Baseball

Texas Tech Baseball: Red and Black Series Review

Here’s your very lengthy recap of what I witnessed during the Red and Black series

A couple weeks ago, the Texas Tech baseball team hosted their annual Red and Black Series. Basically for those who don’t know, this series is a lot like a spring game for the football team. It’s inner squad scrimmages where the players face one another.

Much like the football and basketball scrimmages, you don’t get a clear picture of how effective players will be come the regular season, but what you do get is an idea of who might win certain position battles and how players have improved during the offseason.

Perhaps why the reason why the Red and Black series is so important, and why I think it’s the best of out of football and basketball, is because you get a look at the newcomers. For the other two sports, you have highly detailed public recruiting services and typically plenty of film, but in baseball you know how they ranked compared to other Tech signees and that’s it really.

I vividly remember the Fall 2014 scrimmage where incoming freshman Tanner Gardner was hitting balls consisently the warning track. Fast forward to 2016, he’s batting in the middle of the order for a College World Series team. Gabe Holt had the same type of impact in last year’s scrimmage with his contact and killer speed.

Below is the press conference from Tadlock after the series.

So for those who were unable to attend the games, here is the TexasTech.com recap and box score. We’re going to highlight a few performers along with what I saw in person for a few of these games.

Game 1: Red 17, Black 5 Game 2: Black 9, Red 8 Game 3: Black 7, Red 2 Game 4: Red 17, Black 11 Game 5: Black 8, Red 1
Recap / Box Score / Video Recap / Box Score / Video Recap / Box Score / Video Recap / Box Score / Video Recap / Box Score / Video

And here is the Red and Black roster. For those worried about why Gabe Holt and Caleb Kilian, they will be on the team this spring. Holt had a minor injury over the summer and I’m sure about Kilian, but he probably will be back in the spring.

We’re going to highlight a few returners and newcomers. Not going to list all of them because I didn’t see them all and it would take forever if I went over everyone.

Returners:

