The No. 8 Texas Tech baseball team advanced to the Super Regional round of the postseason after the Red Raiders swept through the 2019 Lubbock Regional over the weekend, earning two wins against No. 24 Dallas Baptist and a win against Army at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
With the three wins, the Red Raiders posted a perfect 3-0 record to open the postseason as they improved their overall record 42-17 and their record at home, 28-6, according to Tech Athletics.
Over the three games, Tech baseball fans packed Rip Griffin Park with 13,776 as all three of the Red Raiders' games were played in front of a sellout crowd.
In the Lubbock Regional, the Red Raider pitching staff struck 31 batters out and only gave up four runs in the three games played, according to Tech Athletics. On the offensive end, the Red Raiders earned 28 hits and 17 runs scored collectively.
Tech opened the Lubbock Regional with a game against Army on Friday for the first game of the postseason. Heading into the regional, head coach Tim Tadlock made a couple of lineup changes. The first change was in the outfield as sophomore Dylan Neuse rested his hamstring. With the absence of Neuse, Tadlock moved sophomore Gabe Holt to center field and put freshman Tanner O’Tremba in right field.
With Neuse out, O’Tremba made his first start since March 25 and had an impressive game as he led the Red Raiders with three hits and tied with senior Cameron Warren as they both earned a team-leading three RBIs. O’Tremba was also one of four Red Raiders to score two runs against Army.
“It was a little bit like the Astros right now, they got a bunch of guys on the DL, and really want to protect Dylan’s (hamstring) you know, try to give him the right amount of time to get healthy,” Tadlock said. “Tanner did exactly what you want a guy to do when he gets an opportunity, he jumped in there and put together some quality at-bats and played good defense.”
Warren also made his presence at the plate known as he earned his first home run of the postseason as O’Tremba and junior Josh Jung were on base, giving the Red Raiders an 11-1 lead in the seventh inning. The dinger over the left-field wall was Warren’s 15th home run of the year.
Along with the offense, the Red Raiders excelled on the defensive end, only allowing the Black Knights to score two runs in nine innings. Freshman RHP Micah Dallas pitched in the first postseason game of his career and retired 12-consecutive batters to start the game. Dallas finished his first postseason game after pitching in 7.0 innings, striking seven batters out while giving up three hits, a walk and an unearned run in 99 pitches.
“Gardner actually came up to me, he comes up to me basically every inning saying, stay locked in,” Dallas said regarding pitching while having a big lead. “John McMillon came up to me after we put up a bunch of runs and he's like, hey it's a 0-0 game, keep it up out there, just compete just like have you been. I have a lot of people helping me out trying to stay focused like that.”
On the defensive end, sophomore Easton Murrell had a standout game at third base. Murrell earned seven assists on outs of the 15 total assisted outs by the Red Raiders, according to Tech Athletics. He also stopped a big play in the fifth inning as he jumped to catch a hard line drive over his head, preventing a hit while Dallas was pitching a no-hitter.
“Easton was a huge part of everything, this win,” Dallas said. “He made some incredible plays over there, kept the momentum on our side when it looked like it was shifting, but he for sure helped us out big time.”
The all-around strong performance by the Red Raiders resulted in an 11-2 win over the Black Knights, advancing them to the winner’s bracket of the regional round of the postseason where they would play Dallas Baptist.
Tech took an early lead in the on Saturday against the Patriots as Warren hit a two-run dinger in the second inning for his second home run of the postseason. The Red Raiders followed, putting runners on the corners as freshman Cole Stilwell was on third and sophomore Parker Kelly was on first. Sophomore Braxton Fulford then landed a hit to the outfield, sending Stilwell home to give the Red Raiders a 3-0 lead.
“It's a 2-0 game, it's first and third, (Fulford) gets a ball that's elevated and singles into left field, and when you can do that consistently, I mean obviously it helps,” Tadlock said regarding Fulford’s RBI single. “He's a big part of this deal and I was really proud of him for driving that run in.”
The Red Raiders’ defense helped keep the 3-0 lead as they earned double plays in both the third and fourth innings but Dallas Baptist made it a one-run game as they scored two runs in the fifth inning off of junior RHP Caleb Kilian. Kilian’s time at the mound came to an end in the middle of the fifth inning as he gave up seven hits along with the two earned runs. Despite the hits and runs given up, Kilian struck out five batters.
Junior RHP Taylor Floyd then took over the pitcher’s mound in the fifth inning and hit his first batter of the game, loading the bases but he escaped the inning without giving up a run. Floyd stayed at the mound for the remainder of the game against Dallas Baptist, throwing a no-hitter to secure the Red Raiders’ 3-2 win for a spot in the regional championship game. Floyd also struck out five batters in his 4.1 innings pitched while giving up no hits, no runs and one walk.
“Sometimes certain pitches work for you and I'm just glad to have a couple pitches working, and when you hit a guy you just got to focus up, especially if it doesn't affect you, move on, just keep executing pitches,” Floyd said regarding the batter he hit with a pitch. “The more you execute pitches, the better it's going to play out for you.”
Following Tech’s 3-2 victory over Dallas Baptist, the Red Raiders had to play the Patriots again on Sunday in the regional championship game after the Patriots defeated the Florida Gators, 9-8, in a nail biter earlier in the day.
Once again, Warren helped the Red Raider take the early lead against the Patriots with a three-run homer in the first inning, sending Holt and Jung home for a 3-0 lead. The home run marked the third-straight postseason game with a home run for Warren and his 17th homer he hit this year, ranking him second in the conference in the category. Warren’s slugging resulted in the Patriots intentionally walking him later in the game.
Sophomore RHP Bryce Bonnin pitched a season-high 7.0 innings, throwing a shutout. Bonnin struck seven batters out in his time at the mound, giving up just three hits and two walks in 95 pitches.
“Bryce pitched in Omaha last year, so he's had some experience in big games,” Tadlock said. “Probably the neatest thing is, just watching him develop over the last, since February or really, throughout the whole year. He was in command today from pitch one. Probably could have ran him back out there if he wanted to.”
The Red Raiders sent junior RHP John McMillon to the mound in hopes of keeping the shutout alive and he did not disappoint. McMillon threw multiple pitches in the high 90’s as well as topping the radar with a 100 mph pitch, giving up two hits in his 2.0 innings pitched. He faced a total of eight batters and struck five of them out, with three-straight strikeouts in the ninth inning to secure the 3-0 win to defeat Dallas Baptist for the second time in the Lubbock Regional.
As the regional round of he postseason came to a conclusion, Tech had eight Red Raiders make the 2019 NCAA Lubbock All-Regional Team out of the 14 players to earn a selection, according to a Tech Athletics news release. Warren was named the Tournament MVP as Fulford, Jung and Holt also made the lineup. Freshman Micah Dallas and junior Taylor Floyd joined Bonnin and McMillon as four of the five pitchers to make the All-Regional team.
With the win, Tech advanced to the Super Regional round of the postseason, which will be hosted in Lubbock as well since the Red Raiders earned a top-eight seed by the NCAA Selection Committee. The Red Raiders will play the winner of the Oklahoma State and University of Connecticut game in the 2019 Lubbock Super Regional from June 7-10 at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.