task in front of them in facing Texas Tech:

The Stags aren’t a “we’re-just-happy-to-be-here” squad.

“No,” junior shortstop Mike Conti, of Glastonbury, said. “We’ve played some big teams in some big venues. I think at this point we’re just going to go out and play our game. It really shouldn’t matter who is on the other side.”

Currier said either sophomore Gavin Wallace (8-4, 4.70 ERA) or junior Kyle Dube (6-3, 3.64), of Southington, will start.

“They’ve both had good years as well as John Signore [of Wallingford, 3-2, 2.64 ERA], all three of them,” Currier said. “John threw the last game, but they’ve all gotten better as the year has gone on. We hope to keep that rolling, get a good outing, play some good defense and score a few runs behind them. We know we have a challenge ahead.”

Texas Tech has played New Mexico a handful of times this year, almost always good close games with the Lobos, but New Mexico will have to beat a Dallas Baptist team they have defeated all year:

If so, it must do something it couldn’t do this season — beat Dallas Baptist University.

“We really wanted to play them again,” UNM coach Ray Birmingham said of Dallas Baptist, the Lobos’ first opponent in the Lubbock Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. “We want DBU. We want Texas Tech again. The University of New Mexico is .500 playing against Texas Tech the past four years.”

They will have to do better to move past this level for the first time in school history.

And New Mexico head coach Birmingham doesn’t lack for any confidence, feeling that the Lobos can win this regional:

UNM ace and Friday night’s 5 p.m. starter against DBU, Colton Thomson, said familiarity has played right into UNM’s confidence, despite getting swept in early March by the Patriots.

“That was our third series of the year. I mean, we let them have it. We know we can beat DBU, we’ve beaten Texas Tech, we gave Texas Tech one game,” Thomson said. “We know we can beat these guys and we know we can win the regional.”

Thomson pitched the final game in DBU’s three-game sweep at Santa Ana Star field when the Lobos lost 12-11 in a high scoring affair.

Playing with confidence, working hard and playing without fear is something Birmingham has preached since joining the UNM program in 2008.

“We’re not afraid to get punched in the nose, we’re not afraid,” Birmingham said. “It’s all about the opportunity to do something special, that’s all it is.”

Dallas Baptist won the Missouri Valley Conference and led by Darick Hall, who hit .300 with 15 doubles, 18 home runs and slugged .624 on the year, as well as pitcher Colin Poche who went 9-0 on the year with an ERA of just 2.02. I should also add that Hall also pitched, going 8-3 on the year with a 3.41 ERA. You don’t see that sort of two-way player, but that’s pretty fantastic.

Stats

#1 Texas Tech
#2 Dallas Baptist
#3 New Mexico
#4 Fairfield
Avg .296 .288 .319 .281
OBP .400 .387 .410 .375
SLG .456 .448 .496 .380
ERA 4.25 3.66 4.87 4.14
OAvg .264 .249 .305 .291
SO/9 6.77 7.67 5.97 5.96
BB/9 3.84 3.82 3.22 2.76
FLD% .974 .974 .971 .972

Probable Starters:

Game 1: Friday, June 3rd @ 2:00 pm
Texas Tech Starting Pitcher: RHP Davis Martin (8-0, 2.41)
Fairfield Starting Pitcher: TBA
Final Score & Box Score: Texas Tech 12, Fairfield 1 (Recap | Box Score)

Texas Tech was in control early and never took their foot off the pedal for the game as Texas Tech defeated Fairfield, 12-1. Davis Martin moved to 9-0 on the year, going 7 innings, allowing just 5 hits, giving up 1 run, walking 2 and striking out 4. Martin pitched 102 pitches, which is more than he usually throws and Erikson Lanning pitched the final 2 frames, allowing just a hit and striking out 3. The offense was pretty much terrific, as they produced 16 hits. Tyler Neslony was 2-4 with 4 RBI, Cory Raley was 2-3 with 3 RBI, Stephen Smith was 3-3 and scored 2 runs. Tyler Floyd was 2-5 and scored 3 runs while Tanner Gardner returned and was 2-4 and scored 3 runs.

Game 2: Friday, June 3rd @ 6:00 pm
New Mexico Starting Pitcher:
Dallas Baptist Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score: New Mexico 12, Dallas Baptist 6 (box score)

New Mexico jumped out early on New Mexico and never looked back. The Lobos were up 7-0 before Dallas Baptist scored their first run in the 6th inning and the Patriots scored 4 to make it a 3-run game, but New Mexico the poured it on in the 9th inning, scoring 5 runs putting the game away fairly easily. Lead-off hitter Luis Gonzalez was terrific, going 4-4 with 5 RBI for the day for New Mexico. Andrew Pratt was also 2-4, scoring 3 runs and 2 RBI with a home run. I would expect Dallas Baptist to battle back and have a good game against Fairfield, the Patriots have two pretty good starters and that’s one area that Fairfield lacks.