  • Josh Jung, 3B — Josh Jung, who arguably could’ve been the Big 12 Player of the Year, somehow got better. During the series, he had a slash line of .476/.522/.952 with an OPS of 1.474 with nine runs, nine RBIs and two home runs. He was spraying hits all over the field and making some incredible defensive plays. Jung saw some time at shortstop, but it was likely as an emergency situation.
  • Cameron Warren, LF — Warren brought the power to the series. He had quite a few home runs during the season last year, but he was consistently hitting them this series with three home runs. If this is an indication this upcoming series, then Warren will be the big hitter this year. The reason why I listed him as left field is because he was there for four of the five games. I still expect him to be first base, just likely testing him out there.
  • Brian Klein, 2B — Klein looks poised to lock down a middle infield position for the whole season. He looked like a lock down defender at second base with just one error and had some hard hit balls during the series. He batted .375/.464/.583 with three runs, four RBIs and a home run. They had him at lead-off, but I’m sure with two speedsters on the team he’s going to bat somewhere in the first five batters.
  • Cody Masters, CF — Masters played center field, but was only out there for defense and didn’t get an at-bat during the series. It does make me a little curious, because everytime I remember someone playing only defense, they didn’t start the season. Perhaps I’m misremembering. Anyway, he looked pretty good in the outfield, tracking down some balls a lot of outfielders can’t get. Funny he could be the slowest starting outfielder this season.
  • Parker Kelly, 3B — Out of all the returners, Kelly was the one who caught my eye the most. The previous ones mentioned all played some time last year, but Kelly didn’t get a lot of time outside of pinch hitting opportunities. Defensively, he had an error the first game, but he has been lights out at the hot corner. Kelly has a rocket arm and it reminds me a lot of Michael Davis’ arm early on. Batting wise, he had a slash line of .478/.500/.783 with four doubles and a home run. He’s a dark horse to get a starting job.
  • Braxton Fulford, C — Not a whole lot to report on Fulford. He looked pretty good defensively and supposedly had an error in the third game, but I don’t remember it. Fulford did not play the last two games, and according to the press conference it might have been a sickness. His bat wasn’t really a factor during the series, but I hope we see an increase his hit batting ability this season. The ninth spot was almost a dead spot in the line-up during the postseason.
  • Kurt Wilson, RHP — First off, Wilson was listed as an infielder and pitcher last year, seeing action as both an outfielder and a reliever. However, interestingly, Wilson is listed as just a RHP this series. His first start, it was a bunch of what we saw during the season. He had a line of 2 IP, 7 ER and a WHIP of 4.00. The second start was a lot better, with 3 IP, 4 H, an ER and 3 K’s. I hope Tadlock throws him out in some relief appearances to see if we get the second Wilson this season.
  • Dane Haveman, LHP — Haveman was effective early on last season, but didn’t really do much down the stretch. However, he pitched two clean innings during the series with three stirkeouts. With all the pitchers gone, Tech is going to need some guys to step up out of the pen. Haveman could be one of them.
  • Caleb Freeman, RHP — Freeman had some appearances in the postseason and likely will take on a bigger role this season. In his first appearance, he went 2.1 IP with a H, 3 BB and 0 ER. In his second, he went 2 IP, 5 H, a BB and 1 ER. Need to lower the amount of players on base, but not horrible outings for Freeman.
  • Zayne Willems, RHP — WIllems came in with a chance to earn the starting catching job last year, but after losing the battle in the end to Fuflord, it looks like Willems is being tried out as a pitcher. He went 2 IP with WHIP of 3.00 and an 3 ER. Not sure where WIllems will be this season.
  • Jake McDonald, RHP — I still have a lot of hope for Jake McDonald and his long, lanky frame. I didn’t get to see him pitch, but he went 2 IP with a H, a BB, 2 K’s and 0 R. Good numbers. He has some stuff and can be on the best pitchers if he can locate it well.
  • John Henry Gonzalez, RHP — I think there was some rumors he left, but JHG is back with the team. In his first appearance, he went 2.1 IP with 5 H’s, 2 BB’s, 7 R and 5 ER. His second was much better, as he threw a perfect inning with two strikeouts. Gonzalez looked good in his first few starts as a freshman, but hasn’t quite come back to the dominant version. In reference. Harpeanu had a rough first couple years but has the best piece out of the bullpen last season.
  • Connor Queen, RHP — Queen was like Haveman, where he was effective early but didn’t see much time in the postseason. Queen pitched 2.1 IP with a H and an ER. Hopefully Queen will have an impact like I hope Haveman will have this year.
  • Erikson Lanning, LHP — Lanning was a weekend starter at the beginning of the season but unfortunately got injured and didn’t pitch most of the season. I thought originally his speed was down, but his speed was good coming off an injury, with a high 80’s fastball and low 80’s change-up. He struggled a tad in the second inning of his start, with a line of 3.1 IP, 5 H, 2 BB and 3 ER.

Newcomers:

