Baseball is a weird sport. One player can absolutely struggle and not do well one year, and then become a great player the next, or vice versa. It happens all the time in Major League Baseball.
Last year, we saw a few players that were expected to make big impacts take a seat back and ride the bench for the latter half of the season. Cameron Warren and Zach Rheams both started the opening weekend, and both batted under .200.
They didn’t get a whole lot of starts, but they struggled early and didn’t do that well in pinch hitting opportunities. Eventually Ryan Long and Tanner Gardner took over (Cody Farhat replaced Gardner in center field).This year, they have bounced back big time, becoming two of Texas Tech’s biggest X-factors this season.
Warren expectantly took over the first base job from Big 12 player of the year Hunter Hargrove, and is hitting .349/.467/.594 with 31 RBIs, five home runs and underrated defense. He has a higher slash line than Hargrove did with the same amount of homers, although Hargrove had started double the games.
Then we have Zach Rheams, who some (not myself) weren’t expecting to have a huge impact on the season. Rheams has had some of the clutch hits on the season, which includes walk-off against NMST and a few key home runs. He is hitting .333/.476/.750 with 16 RBIs and six home runs. That’s an OPS of 1.226.
Both players have slid into the order behind the Tech’s two best positional players in Josh Jung and Grant Little to provide some protection, something that has been key to both of Texas Tech’s College World Series teams.
Not only that, but some pitchers have had comebacks years as well. Which junior pitcher started the opening weekend their freshman year? No it wasn’t Davis Martin or Steven Gingery. It was Ty Harpenau (Erikson Lanning did as well).
Ty the struggled his first season and didn’t see the mound much last year, but with the move of Kilian to the rotation, Harpenau has become the reliever out of the bullpen. His 6.85 and 6.53 ERA his first two years dropped to a 3.75 ERA this season (it was a 1.93 before the Sunday game against Kansas).
Harpenau has come in when starters aren’t having their best game, and gave the Red Raiders a chance to win. With 2.00 K/BB ratio and a WHIP just over 1.00, he has turned into a go-to guy.
Don’t be mistaken, the other players are important, but these guys working their tail off to from bad seasons to make an impact this season is a major reason why Tech is in position to win.
Now on to our Ladders and Chutes from the NMST game and Kansas series.
- Gabe Holt — I feel like I put Holt in this category every week, but when you have an OBP north of .500, that’s what happens. On Friday, he went 3 for 5 with a grand slam, six RBIs and four runs scored.
- Zach Rheams — Rheams had the first walk-off of the season with a ninth inning solo shot against New Mexico State in Midland. He also did well in Kansas, as he batted 5 for 12 with five runs, three RBIs and another solo homer.
- Josh Jung — Jung came up big against Kansas, as he went 4 for 13 with five RBIS and two runs scored. He had an error, but other than that displayed great defense throughout.
- Cameron Warren — The first baseman kept the line going once the top half of the order scored and got on base. Warren went 5 for 11 with five RBIs and three runs, along with two walks.
- Caleb Kilian — The K in Kilian stands for K’s aka Strikeouts. The sophomore pitched five scoreless innings, allowed just three base runners and had a career high eight strikeouts. However, Kilian does need to lower his pitch count, as he had 65 pitches through three innings.
- Pitching Staff against NMST — Only one run allowed by the combined group of Ryan Sublette (3.2 IP, ER), Caleb Freeman (1.1 IP), John Henry Gonzalez (2.1 IP), Ty Harpenau (0.2 IP) and Kurt Wilson (1 IP). They were why Tech avoided a midweek loss.
- Michael Davis’ Glove — The Kansas announced were lauding the play from Davis in the field, and rightly so. Picking balls in the dirt and firing them to first quickly, fielding tough grounders and making excellent throws. All of that on a bum ankle.
- Cody Masters — Masters has been splitting time at right field this season, but he plays well when he’s there. The freshman went 5 for 6 with three RBIs and three runs over the weekend. Always good to see freshmen do well, as they are the future of the program.
- Michael Davis’ Bat — Even though Davis was absolutely phenomenal with the glove, his bat disappeared against Kansas. Davis went 0 for 12 and reached base just twice.
- Conner Queen — Queen has not been the most reliable pitcher as of late. He gave up four runs in 3.2 innings against Kansas. Luckily the game was already out of hand, and maybe Tech left him in a little long for that reason.
- John McMillon — McMillon didn’t have his stuff on Sunday. In 2.2 IP, he gave up five runs, although only one was earned due to error by him in the second inning. He still has a relatively low ERA of 2.97 (would be 3.91 if you include all of today’s runs), but he does have his bad starts.
- Ty Harpenau — The Arkansas right hander had his worst outing of the season with five earned runs in 0.2 IP, and put the hope of any comeback out of reach. I still expect Tadlock to go to Ty often.
- Warmth — It was cold in Lawrence. In fact, they moved the first game up so they didn’t have to deal with the bad weather of Friday night. The combined temperature in Fahrenheit was 111 degrees. That’s almost as hot a summer day in Arizona.
- If you were watching the ESPN 3 broadcast, you may have recognized the play-by-play. Brian Hanni works for Kansas and as always did a fantastic job. Tech has been blessed with some good play-by-play guys.
- The Kansas head coach, Ritch Price, earned his 700th win in Division I on Sunday with his win over Texas Tech. In reference, Tadlock has had just over 200 wins in his time at Texas Tech and not even 700 wins in his head coaching career if you include junior college. That includes two College World Series runs and a couple national seeds.
Here are your updated Big 12 standings, with some major series happening over the weekend:
|Conference Record||Overall Record|
We knew the Oklahoma-TCU series was going to be a big series, because it would either make it a tight five game race at the top of the schedule or give TCU an improbable chance to win the Big 12. Well, we got our answer.
It should also be noted that the three teams Tech has played are three of the bottom four teams in the standings. That could mean two things.
First off, the Red Raiders barley have an above .500 record against those teams. Part of it was because two series were on the road, but you typically can’t play like that against the bottom of the conference and expect to win the regular season title.
Secondly, and on a brighter note, that means that the fate of the Big 12 is still in the hand of Texas Tech. With home series against the top two teams, they are still in control of the their own destiny and don’t have to depend on another team. This is unlike TCU last season when Tech needed the Horn Frogs to drop their last two conference games to have a shot of the title.
Big 12 Results:
- Oklahoma at TCU — I was a little surprised by this result. They defeated two relatively weaker teams at home and had their first real test traveling to Fort Worth. Well they won the series and showed they are in play for the title. TCU, meanwhile, almost doomed themselves for the championship. They look the worst they’ve looked in about five years or so.
- Baylor at Texas — The Longhorns did what they needed to do and swept Baylor. This sets them up with another huge Big 12 match and one of the best of the year when they travel to Norman. One of the leaders may fall below or be tied with Tech in losses after next weekend. Meanwhile, Baylor hasn’t looked good at all since the Tech series.
- Oklahoma State at Kansas State — Oklahoma State kept their spot ahead of the Red Raiders with a sweep of Kansas State over the weekend. Next weekend they’ll travel to face West Virginia, and maybe the Mountaineers can do us a favor. If Tech doesn’t sweep the Wildcats next weekend, I’ll be disappointed. This will be Tech’s chance to make up an early series loss.
- UNLV at West Virginia — The Mountaineers maybe have gained some of their confidence back with a series win over UNLV. We’ll need them this weekend when they face a team above Texas Tech in the standings in Oklahoma State.