Baseball

Preview and Series Thread: Texas Tech vs. Kentucky

The Red Raiders and Wildcats are part of a top 10 series.

Series Details

Dates: Friday, March 9th – Sunday, March 11th
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-0, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Kentucky Wildcats (12-2, 0-0)
Location: Cliff Hagan Stadium at Shively Field | Lexington, Kentucky
Game Notes: Preview | PDF
TV/Stream: SECN+
Radio/Stream: Broadcast Affiliates
Live Stats: SideArm Stats

When we last left, Kentucky had only lost one game and had been reported as being one of the better teams at the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic in Houston, winning every game handily. They then demolished Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday and then lost 6-8 against Northern Kentucky on Wednesday. I’m sure that playing so many games in so many days eventually caught up with the Wildcats as they enter this series 12-2.

For Texas Tech, they enter the series undefeated, averaging 9 runs a game for the Red Raiders and allowing just 2 run a game and that run differential is 125 runs scored and 35 runs allowed in just 14 games thus far and that’s just sorta ridiculous to consider. And yes, this team is far from perfect, there’s holes in the lineup just like in every baseball team, but they’re really fun to watch and the freshmen and sophomores who are performing at a high level are performing way above their pay grade. Grant Little, Gabe Holt, and Josh Jung are really terrific, while the pitching is allowing a few too many walks, the pitching staff is deep as any pitching staff in the nation and the bullpen has been terrific. As of right now, there are 5 pitchers who still have a 0.00 ERA and Jose Quezada has a 1.00 ERA. They’re just deep.

For those of you who are looking to watch the series, there are links in the official preview (linked above and right here) for the stream to the game with links to ESPN, so I’d guess that if you have ESPN you can watch in some form or fashion, but I’m not totally sure.

News, News, News, News

The Lexington Herald Leader’s Ben Roberts previews the series from the Kentucky point of view:

Senior Luke Heyer has been absolutely killing the ball in recent days, earning national player of the week honors following UK’s three-game series in Texas last weekend. In those three games, Heyer hit .727 with a 1.727 slugging percentage, six RBI, two doubles and three home runs. He went a combined 4-for-7 with four runs scored, four RBI, two doubles and another homer in the loss to Northern Kentucky and the win over Eastern Kentucky this week.

For the season, Heyer is hitting .478 with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Team Stats

Texas Tech Red Raiders Kentucky Wildcats
avg .334 .337
slg% .540 .605
ob% .463 .447
ERA 2.00 2.92
Oavg .161 .208
SO/9 9.85 10.83
BB/9 4.46 2.58
fld% .980 .977

Key Hitter Stats

Key Texas Tech Hitters avg slg% ob% fld%
OF Grant Little .458 .792 .552 1.000
INF Gabe Holt .453 .660 .540 1.000
INF Cameron Warren .417 .583 .547 1.000
INF Josh Jung .385 .712 .475 .903
INF Michael Davis .333 .578 .456 .971
OF Cody Farhat .270 .459 .451 1.000
Key Kentucky Hitters avg slg% ob% fld%
OF Ryan Johnson .378 .784 .439 .938
INF/C T.J. Collett .396 .896 .474 .000
OF Ben Aslinski .375 .521 .439 1.000
INF / C Kole Cottam .326 .565 .456 .991
INF Luke Becker .311 .600 .431 1.000
INF / C Troy Squires .263 .342 .481 1.000

Probable Starters

Game Texas Tech Starting Pitchers Kentucky Starting Pitchers
Friday, March 9, @ 3:00 pm RHP Davis Martin (3-0, 0.60) RHP Sean Hjelle (3-0, 0.92)
Friday, March 10 @ 12:00 pm RHP John McMillon (3-0, 1.69) LHP Zach Thompson (2-0, 5.52)
Sunday, March 11, @ 12:00 pm A MAN HAS NO NAME RHP Justin Lewis (3-0, 2.95)

Game Recaps:

Game 1 – Friday, March 9th @ 3:00 p.m.
Final Score: – Kentucky 10 (13-2), Texas Tech 7 (14-1)
Box Score:Recap | Box Score

The Red Raiders came out of the gate with three runs scored in the top of the first, thanks in large part due to the a double from Josh Jung that brought home Gabe Holt and Kurt Wilson. However, that’s where everything started to go wrong for Texas Tech.

