It is tough to decide on one individual who is most anxious for Texas Tech baseball’s regular-season opener, but pitcher Robbie Kilcrease may be at the very top of the list.
Kilcrease, a redshirt junior who underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the beginning of the 2010 season, got the nod from Tech coach Dan Spencer to start the second annual alumni game on Saturday at Dan Law Field.
“I had a little jitters coming out the first time, you know,” Kilcrease said after the game. “I’m glad we got it out of the way; it’s almost like a big dress rehearsal for next week.”
Then having the jitters must have been a positive.
Kilcrease pitched the first two innings for Tech, logging one strikeout and allowing one hit in a 12-2 victory for the Red Raiders against the Tech alumni.
The alumni bats were held at bay for four innings before their first run came home in the top of the fifth inning.
Chris Richburg, who served as a Red Raider infielder from 2005-09, said Tech’s pitchers — most of who lack quality time as starters — were locked in on the strike zone throughout the ball game.
“A whole lot of strikes,” Richburg said, when asked what he saw from Red Raider pitchers, “which, you know, I think (Tech has) had some trouble with in the past, and I think that’s the biggest key for them … they’ve got to throw strikes.”
Alumnus Chad Bettis, a 2010 second-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, also honed in on strikes in the early going.
Bettis struck out two batters, Jamodrick McGruder and Kelby Tomlinson, to start his shift on the mound before forcing Barrett Barnes into a groundout to end the inning. Bettis’ reign of dominance, however, would last just that one inning.
The Red Raiders struck first, in the second inning, when senior Nick Popescu drove a double down the left field foul line, bringing in Scott LeJeune for the first run.
Bettis would not return in the third inning.
With players like Bettis, Richburg and Bobby Doran featured in the alumni’s lineup, it could be easy to believe the Red Raiders are the only ones who can learn and grow from an experience like the alumni game — Richburg said that is not the case.
“Most of us (alumni), the guys that are still playing, haven’t faced a game situation in five months now,” Richburg said. “A lot of those guys are still our friends, so just to get out here and play with them is really a good time.”
A good time turned into another blowout for Tech, although not as drastic as last season’s 21-1 final score.
Tomlinson broke things open in the fourth inning, launching a two-run shot over the left field wall to give the Red Raiders a 7-0 advantage.
Saturday’s weather — a first-pitch temperature of 61 degrees with some wind gusts — played a factor into his hitting, Tomlinson said.
“Yeah, the wind is blowing pretty good here (Saturday), “ Tomlinson said. “Not too bad, and I just got lucky with a good pitch to hit and 3-1 count to get a fastball.”
Tech followed up the alumni’s one-run effort in the top of the fifth with a four-run outing in the sixth, two of the runs batted in by LeJeune.
LeJeune, like Tech’s Davis Paiz, went 2-for-4 at the plate. McGruder went 2-for-5, scoring two runs and generating three RBIs, a team high.
The pitching staff for Tech was comprised of Kilcrease, Jamen Parten, John Neely, Zach Fowler, Aaron Corwin and Trey Masek, in that order. Parten led all Red Raider pitchers with three strikeouts.
The Red Raiders, however, made their living off six errors from the alumni, leading to nine unearned runs. Tech did not play a perfect game, either, accounting for two errors of its own.
Spencer said this week is going to concentrate on fixing errors and clutch batting prior to beginning the regular season against Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Friday at Dan Law Field.
“I thought that we were average defensively,” Spencer said. “We got to be better with men in scoring position, and we got to be clean defensively. We got time, we got a week to figure that out.”