  • Max Marusak, CF — Max Marusak was the big name I was looking at along the way. He was the 187th rated draft prospect according to MLB.com and was projected to go around the fifth round. On a rating scale of 20-80 (with 80 being the highest) he had a hit rating of 45, power rating of 40, run rating of 80 (!!!), arm rating of 55 and field rating of 55. He was a fantastic fielder and base runner that needed to improve his bat at the pro level. Somehow, he ended up coming to Tech. He lived up to the hype this series. He was just outstanding in the field, and was possibly better on offense. Marusak batted .591/.640/1.091 with an OPS of 1.731, 12 runs and four RBIs. He also had four stolen bases (caught twice) and three home runs. He impressed me tremendously during the series and much like with Holt last year, I don’t see how he doesn’t start this season.
  • TJ Rumfield, 3B — Rumfield stuck out to me a little in the recruiting process because of his height of 6’4″/6’5″. What he did at the plate during the series was very impressive to me. First off, he batted fourth often for the Red team, also batting sixth in a couple games. Secondly, he showed the ability to use a lot of power at the plate. As far as stats go, Rumfield went .316/.435/.579 with two runs and 10 RBIs. He also had three doubles, including a bases clearing one, and a triple. The downside would be his fielding, as he looked fine at first, but at third he struggled throwing the ball to first base. That being said, I hope we see Rumfield some this season.
  • Tanner O’Tremba, OF — My most memorable plays from the series were the great catches he had in right field. He had several catches where he stretched out his arm and pulled down a hard hit ball near the right center warning track. Perhaps some of those might’ve been an easier catch by a faster player (or sure exactly how fast he is), but he made some good plays. O’Tremba batted second for much of the series, batting .375/.444/.542 with fives runs and four RBIs. He didn’t stick out so much to me at the plate, but he definetly didn’t have bad numbers. Not sure he’s going to start, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to pinch hit him some.
  • Cole Stilwell, C — With Willems making some appearances in the bullpen this series and Clay Koelzer transferring to West Texas A&M, the catcher spot is wide open. Sure Braxton Fulford is the starter right now, but history tells us Tadlock likes having multiple catchers, with one catcher making about 2/3rds or so of the starts and another to split the duties during weekend or weekday games. Insert Cole Stilwell. Stiwell had some good plays defensively, including throwing out speedster Marusak one play, and batted in the 3-hole for the Black team. He went .200/.392/.300 with four runs and four RBIs. His batting stats weren’t great, but catchers typically don’t hit well. Either way, he’ll see playing time this season.
  • Dylan Neuse, 2B — Neuse was another newcomer who batted early in the line-up. He batted second the first three games, then batted lead-off when Marusak was moved into the 3-hole. Neuse had one error during the series, which I believe was an errant throw to second base off a double play ball, but he was relatively clean. Neuse went .364/.400/.455 with five RBIs and six runs.
  • Jose Gonzalez, OF — Gonzalez was a big body that batted near the bottom of the line-up for the Red team. His slash line wasn’t great, as he batted .188/.315/.375, but he did have three runs and eight RBIs, so he came up big in some situations. The outfield looks pretty crowed so I’m not sure how much we’ll see from him this series.
  • Dru Baker, SS — Much like Gonzalez, Baker batted near the bottom of the order for the Red team. However, he was moved up from the bottom of the order to the fourth spot during their final two games. Baker wasn’t quite as clean as his freshman counterpart, as he had two errors during the series. As far as his bat, he went .250/.455/.313 with five runs scored and an RBI. He also had a double in one of the game. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but there’s a huge mystery as shortstop and he might get some time there until someone wins the job.
  • Doug Facendo, 1B — Facendo batted in the clean-up spot for the Black team a lot of the series and displayed a pretty solid bat. He went .333/.520/.444 with seven runs and three RBIs. His RBI numbers were a little low for a clean-up hitter, but he did score a lot and did walk a lot, having as more walks and HBP than hits. His defensive wasn’t the best, as he had a team high three errors along with Rumfield. With Warren likely holding down first, I’m not sure we’ll see Facendo much outside of DH and possibly some 1B time in late game situations.
