Well, they did it again. The Red Raiders are once again packing their bags for Omaha with a similar method they used during their first two trips: A near unstoppable offense, a couple good/elite starters and a couple bullpen guys who can go a large amount of innings. But what will this team be remembered for?
The first college world series team wasn’t supposed to be there, and it took great coaching and hard work by perhaps some under recruited talent (Tech was the only D-1 scholarship for Gute). The second team was a vindication that the 2014 Skip Bertman Award given by the College Baseball Foundation wasn’t a fluke and the Red Raiders could recruit some of the best talent to West Texas.
What this third team stands for is tricky. They had to deal with injuries to half of their starting rotation from the opening weekend, and the two others had an ERA north of four. They had two of the best players in the country in Josh Jung and Grant Little. Minus the catcher (sorry Fulford), anyone in the line-up can break out in any game.
But I think we can some it up by one tweet by the 16th round pick of the Atlanta Braves.
Texas Tech.. Omaha is the standard #culture
— Ty Harpenau (@Ty_Harp) June 12, 2018
This is the standard for Texas Tech. Despite not having a NCAA title, they have established themselves as a powerhouse in college baseball who should be a national championship contender for the next decade, if the head coach and administration stay in place.
They have one of the most talented coaches in the nation who loves Lubbock and Texas Tech, consistently recruit some the top recruiting classes in the nation (although they didn’t have a Top 25 class for the first time in about four years in 2018) and have an administration and fan base who support the team.
Omaha is the standard. They might as well buy a home up there because Tech plans to be there for a while. When they didn’t get past the regional in 2017 despite a national seed, it was considered a disappoint to a portion of the fan base.
And the same thing will happen again this off-season like every off-season whenever the season is over. Plenty of players will graduate and/or move on to their pro career, and more talented young players will step up and become great Red Raiders on and off the field. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Senior Season: One of the coolest things in college sports is when seniors help seal a championship win or berth for a program. We saw it in full affect in Tech’s final win over Duke on Monday. It was the best game I have ever seen Michael Davis play, not only for his a performance during play, but also when the plays were over.
Davis made some incredible plays early on the keep runs off the board and no allow the Blue Devils to take the lead, which includes a spinning throw past the second base bag to throw out a runner. He hit a two run home run (brought home a senior in Zach Rheams) to give Tech a two run lead and allowed for his pitcher to pitch more aggressively. It was the biggest offensive play of the game.
However, he was also important when play wasn’t going on. He had a long talk with Gabe Holt after his terrible defensive inning and helped cheer him up. Holt would end up hitting an RBI single and scored on a close play at the plate in the eighth. He talked to McMillon after he was pulled to thank him and cool him down a bit. These might not have been shown on TV, but they were important to the game. What a great overall game for Davis.
Maybe the best moment was when Tadlock brought in Dylan Dusek in the ninth, whom had cancer when he was little and had to recover from Tommy John for a couple years in college. Dusek was a key part to the first Omaha team and it just felt right that the oldest guy on the team got the last three outs and send his team to the CWS.
Heros of the Weekend: This can also belong in the first category, but Rheams had a huge home run in the first game when all momentum seemed to be on Duke’s side. Tech had tied the game at 3-3, but the Blue Devils answered right back take the lead. That home run but the pressure back on the Duke, where they eventually folded in the eighth inning.
Outside of the hitting (yuck), Braxton Fulford made some good impacts. He was great defensively, blocking the plate and throwing out runners on the base paths. He also had an underrated play in the first game when he slide into second and altered the throw of the second baseman, allowing Holt to be safe at first and a run to score and tie the game.
John McMillon made the biggest pitching plays of the weekend. He relieved Quezada in the seventh inning of the final after he struggled and caused Duke’s second round pick in Griffin Conine to hit into a double play, then struck out the next batter with a 99 (!!!) mph fastball.
That fastball was important, because it caused Duke players the next inning to guess if they were getting a 99 mph ball or an 81 mph one. That’s a huge difference and caused some horrible swings. The bases were loaded in the eight inning, but two of those runners were from unlucky hits that were hit softer than a pillow. Fantastic job by the Whammer.
Brian Klein, one of two starters I didn’t predict correctly, had a huge home run in the final game to give Tech some cushion after the Holt miscue. Ty Harpenau was fantastic in both outings he had and Shetter kept the Duke offense from exploding in the first game. Grant Little had his biggest hit of the season in game one with a double to cut the Duke lead from 3-0 to 3-2.
Omaha Concerns: There are a few concerns I have in Omaha that may come up. I mentioned like week I wasn’t crazy about Holt in right field and it showed in the final game. Holt has been awesome all year, but he is inexperienced in the outfield and doesn’t know who to track fly balls at times.
Tech only scored 14 runs this weekend, which probably won’t cut it in the CWS. They had guys in scoring position several times but couldn’t bring them in. You aren’t going to have the home crowd and the Lubbock wind to help you hit dingers in Omaha.
McMillon changed my view a little bit on this, but there still isn’t a ton of guys I trust out of the pen. Harpenau was great once again, but Quezada seemed ineffective for most the weekend and there’s no one else out of the pen I truly trust (assuming Du-Shetter will have an start).
Davis Martin did great, but I don’t see Tech doing well if Martin only goes three innings. And hopefully we get the first team Caleb Kilian and not the totally lost Kilian like we saw in the fourth inning in game two.
Random Notes: I liked the way Davis Martin pitched the past two postseason games, with three earned runs in about eight innings of work. I noticed that Martin has been very quick on his release recently. It’s very Chris Sale like. Be ready to go right away, even before the batter, almost as if you’re hurrying him up. I don’t know pitchers don’t do this more often.
The three home runs hit on the final game were by true middle infielders, which is strange considering they are supposed to have the worst power on the team (except for maybe catcher). Cam Warren became a question defensively at first base to being pretty damn good with the glove. He had some unbelievable picks, which includes the final out in the first game and a few during the final game.
I wasn’t crazy for Tadlock’s use of the bullpen in game two, didn’t quite understand using the Du-Shetter combo in game one (although it worked) and not replacing Holt in the outfield in the ninth. But he was the better manager. He trusted his pitchers the final game, moved the order around the final game that proved to be crucial, and wasn’t annoying as hell like the Duke coach.
Josh Jung is a damn good third baseman. The sequence he had in the game two where he caught a ball to his left and threw it on his knees to Warren for the out, then the next pitch dove to a ball to his right and threw a strike to first base, was ridiculous . He’s going to be an early first round pick next year.
Terrible Duke Scouting Report: Man we had the Duke scouting report all wrong. The offense was average for most the season, with the exception of the Georgia regional, the starting pitching was awful and the bullpen was impossible to hit. All that proved to be wrong.
Although some of the starters were bullpen guys, the starters had an ERA of 1.93. That dangerous bullpen, with three guys that had sub two ERAs and a couple with sub three ERAs, had an ERA of 6.75 this weekend. Huh? They had nine earned runs in 12 innings and allowed 11 total runs.
The offense also proved to be dangerous. The fourth and fifth inning on Sunday put the Blue Devils way ahead, and they had some big hits in the first game that gave them the lead early on. The coaching staff was also crazy annoying with their coaching visits, mound meaning, batter meetings (that never happens), arguing about plays that don’t matter or won’t be change, etc. I’ve never been more annoyed with a coaching staff.
That’s all I have for now. Myself or Seth C will likely dive into the college world series itself later this week.