Texas Tech Top Ten: 2018-2019 Programs Part 2

Now it’s time for our final list of the 2018-2019 Texas Tech Top Ten series, with the Top 5 programs from the past school year. Once again, if you missed any of our previous lists, you can click on the link below.

Staking The Plains Top Ten 2018-2019
Athletes (Part 1/Part 2) Plays (Part 1/Part 2) Games (Part 1/Part 2) Performances (Part 1/Part 2) Programs (Part 1/Part 2)

No. 5 Softball

Finish Best Games Top Performers
4th in Big 12; 42-16 overall (8-10 in Big 12); Fell to LSU in Regional Final W8-0 (5) vs No. 13 ASU; W3-2 vs No. 11 Texas; W5-4 vs No. 10 LSU Karli Hamilton, Trenity Edwards, Jessica Hartwell, Erin Edmoundson, Heaven Burton

Why They Were Chosen?: The softball program made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, and were just a game away from making it to their first Super Regional. It’s been an incredible rise since the team won just 35% of their games two years ago.

The Red Raiders go off to a crazy start, winning their first 13 games against NCAA teams, before losing to No. 5 Washington. That includes wins over three ranked teams. In conference, they finished middle of the pack with an 8-10 record. They nearly advanced to the Super Regional in Baton Rouge, but fell LSU in 13 innings in a key Game 2.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of head coach Adrian Gregory after the team’s overall record decreased over the first few seasons. However, she’s done a great job recruiting and has a built a good, young team that competed this year and will continue to do so in the future.

Most of the top performers from last year will return as well. Although Jessica Hartwell’s historic Red Raider career will come to a close, All-American Karli Hamilton, power hitter Trenity Edwards and their ace pitcher Erin Edmoundson all return. I expect softball to pick up where they left off next season.

No. 4 Women’s Tennis

Finish Best Matches Top Performers
4th in Big 12; 17-9 overall (6-3 in the Big 12); L4-3 to UNLV W4-2 vs No. 22 Illinois; W4-2 vs No. 38 Rice; W5-2 vs No. 30 OU Felicity Maltby, Lana Rush, Kennedy Bridgforth, Francesca Sella, Denise-Antonela Stoica

Why They Were Chosen?: Unlike a lot of programs on this list, the women’s tennis team actually took a step back. Although it’s hard to take a step forward after you make it to your first two Elite Eights in back to back years. The program is definitely still one of the best on campus.

There was still a lot of positives this year. For starters, Felicity Maltby was an All-American and became the first Red Raider to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Singles Tournament. They once again finished in the top half of the conference, made their eighth straight NCAA Tournament, and were ranked for much of the year.

Despite some amazing tennis players like Maltby, Lana Rush and Francesca Sella graduating, there is good core returning next year. This includes two members All-Big 12 freshmen team in Kennedy Bridgforth and Denise-Antonela Stoica, and another great freshman in Nell Miller.

All these players were part of a historic 2018 recruiting class that was ranked No. 3 in the nation. Todd Petty did an excellent job recruiting again this time around, as he reeled in the No. 4 class in the nation this year. Women’s Tennis could very well be the next program to win a National Championship.

No. 3 Baseball

Finish Best Games Top Performers
1st in Big 12; 46-20 overall (16-8 in Big 12); L 3-15 to Michigan in CWS semifinal. W4-1 vs FSU; W5-4 vs No. 5 Arkansas; W8-6vs No. 9 OSKT Josh Jung, Cameron Warren, Gabe Holt, Caleb Kilian, Taylor Floyd

Why They Were Chosen?: Amazing that a team made it to the Final Four of their respective sport, yet they are only No. 3 on our list. The baseball program had their best season to date, as they won their conference, made the College World Series, and made their first appearance in the CWS semifinal.

It started off a little rougher than most though, both in the regular season and conference play. Despite the rough start, the Red Raiders were able to turn it around in April. They started Big 12 play with a 6-7 record, then came back to win 10 of their last 11 Big 12 games to finish atop the conference.

In fact, comebacks had been what about all year. In the postseason, they were down in the 8th inning of a decisive Game 3 against Oklahoma State, and were down 3-0 in an elimination game against Arkansas. That helped turn the season from an early exit in the postseason to their best ever.