  • Easton Murrell, SS — At first Murrell didn’t really stick out too much to me, probably because he was one of the few names I was unfamiliar with coming into the series and batted near the bottom of the order. However, I realized that he was a transfer from Arkansas, was always has a great college baseball program. At shortstop, he was clean with no errors for the series. At the plate, he was a doubles machine with three of them. His stats at the plate were .200/.304/.350 with five runs and five RBIs. Not 100% sure if he’ll be eligible to play this season.
  • Mason Montgomery, LHP — Mason Montgomery was the highest rated freshman pitcher for Texas Tech’s recruiting class, and you could see why. His fastball was around the low 90’s and he had an off-speed pitch in the upper 70’s. The problem he had in the start I saw was his command. It got him in trouble a lot and he was blown up for 1.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K’s and 4 ERs. However, for his next appearance, he had just one walk and didn’t allow any runs to score. He’s a talented pitcher and we will likely see him this year.
  • Micah Dallas, RHP — Out of all the new pitcher, Micah Dallas was the one I was most impressed with. He was painting balls on the corners and getting some good hitters out. He had a upper 80’s to low 90’s fastball and an off speed in the low 80’s. In his lone appearance, he went 3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 K’s and an ER. I hope Micah gets a chance to perform this season.
  • Carson Carter, RHP — The bad thing about pitchers is I can’t be as detailed on them. I sound nerdy with all the stats in stuff, but I didn’t grow up around little league parks so I can’t tell pitches and their movement nearly as well as hitting. Pitchers also only pitch once or twice during the series, so if I’m not there that day, I miss them. Unfortunately I missed both of Carter’s starts. In his first outing, he went 3 IP with 4 H, a BB, 3 K’s and 4 ER. The second one he was lights out, as he went 4 IP, 3 H, 4 K’s and an ER.
  • Taylor Floyd, RHP — Floyd came in relief for a pitcher in two of the three games I attended and looked highly effective both times. First off, he’s a side arm pitchers. I love those guys because deception is highly underrated as pitcher. The ability to hide your pitch or trick your opponent with arm angles is huge. During the World Series, you saw pitchers like Rich Hill use different arm slots to dominate Boston with two pitches that weren’t overly impressive. Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel for the Sox use a similar strategy. Anyway, he had some good speed with it too, as he fastball was upper 80’s to low 90’s, and his off-speed as low 70’s. The first outing he went 2 IP with 2 H, 1 K and 1 ER. In the second, he went 3 IP with 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K’s and 2 ER. Very excited to see what he could bring.
  • Hunter Dobbins, RHP — Dobbins didn’t have any super fast pitches or anything, but in his one start he was highly effective and gave his team a very good chance to win. He had an mid to upper 80’s fastball with a low 70’s off speed pitch. He went 3 IP with 2 H, 1 BB and 1 R, but 0 ER.
  • Noah Huerta, LHP — Unfortunately, the radar gun was off during his start, but he looks like he threw hard and had some stuff. His stats show he had some struggles though, as he went 2 IP with 6 H, 1 BB, 2 K’s and 5 ER. Want to see how he develops with the team.
  • Cade Farr, LHP — Farr looked like a lanky lefty and just didn’t seem to have it that day. However, it’s not really 100% his fault, as he by far had the most unearned runs scored on him with 7 runs scored and only 3 ER allowed. He went an inning with 6 H and 2 BBs.
  • Jayden Fowler, RHP — I didn’t get the opportunity to see him pitch, and I was a little disappointed because much like Braxton Fulford, I covered him in high school. Fowler had a good first appearance as he went 1.1 IP perfect innings. The second wasn’t as clean, as he went 1.1 IP with 2 H, 3 BB, 2 K’s and 4 ER.
  • Dryden Virden, RHP — I didn’t get a chance to see him pitch, but he put in some innings so I’m going to at least share his stat line. His first appearance he went 3 IP with 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K’s and 4 ER. His second appearance he went 0.2 IP with 3 H, 2 BB and 5 ER.
  • Garrett Cobb, RHP — I saw about one inning of Cobb before I left, but he looked good. In his three innings of relief in the fourth game, he allowed 3 H, 2 BB and an ER while striking out five batters. Some pretty good stuff there for Cobb.

