Although the Texas Tech baseball team will not be competing for the national title, the Red Raiders made a historic run in the 2019 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., from June 15-21.
The Red Raiders secured a bid in the College World Series after they defeated Oklahoma State in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. The win secured Tech’s fourth appearance in the College World Series as well as the first time the Red Raiders made the trip to Omaha in two consecutive seasons.
Opening the College World Series, the Red Raiders played the Michigan Wolverines and quickly fell behind, 4-0, in the top of the third inning. Tech put three runs up on the board but Michigan defeated the Red Raiders, 5-3, sending them to the loser’s bracket.
With the Wolverines scoring four runs in three innings, head coach Tim Tadlock pulled freshman RHP Micah Dallas out of the game.
"His stuff wasn't quite where it has been," Tadlock said. "I want to say the fastball was a tick probably, didn't have his best stuff. He's been a guy that when he doesn't have that, he's been able to pitch through some things. Give Michigan credit for that. They hit everything that he threw up there that was in the middle of the plate. And so I don't want to take anything away from them."
In his 3.0 innings pitched, Dallas struck two batters out while giving up six hits and three earned runs. Despite the freshman’s short start in his first game in Omaha, Tadlock expressed how much Dallas did for the team at the mound.
"We wouldn't be here without Micah Dallas," Tadlock said. "There's nobody that feels worse than Micah right now. He takes it upon his shoulders to go out and pitch into the sixth or seventh inning every time, and he's done that quite a bit. He just had a bad day, and Michigan had a really good day."
Junior Brian Klein was responsible for the first two runs the Red Raiders earned as he hit a two-run dinger over the left-center wall. The home run was Klein’s second of the season and eighth of his career.
Ultimately, Tech’s loss was the lack of offense. While Tech did earn one more hit than Michigan in the opening game, the Red Raiders left eight runners on base.
"We got to have better at-bats than we did," senior Cameron Warren said after the loss. "We've got to battle more. I mean, we did hit a lot of balls hard today. We hit it right at them some. But we've just got to grind and we've got to come back ready to play in two days."
Two days later, Tech played the No. 5 national-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks in an elimination game. The Red Raiders had their backs against the wall as they were down, 3-0, in the third inning but the team rallied together for the 5-4 win, surviving elimination.
"We had a hunch these guys were going to be fun to watch with their backs against the wall," head coach Tim Tadlock said. "We really hadn't been in that position throughout the year. Played really good baseball pretty much, and we try to approach each day and good win that day and play the game the right way."
The starting pitcher, junior RHP Caleb Kilian, had a standout game in 7.0 innings pitched. Kilian gave up three runs but he broke the program record for the most strikeouts in a College World Series game with nine.
“I think it improved throughout the game,” Kilian said regarding his breaking ball. “I don't think it was that great at the beginning. But I felt like I had good command with all my pitches for the most part, and I think that's what really helped me out.”
Warren gave the Red Raiders hope after he cut Arkansas’ lead to one run with a two-run homer over the left-center wall in the fourth inning.
"Yeah, that was huge, that gave me a ton of confidence," Kilian said regarding Warren's home run. "Man, that was awesome because I was kind of just grinding it out, out there, hoping for some run support, and then Cam comes through with that. I kind of knew it was coming. I had a feeling about it, so when it happened I was pumped and that got us going on a little roll, and then our hitters started getting some hits, so it was good."
Sophomore Easton Murrell also had one of the biggest games of his career against his former team. Tadlock started Murrell as the leadoff hitter since sophomore Gabe Holt was out with a fractured thumb and he showed off with his first home run of the season, tying the game, 3-3, in the fifth inning.
“Really just felt like the left-handed bat was the right thing to stick in there,” Tadlock said regarding Murrell’s first start as the leadoff hitter. “And then the advantage he has by he's seen everybody out of their bullpen, the older guys. He's seen them a number of times. So a little bit of both went into it.”
The eighth overall pick in the MLB Draft, junior Josh Jung, was the third Red Raider of the day to hit one out of the park, as he gave Tech its first lead of the College World Series, 4-3. The Razorbacks fought back and tied the game in the eighth inning but Warren sprinted from first to home, with the season on the line, off of a triple by sophomore Cody Masters. The run gave Tech a 5-4 lead, giving the Red Raiders their first win in the 2019 College World Series.