Davis Martin had a perfect first inning, but gave up a two run home run in the second inning and allowed another run to score in the third inning to tie the game. After that he was replaced by Ty Harpenau, who did fine in the fourth inning, but gave up three runs in the fifth to give Kentucky the lead and some cushion.

Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t get much going after the first inning. A large part of that was their starter Sean Hjelle, who pitched six scoreless innings after the first. He’s a projected first round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, so it’s not surprising that he was nearly unhitable after the first.

The Wildcats got four runs the last four innings due to the usage of the back half of the bullpen toward the end, and later on just sloppiness from the players. The Red Raiders were able to get a run back in the eighth inning and three in the ninth inning, but it was too little too late. The best play of the day came from Grant Little in the eighth, when he made an outstanding diving catch in left field that has a good chance to be on Sportscenter tonight.

On the bright side, if the Red Raiders were going to lose a game this series, this was likely going to be the game to lose. They just traveled the day before and were facing possibly the best pitcher in college baseball. Luckily, they still have a large portion of their bullpen available, after letting a lot of the bottom half of the pen go on Friday.

Game 2 – Saturday, March 10th @ 12:00 p.m.
Final Score: – Kentucky 11 (14-2), Texas Tech 6 (14-2)
Box Score:Recap | Box Score

Just a poor performance from Texas Tech today. McMillon allowed five runs in five innings. The Red Raiders couldn’t figure out how play a bunt that allowed three runs to score. The bullpen was rather ineffective for the second day in the row. And now Texas Tech has lost the series and are looking to avoid the sweep.

This game was much like the first game. The Red Raiders tagged the Kentucky starter in the third inning to go up 3-1, then went up 4-2 before the pitching fell apart. McMillon gave up a three run homer with two outs in the fourth, to make it a close game going into the fifth inning.

However, once against much like the first game, things fell apart for Texas Tech in the middle innings. Haveman allowed runners in scoring position with one out. But the Wildcats used three bunts to score three runs. Part of it was due to a play by Warren that didn’t quite work at the plate. Others were Holt’s inability to cover first when the bunt was laid down.

By that point it was 10-5 and almost out of reach for Texas Tech. We are learning about the flaws surrounding this club from this weekend series. We need our starters to go further in games, our bullpen needs to execute better against better competition, need to play better heads up ball, and even need to coach a little better.

Game 3 – Saturday, March 11th @ 12:00 p.m.
Final Score: – Texas Tech 5 (15-2), Kentucky 3 (14-3)
Box Score: – Recap | Box Score

Texas Tech was able to take a game in the series and avoid the sweep, in much thanks to the long ball and the effort by the long relievers of the Red Raiders. This is the type of performance we expected from Tech and we got it in the series finale.

It started off the top of the second when McMillon hit his first home run of the year, a no-doubter to right center that brought home Jung and Warren to put Tech up 3-0. Today’s starter Ryan Sublette pitched two perfect innings before running into trouble and giving up two runs in the third. Caleb Kilian came in and ended the threat to keep Tech in the lead.

Then, after Zayne Willems got yet another base hit this series, Gabe Holt hit one into the wind and out of the park to give Tech two more insurance runs. After that, it was all Kilian and Dylan Dusek, who combined for 6.1 innings and just one run scored after the third inning. This is the type of outing Tech needs from the Sunday relievers with Gingery sidelined.

The Red Raiders bats were quite for the rest of the way to give Texas Tech the win and put a bright spot on a pretty crummy weekend. Although we’ve talked about negative from the series the past two days, perhaps what we learned on a positive note is that these bats can hit with the best them and consistently put up runs against good arms.

Although it sucks losing a series, this is against the No. 6 team on the road when they’re incredibly hot. No the College World Series is not out of play, no there’s no reason to have any major concerns heading into Big 12 play. This team is still one of the best on the college baseball, and one weekend where some pitchers struggled isn’t going to change my mind.

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