Position Battles:

Another great thing about these scrimmages is we get to see how the position battles might fair. So here’s what to look out for:

  • Catcher — I think this is Braxton Fulford’s job to lose after his great defense during the postseason. Haven’t seen defense like that from Tech since maybe Hunter Redman in 2014 (although Tyler Floyd in 2016 was solid). That being said, multiple guys typically play catcher because of the toll on the body. Cole Stilwell should get time here.
  • First Base — Cameron Warren played left field during the series, but much like Grant Little playing shortstop one series, I think it’s to see how he looks as an outfielder. Remember, he opened the season in the outside in 2017 before falling into a long slump and being replaced. TJ Rumfield would be my guess if Warren isn’t here.
  • Second Base — Brian Klein played flawless defense last here and has really come along. I wasn’t crazy about starting him because of the great infield of Holt, Davis and Jung last year, but Tadlock found a way to put his sneaky power bat into the line-up. If Klein isn’t here, perhaps Holt returns.
  • Shortstop — This is by far the most intriguing position battle. One could argue you put Klein here and Holt at second, but I think Tadlock will keep Klein at second since he played there all series. It’s going to be a long battle between Dylan Neuse, Dru Baker, Easton Murrell and Parker Kelly. After seeing them play and then looking at the stats, Kelly has really impressed me and would be my choice at shortstop. He has a cannon arm, looked good defensively (even though at third), and led the team with doubles this series.
  • Third Base — Josh Jung. Next.
  • Left Field — Max Marusak was unbelieveable during the series. He had a team high three homers and also laid down a bunt base hit. Not to mention he’s a great fielder. He can do it all. Going to be hard not to start him.
  • Center Field — He didn’t have an at-bat during the series, but there’s a reason why Cody Masters’ got some starts last year and was used as a pinch hitter or pinch runner at times. He could be this program’s next Cody Farhat (I’m going to miss his walk-up songs).
  • Left Field — Well there’s only one key player left I haven’t really mentioned; Gabe Holt. Sure he had his troubles in the outfield last season, but I was more frustrated with Tadlock putting someone with not that much expierence in that position. Holt has a year under his belt and has the speed and athletic ability to be an outstanding fielder. I have a lot of faith in him. He could be this program’s Grant Little this season. The back-ups would likely be Tanner O’Tremba and maybe Jose Gonzalez.
  • Designated Hitter — TJ Rumfield had a lot of pop off his bat, but struggled with his defense this series. His main position is first base or third base, but Jung is at third and Warren looked good at first last year. But I like his bat so I have him here.
  • Starters — This may be like 2016 where we see a lot of freshman starting and hope to see a few stick out. That year we saw Steven Gingery, Davis Martin and Ty Harpeanu start opening weekend. Pretty good group. This year, the ace is Caleb Kilian, and I think we’ll see Mason Montgomery and Micah Dallas see starts. Tadlock loves Erikson Lanning, so I expect to see him get starts. The final starter could be Arkansas transfer Bryce Bonnin, who throws a mid 90’s fastball. I’m not sure what order they’ll be in, but I’m sure Kilian will be a weekend starter. Could also see John Henry Gonzalez, Carson Carter, Taylor Floyd or Hunter Dobbins.
  • Bullpen — You have to almost every key arm out of the bullpen basically. John McMillon is a junior and throws as close to 100 mph as you can get. If he locates well, the rest of the NCAA is doomed. Caleb Freeman will have a shot to pitch as well. Dane Haveman and Connor Queen pitched well in stretches last year and maybe one of them can figure it out late this upcoming season. Taylor Floyd might be a nice piece with his deception, and my darkhorse is Jake McDonald if he’s healthy this year.

Notables:

  • Eric Gutierrez is back with the staff (as Keith mentioned about a month ago) and he actually played defensively at first base one game whenever Jung was shortstop and Rumfield was third base. He looked like he hadn’t played since he was at Tech, and the players gave him a hard time.
  • Tadlock also played some catcher in Game 4. I didn’t get a chance to see it though, as I left before he took over the position. Coach Matt Gardner played some catcher too.
  • Some of the 2018 CWS team was being honored during the OU football game, so they were back in town and checked out the scrimmage on Friday. These include Davis Martin, Michael Davis and others (wasn’t going to stare at them and figure out who all was there). The cheered Klein at lot, calling him my captain and booed Cameron Warren every at-bat. He hit a homer one of those at-bats.
  • In 2016, we had a lot of good newcoming pitchers with Davis Martin, Steven Gingery, Ryan Shetter and Ty Harpeanu all in the same class. In 2017, we saw a lot of good hitters come in with Josh Jung, Grant Little, Michael Berglund, Brian Klein, Cameron Warren and Zach Rheams. This year sounds like another great hitting year. We saw a lot of young freshmen this series that could rake and may get opportunities early on like those 2016 and 2017 classes.
  • The CWS decals were moved to just under the scoreboard in right center field. Previously, they had the one decal in center field, then one CWS banner on each corner after 2016, but now they are all in center field again.
  • We didn’t get to see some players. Gabe Holt was still a little banged up from summer ball, and Caleb Kilian and John McMillan were not on the series roster, but are both still on the team as far as I’m concerned. Arkansas transfer Bryce Bonnin wasn’t one of the roster either, but supposedly he’s immediately eligible and has some nasty stuff.
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