With the No. 6 Texas Tech baseball team set to open its season with four games over the weekend, head coach Tim Tadlock announced the starting pitchers for the Red Raiders.
Opening the Red Raiders' season, redshirt sophomore Clayton Beeter will be the starting pitcher against Houston Baptist on Friday.
This is one of the biggest surprises as Beeter was one of the Red Raiders’ closers last season. Beeter came to Lubbock in 2018 but redshirted as he recovered from a Tommy John surgery. After sitting out a season, he took the mound again and appeared in 21 games for the Red Raiders, recording 40 strikeouts in 20.2 innings pitched.
“We had a year last year where we really were conservative with him, with trying to get his body and his arm in this position,” Tadlock said. “With that kind of stuff, in makeup and composure and all that, there’s no reason to not run him out there as a starter at this point.”
Following Beeter’s start on Friday, sophomore Austin Becker will start at the mound in the first game of Tech’s Saturday doubleheader. This will be Becker’s Tech debut as he transferred from the reigning national champions, Vanderbilt.
Despite only appearing in two games for the Commodores, striking nine batters out in 4.0 innings pitched, the expectations are set high for Saturday starter.
“He prepares awfully good. I think he prepares for each moment. I think he understands how to go out and compete pitch to pitch,” Tadlock said. “As far as expectations go, I’d say that’s putting limits on him and I don’t put any limits on him.’
To put a perspective on how good Becker’s pitching is, Tadlock said he met a bird dog scout who was working at one of Tech’s postseason games who was a scout in Ohio for the majority of his career. Tadlock said the scout told him that Becker had the best arm he has ever seen in the state of Ohio.
For Tech’s second game of the doubleheader, junior Bryce Bonnin was named the starting pitcher. This will be Bonnin’s second season at Tech after transferring from Arkansas.
In his first season at Tech, Bonnin started in 13 of his 15 games played. He posted a 7-1 record at the mound after recording 65 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. Bonnin also tied the program’s record with two NCAA Tournament wins under his belt. The right-handed pitcher also led the weekend starters, holding his opponents to a team-leading .223 batting average.
“I really feel like those first three guys (Beeter, Becker and Bonnin) are guys that can start in your first game of the weekend,” Tadlock said. “Any weekend for anybody. Now I’m not saying they’re there right now, we’re not saying they’re there right now, but there’s definitely an opportunity for those guys to develop and really put us in a position to throw the ball really well.”
The last starter for Tech’s opening weekend will be sophomore Mason Montgomery, who will start at the mound on Sunday. Despite only appearing in 12 games last season, Montgomery started in nine games early in the season.
In his 35 innings at the mound in 2019, Montgomery struck 24 batters out. Although the freshman posted a 3-1 record, the left-hander had one of the higher ERAs on the team with a 5.14 after giving up 20 earned runs.
Two pitchers who had great outings last season who will come out of the bullpen this season were sophomore Micah Dallas and senior John McMillon.
Dallas was the Red Raiders’ Friday starter for the majority of the 2019 season, starting in 13 of his 19 appearances. As a freshman, he pitched in the second-most innings on the team with 76. Dallas also recorded the third-most strikeouts on the team with 84, as well as being one of three pitchers to be credited with seven or more wins at the mound.
“He wasn’t on the mound last weekend so that’s really where you get this from,” Tadlock said regarding Dallas not starting. “His pitch count’s not built up to where the other guys’ pitch count is going up to.”
Along with Dallas, McMillon will also come out of the bullpen this weekend after turning down the chance to play for the Detroit Tigers organization at the end of last season.
Of the pitchers who threw in 20 or more innings last season, McMillon posted the second-lowest ERAs with a 3.40. After pitching in 47.2 innings, McMillon gave up just 18 earned runs while striking 67 batters out. McMillon was one of the only collegiate pitchers in the country to throw a 100 mile per hour fastball in multiple games last year.
“John’s been really good with everything. He really wants an opportunity to pitch whenever his time comes,” Tadlock said. “By no means are we ever closing the door giving the ball to John as a starter. If you would have said at the end of the fall, ‘Who can start for this team?’ He would have been one of the guys because he’s thrown the ball really well.”
Despite being one of Tech’s more reliable pitchers toward the end of the season, Tadlock recognized his slow start last year.
“Generally for John, it takes a little more time to find rhythm and timing and that’s not such a bad thing, I think a guy named Nolan Ryan had the same thing with a big arm like that,” Tadlock said. “So really, right now, the more times you get him on the mound, the sooner he finds rhythm and timing.”
With Beeter, Becker, Bonnin and Montgomery being named the starting pitchers, the Red Raiders still have several arms coming out of the bullpen that could make an impact. Along with Dallas and McMillon, freshmen Andrew Devine and Brandon Hendrix are also expected to have a big impact on the Red Raiders’ pitching staff.
Friday’s game against Houston Baptist is set to start at 1 p.m. as Tech will open its season at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. The Red Raiders will then play Houston Baptist a second time, starting at noon on Saturday to kick off their doubleheader. The second game of Saturday’s doubleheader will start 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game, playing Northern Colorado. The final game of the weekend will be played at 3 p.m. against Northern Colorado on Sunday.