“Honestly whenever -- I didn't see that I was stealing,” Warren said. “That's the first time I've stolen in so long, and I didn't even look in, and it got so loud and I heard it off the bat, I was like, I think it's gone but I was like I gotta run. Then I saw J-Bob at third base telling me to go, so I was like, come on, big boy, you've got to score.”
After knocking the No. 5 national seed out of the College World Series, Tech faced the Florida State Seminoles in another elimination game for a spot in the semifinals. The Red Raiders defeated the Seminoles, 4-1, making history as the first team in program history to advance to the semifinals.
Neither team could score a run in three innings but both teams added a single run to the board in the fourth inning, tying the game, 1-1. Klein then hit his second home run of the College World Series in the sixth inning to give the Red Raiders a 2-1 advantage. The home run was the third of his season.
"Yeah, I have no idea where the home runs started to come from, but today it happened that it gave us a really big run, and I'm super thankful for it," Klein said regarding his home runs in Omaha. "All the glory, honor, praise is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think it shows how He works in me. I haven't hit a home run all year; no one expects that out of him. But to be able to put a barrel on the ball and get it out is an awesome feeling, and to help these guys win behind Bryce (Bonnin) and (Taylor) Floyd throwing and Dylan (Neuse) making an amazing play, and having good at-bats all night, it's just awesome."
The duo of sophomore RHP Bryce Bonnin and junior RHP Taylor Floyd had a phenomenal game at the mound against the Seminoles. Bonnin pitched in 5.0 innings, striking seventh batters out while giving up just two hits and one unearned run. Floyd pitched through the rest of the game, striking eight batters out in 4.0 innings pitched, giving up one hit and no runs.
In the eighth inning, the Red Raiders’ bats were hot as they scored in two more runs. With the three-run lead, Tech was three outs away from making its first program semifinals appearance in the College World Series. The pressure did not get to Floyd as he struck three batters out, securing the 4-1 win, defeating Florida State in their head coach, Mike Martin’s, last game.
"I mean, the young man (Taylor) Floyd that came in and relieved for Texas Tech was throwing sidearm, and he was high 80s," Martin said. "It's really getting challenging year in, year out. That and you have specialty people that can come in and face a couple of people."
The Red Raiders’ season came to a conclusion after Michigan seemed to hit every ball thrown their way in a 15-3 loss.
"We played them a while back, and that's not the same team we played," head coach Tim Tadlock said. "And their staff is to be commended for that. Their starting pitching is phenomenal. To a man, in their lineup, every guy in their lineup has gotten better since we've seen them."
Tech bounced back from a 2-0 deficit, driving in three runs for a 3-2 lead in the second inning but the Wolverines fought hard to blow out the team that swept them in the regular season.
Junior RHP John McMillon was the Red Raiders most dominant pitcher as he struck five batters out in 2.0 innings pitched, but he gave up two runs in his time at the mound. Freshman RHP Hunter Dobbins then took the mound and threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded, resulting in a Wolverine crossing home.
"But really didn't, at 7-3 you like your chances right there," Tadlock said. "And I mean we've watched a lot of film and hadn't seen Kerr bunt. And you're like, okay, let's move on over. And he drops the bunt down a little bit like Matt Carpenter did the other night, and you're like, the guy's a baseball player; he's a team guy. And he just got on base and kind of created a big inning."
The Red Raiders struggled to stop the Wolverines’ offense as they scored 13 unanswered runs.
"Every out was tough," Jung said. "They made us play for all 27. I think back in Lubbock they gave us some runs and it seemed like the tables were turned; this time, we gave them a few runs."
Although the Red Raiders’ season did not end the way they imagined, the team had one of the most historic seasons the program has seen. The Red Raiders finished with a 46-20 overall record and broke the “curse” of missing the College World Series every other year by making back-to-back appearances. The team also made the program’s deepest run in the College World Series.
"The first time I came to Omaha was 2014," Warren said. "We've been four times in the last six years. What Tadlock has done with the program is amazing. And we're going to keep coming back and eventually they're going to win it."