Texas Tech baseball wins home opener against Houston Baptist 5-1

Sophomore pitcher Micah Dallas throws from the mound during the Texas Tech baseball vs. Houston Baptist game on Feb. 14, 2020, at Dan Law Field in Rip Griffin Park.

 

The No. 4 Red Raiders have been on a roll after starting the season 0-3 at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington. Since then, they have won 19 of their last 20 games.

One of the biggest surprises of the year and one of the key pieces to Tech’s turnaround has been the rise of redshirt senior LHP Patrick Monteverde. In six starts, the 23 year-old Seton Hall transfer has dazzled to the tune of a 5-0 record, 0.75 ERA, and 0.667 WHIP in 36.0 innings pitched, according to Baseball-Reference. 

With Tech approaching the midway point in the season, Monteverde has completely separated himself from the rest of the Red Raider rotation as the ace of the staff, a staff that boasts the fourth-best team ERA in the Big 12 heading into April. Tech as a team has a 3.64 ERA through 21 games. 

Monteverde’s fastball, which sits typically between 90-92mph, and above-average control of his breaking ball has helped propel him to this impressive start. 

He has also benefited from the Red Raiders’ potent defense, which has turned a conference-leading 24 double plays through its 21 games. 

Head coach Tim Tadlock said before the season the key to Monteverde’s success would be his ability to get ahead in the count, and that has stuck with him this year. 

“Getting that first pitch strike … I mean, that’s the world of difference for me, just being from 0-1 to 1-0 (in the count),” Monteverde said after his most recent start. “I’m not going to be a guy that’s going to blow you away. So just getting (ahead) 0-1 and kind of getting the hitter in an early hole really helps me out”.

Monteverde is the team leader in ERA out of everyone who has pitched more than 10.0 innings, according to Tech Athletics, and he leads the team outright in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, WHIP and SO/W. 

His five wins put him in a first-place tie with Oklahoma State’s Parker Scott for most in the conference, and his 0.75 ERA is good for first among pitchers who have thrown 30.0 innings or more, and second in the conference overall.

Furthermore, in the Big 12, he ranks third in opponent’s batting average, fifth in total innings pitched and sixth in strikeouts. 

“Between (Monteverde) and Braxton (Fulford), those guys working together, and Matt (Gardner) calling the game you know, obviously when a guy can add and subtract like that, locate the fastball it’s fun to watch,” Tadlock said after Monteverde’s most recent start.

The southpaw is on track to have his best career season in D-1 baseball. In his last two years at Seton Hall, Monteverde only managed four total starts due to injury. 

His first season for the Pirates in 2018 was his best, according to Tech Athletics, when he went 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 71.0 innings pitched. He started 14 games that year. 

The only game started by Monteverde this season in which the Red Raiders did not emerge victorious was opening day against the now-No. 2 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks.

In that contest, he was pulled after 4.0 scoreless innings and 64 total pitches. After his departure, Tech’s bullpen would give up 13 earned runs to the Razorbacks en route to the opening day loss. 

Since that game he has tossed at least 5.0 innings in every one of his starts, including a few 7.0 inning appearances and has thrown at least 75 pitches in each one of those contests. His ERA is yet to eclipse 0.93 all season, according to Tech Athletics.

In his one and only start of the year against Big 12 competition he excelled. 

Against then, No. 14 Oklahoma State, Monteverde tossed 6.0 innings of one-run baseball, striking out three along the way. That game and the Arkansas game have been his only appearances against nationally ranked squads.

Monteverde hails from Pittsburgh, and Tech fans have taken note and are bringing some of Pittsburgh’s traditions to West Texas. 

Before his most recent start against South Florida, a large portion of fans behind home plate started waving terrible towels in his honor. 

Terrible towels are a famed tradition in Pittsburgh sports where fans often wave the yellow towels to excite themselves and their team during Pittsburgh Steeler games. 

“It was awesome,” Monteverde said. “Bringing Pittsburgh down to Lubbock, they say it’s Steeler nation. And yeah, it was pretty cool to see. I gave (those fans) a little salute after the first inning”.

In that first inning, Monteverde would come up one pitch short of a spotless inning. He struck out the side in 10 pitches, all of which were strikes. 

“The fans are great. Seems like every Saturday, you know, it’s almost sold out or sold out,” Monteverde said, “And I mean, it’s no secret. The fans are always buying my back, and I can’t ask for anything more.” 

In both of his last two starts, Monteverde was pulled for sophomore Micah Dallas. In each of those games, Dallas would be the only reliever to appear in the contest.

After starting the year as a weekend starter, he has found himself excelling most this year coming out of the bullpen. Dallas came out of the bullpen in every one of his appearances in the shortened 2020 season. 

Tadlock had said earlier in the season that he would like to get a look at Dallas paired up with another starter, and so far, that starter has been Monteverde.

The 6-foot-2-inch righty tossed 3.0 innings of one-run baseball against Oklahoma State in his first appearance in relief of Monteverde, earning his first save of the season along the way, and threw 2.0 scoreless innings against South Florida in his most recent appearance.

“The high leverage situations, I live for that,” Dallas said after his save against the Cowboys. “When I’m up there especially, I have the confidence that there’s no one else in the world that, you know, our team would rather have up there when I’m up there in a high leverage situation. And you know that may not be the case, but that’s what my mentality is”.

Across those two games he struck out eight batters and only walked one.

He currently sports a 1-1 record and a 1.74 ERA on the season to go along with his lone save, according to Tech Athletics. His first three appearances of the season came as a starter, while the last three have come as a reliever.

Dallas has the second lowest ERA on the team, behind only Monteverde, among pitchers who have seen 10.0 innings or more of work so far. According to Tech Athletics, he ranks fourth on the team in strikeouts and innings pitched as well. 

“We like him at any time,” Tadlock said. “He’s aggressive, gonna pitch ahead in the count, obviously has, you know, the wipe-out breaking ball to go with it. (We) like everything about it, you know. Probably the number one trait is just his aggressiveness.”

As they are arguably the one and two best pitchers on the staff, the Monteverde-Dallas pairing is one that has the potential to be something truly special for Tech down the stretch of this season. 

The Red Raiders team will be back in action Thursday night against the Kansas State Wildcats, while Monteverde’s next start, and potentially Dallas’ next appearance, is expected to be Friday in game two of the series. 

That game and series will be streamed on ESPN+.

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