Striving for more, winning with a grand slam

Super senior utility player Kurt Wilson shares remarks with Tech assistant coach J-Bob Thomas after hitting a grand slam, aiding the Red Raiders to win 16-12 against the University of Texas for the second game in a row at the Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park on March 26, 2022.

Senior shortstop Kurt Wilson delivered a walk-off grand slam as the No. 16 Texas Tech baseball team defeated the No. 2 Texas Longhorns at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. The Red Raiders came-from-behind three different times en route to the extra-winnings victory.

After Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez got the Longhorns on the board with a solo home run to deep right field, the Red Raiders responded with seven in the home half off starting pitcher Tristan Stevens, who entered the day with 1.17 ERA. The first eight batters reached base for Tech, knocking Stevens out of the game without recording an out.

Senior left fielder Easton Murrell pulled the first pitch he saw over the right field wall for his second leadoff home run in as many days to get the frame going.

The Longhorns cut the deficit to three with back-to-back solo home runs in the fifth inning. Melendez led off the frame with his second home run of the day and junior right fielder Murphy Stehly followed him with a solo shot of his own. The duo went a combined 10-10 with 7 RBIs on the day.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a box score at the college level where two guys in the middle go 5-5. I mean, usually there’s one out in there, right,” said Tech head coach Tim Tadlock. “I mean you’d thought he had a tee put up.”

The fifth inning would be the last for junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Birdsell, who struck out seven without administering a walk but surrendered a season-high 10 hits in the process.

“Minus (Melendez and Stehly), I was able to battle,” said Birdsell, who’s ERA shot up .90 to 2.70 after the performance. “They’re a really good hitting team. Took a lot out of me today but I just went out there and competed with them.”

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Jamie Hitt pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Birdsell, only to surrender three earned runs off a pair of doubles the following inning to allow Texas to tie the game.

The final three innings were back and forth, as both squads traded big innings en route to a high-scoring finale.

Now facing a 7-7 tie, sophomore right-handed pitcher Brandon Beckel started the eighth for Tech. Texas would score four in the frame to take control, led by Stehly’s go-ahead three-run home run.

Needing four runs with six outs remaining, the Red Raiders collected all four runs back in the bottom half, including three-run two-out rally. After Wilson scored on a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to three, Murell plated his second and third runs of the game with a double to dead center field. Junior first baseman Cole Stilwell scored him a batter later with an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 11.

Junior right-handed pitcher Bo Blessie escaped a two-out, two-on jam in a scoreless ninth inning, his sixth inning pitched this season overall. Tech stranded a run in the bottom frame to send the contest to extra innings for the second consecutive game.

The Longhorns looked like they were threatening to score in the tenth, doing so on a two-out RBI double from center fielder Douglas Hodo III off sophomore left-handed pitcher Derek Bridges. With a run already scored, left fielder Eric Kennedy, who reached on a single the previous at bat, rounded third attempting to put Texas up two, but was tagged out at home after missing the plate on the slide.

Needing a run in the bottom of the tenth, senior third baseman Parker Kelly doubled down the left field line to lead off the inning. After advancing on a wild pitch, Kelly scored on a fielder’s choice by Stilwell to tie the game. Kelly finished his day 2-4 with two RBIs.

The Red Raiders proceeded to load the bases after Texas reliever Aaron Nixon walked sophomore second baseman Jace Jung. Wilson stepped up to the plate needing a walk to secure the walk off victory, instead delivering his second walkoff in his as many days with a walkoff grand slam to claim the series win.

Wilson said he tried to stay in the moment during that last at bat.

“Whenever I get in those situations, I don’t think about the past or the future,” said Wilson. “I just think about right there in that moment. Just be there and win for this team.”

With the series win in tow, the Red Raiders will look to sweep the Longhorns Sunday at 2 p.m.

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