We also saw the last season from Red Raiders great Josh Jung, who had a wonderful career at Texas Tech and became the 8th overall pick of the MLB Draft thanks to Tim Tadlock and company. But the Big 12 POY wasn’t the only one to make an impact. Cameron Warren became an All-American, Gabe Holt was an OBP machine as always, and pitchers Caleb Kilian and Taylor Floyd delivered great performances.

And even though all those players left, I think that Texas Tech will have the best set of returners he has since he’s been in Lubbock. Almost every bullpen piece returns, two key weekend starters come back, and a lot of offense remains despite their top three offensive threats leaving. If someone steps up offensively next year, we’re going to see one hell of a ball club.

No. 2 Men’s Basketball

Finish Best Games Top Performers
1st in Big 12; 31-7 overall (14-4 in Big 12; L85-77 (OT) to UVA in NC Game W75-69 vs No. 4 Gonzaga; W61-51 vs No. 5 MSU; W63-44 vs No. 8 Michigan; W91-62 vs No. 12 KU Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Davide Moretti, Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase

Why They Were Chosen?: I’m not sure we’ll ever see a season like this again. Not saying this program will never win a National Championship, but the level of play that this team was playing at and making it to the Final Four, especially for a program that most people are shocked to see there, is rare to see.

The Red Raiders started off quickly in both in the regular season and conference play, starting 10-0 and 4-0 respectively. However, Texas Tech then lost four of their next five Big 12 games to fall to 5-4. Much like the baseball team, they needed an unbelievable streak to win conference, and they did exactly that.

They went 9-0 in the second half of their schedule. They won 14 of their final 16 games on the season, with those 14 coming by a margin of victory of 15 points a game. They blew out Top 15 teams by almost 30, and Top 10 teams by double digits. It was incredible, from the execution, to the clutch performances, to the amazing adjustments.

What made it even cooler was the cast surrounding the team. Lubbock native Jarrett Culver won Big 12 POY and was picked 6th overall in the NBA Draft. Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens were grad transfers from different parts of the country. Davide Moretti and Brandone Francis weren’t even from this country. And Norense Odiase was a fifth year senior who stuck with the program.

Chris Beard has done an amazing job with the program. I don’t remember a head coach changing a whole program so quickly like Beard did in my lifetime. The only one I can think of that comes close is Brad Stevens at Butler, who was also a play away from a National Title in his third year. If Beard sticks around, we’ll have a winner for a long time.

No. 1 Track and Field

Finish Best Meets Top Performers
1st in Big 12; Big 12 Champions; National Champions Big 12 Outdoor Championships; NCAA Indoor Championships; NCAA Outdoor Championships Divine Oduduru, Zarriea Willis, Norman Grimes Jr, Duke Kicinski, Odaine Lewis

Why They Were Chosen?: National Championships. That’s the only reason I need to put this team No. 1. The Men’s Track and Field team became the first men’s program to win a National Championship for Texas Tech, and plenty of individual national championships were won as well.

This team had gotten close to National Championships in the past, participating in the NCAA Championships in the past and finishing in the Top 5, but never took home the title. But this year was just their year. Texas Tech was ranked No. 1 all season long, and won by double digit points over the second place finisher.

Divine Oduduru showed he was the best Track and Field athlete in the nation, and probably the best Red Raider ever, despite only running for just two years. Duke Kicinski and Zarriea Willis on the women’s side won individual national championships. Norman Grimes, Odaine Lewis and Justin Hall all had incredible seasons.

And the man who made it all happen was just guy from a small West Texas town called Rule. Wes Kittley joined the program back in 2000, and since then has helped bring 22 NCAA Champions, 225 first team All-Americans, 159 Big 12 champions, seven Big 12 titles and six NCAA Top 5 finishes to the school in Lubbock.

Even though the Red Raiders just won their first national title, they’ve been a big name in the Track and Field community for a while now. When you talk about the best teams this century, no doubt that Texas Tech will come up in that conversation. And this is becoming true for a lot of the programs at Texas Tech.

Despite no CWS final yet, the baseball team and now often talked about when discussing the best teams in the nation. Basketball isn’t there yet, but their performance the past two years has got the nation on notice. Women’s Tennis had back to back Elite Eights and could advance further soon with two Top 5 classes. Softball and Volleyball could be starting to get into this territory as well.

And who knows. Maybe Matt Wells ends up being a home run hire and instead of wondering if we’re going to make a bowl game, we’ll be discussing if we’ll win double digit games. I thought the 2017-2018 athletic year was pretty special. I would never have guessed last year was even better. I hope we have one just like it this season.

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