Game 3: Saturday, June 4th @ 2:00 pm
Fairfield Starting Pitcher:
Dallas Baptist Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score: Dallas Baptist 8, Fairfield 5 (box score)

Darick Hall got the start, going 7.1 inning and allowing 3 runs, walking 5 and striking out 6 and also starred at the plate, going 3-4, scoring 3 runs and with 2 RBI. Trooper Reynolds was 3-4 with an RBI and Austin Listi was 3-5 with an RBI. Fairfield has officially been eliminated and Dallas Baptist will now face New Mexico again.

Game 4: Saturday, June 4th @ 6:00 pm
Texas Tech Starting Pitcher:
New Mexico Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score: Texas Tech 4, New Mexico 3 (recap | box score)

This was a ridiculously frustrating game for a Texas Tech fan as the Red Raiders had a tough time mustering much, if any offense, three errors on defense and Texas Tech running through a handful of pitchers, but things eventually worked out. Tanner Gardner singled home Orlando Garcia in the third inning for the first run of the game, but New Mexico answered almost immediately by plating two in the third inning as well. Texas Tech would find themselves down 3-1 up until the 8th inning when Tadlock called on Ryan Long for Michael Davis to pinch hit and Long came up huge, singling home both Eric Gutierrez and Cory Raley. This tied the game 3-3 until the top of the 9th inning (Texas Tech was the away team even though they were playing at home) when Stephen Smith homered down the right field line to take a 4-3 lead. Texas Tech had not led since the third inning. Steven Gingery got the start and struggled through 3 innings, giving up 3 runs, on 4 walks and striking out 2. He threw 85 pitches in those 3 frames and would guess he’s probably done for the weekend. Robert Dugger, Parker Mushinski, Ryan Shetter and Hayden Howard all pitched in relief. Shetter got the win, going 2 innings allowing just a hit and striking out 2, while Hayden Howard earned his 8th save of the year pitching the 9th and allowing a hit before picking off that runner to end the game.

Here’s the Smith home run:

And here’s the last out of the game:

Game 5: Sunday, June 5th @ 2:00 pm
Dallas Baptist Starting Pitcher:
New Mexico Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score: Dallas Baptist 5, New Mexico 3 (box score)

Dallas Baptist held New Mexico to just 9 hits and 3 runs en route to a 5-3 win on Sunday afternoon to advance to the championship round to later play Texas Tech. Both Jordan Martinson and Dalton Higgins pitched 4.0 innings with Martinson giving up just 2 runs and striking out 5 while Higgins gave up just a run while striking out 2. The middle of the lineup for Dallas Baptist was pretty terrific, Darick Hall was 2-5 with an RBI, Trooper Reynolds was 3-4 with an RBI and Matt Duce, off the bench, was 2-2 with an RBI and 2 runs scored.

Game 6: Sunday, June 5th @ 6:00 pm
Texas Tech Starting Pitcher:
Winner Game 5 Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score: Dallas Baptist 10, Texas Tech 6 (recap | box score)

Texas Tech can look in the mirror for their own undoing. Starter Ty Damron wasn’t good, lasting just 2 innings, giving up 4 hits, 4 runs, all earned adn walking 1 before being removed for Ty Harpenau to start the 3rd inning. Harpenau wasn’t good here either, going 3.1 innings, allowing 8 hits, 6 runs, all earned, walking 3 and striking out 4. Quite simply, Damron and Harpenau were very hittable in the first five innings. And the Texas Tech offense didn’t do much of anything the first 6 innings of the game, being held scoreless by a true freshman pitcher in MD Johnson. Once the snowball started, Tadlock was going ot just let Damron and Harpeneau get hammered with the thought of fighting another day. Of course, I’m guessing Tadlock had no idea that Harpeneau would be as bad as he was. The offense did score 6 runs in the 7th inning, but other than that one inning, Texas Tech didn’t put any pressure on DBU for a good while and the Red Raiders also stranded 13 batters, part of that coming in the 7th inning when Ryan Long struck out to end the inning with the bases loaded.

I’m not sure who starts for Texas Tech on Monday, it most likely won’t be Davis Martin, who threw 102 on Friday. Tadlock will have some options, including Erickson Lanning, Hayden Howard, Robert Dugger and Ryan Moseley.

Game 7 (If Necessary): Monday, June 6th @ 2:00 pm
Dallas Baptist Starting Pitcher:
Texas Tech Starting Pitcher:
Final Score & Box Score:

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