Texas Tech entered the series against TCU in a bit of a slump, having surprisingly lost a series to Kansas State in which they didn’t just end up emotionally battered and bruised, but physically as well. Starters Dru Baker and Dylan Neuse were out with injuries for most of the TCU series.
In Game 1 against the Horned Frogs, their bats were very much missed. TCU’s Russell Smith was superb and the Tech hitters did not have an answer for him as he struck out twelve in seven innings of work. Meanwhile, Micah Dallas had a tough outing with TCU immediately lighting him up for six runs in the first inning. Dallas would eventually settle in, and TCU was only able to score once more in the game in a quality relief effort from Mason Montgomery, but Tech wasn’t able to dig out of the early hole due to how strong the TCU pitching was on Friday. Jace Jung tried to do his part with a homer and RBI, but that was essentially all that Tech could muster from a hitting standpoint. TCU took Game 1 in a decisive 7-3 victory and the Red Raiders appeared to be fully headed towards a midseason slump.
Patrick Monteverde and the Red Raiders got Game 2 off to a much better start than Game 1. Monteverde fanned five TCU batters in the first two innings, while Easton Murrell tripled in the first and was brought in by a Fulford ground out to open up the scoring. Tech managed to load the bases with only one out in the third and it looked like the Red Raiders were about to break the game wide open, but a strikeout and a pop fly ended the threat.
TCU managed to get a few on base to open the fourth and grounded a ball towards Jace Jung for a potential inning-ending double play, but Jung made what would prove to be a very costly error. With the bases then loaded, TCU’s Hunter Wolfe (who was a tough out all weekend) hammered one over the fence for a grand slam. Tech found itself in a 4-1 hole entering the home half of the fourth.
For the first time all series, TCU’s pitching let them down, with the Horned Frogs allowing four free bases on hit batters and walks. It appeared that TCU might escape unscathed after a double play, but the second hit batter of the inning walked in a run and brought up Jace Jung for a chance at redemption with the bases loaded. Jung capitalized with a single to the outfield that brought in two more runs, and Cole Stillwell singled to score another to put Tech back ahead 5-4.
The game would stay this way until the top of the 6th, when Monteverde surrended a game-tying run after pegging a batter and allowing a pair of singles. TCU successfully stole a base during this stretch and moved the bases well all weekend, but went to the well one too many times. Fulford anticipated another effort at a free base and whipped a throw to third that picked off the TCU runner well before he got there to keep the game tied. The next several innings featured some quality pitching from both sides that prevented both team’s offenses from getting anything going. Ryan Sublette continues to have a great season and looked in terrific form.
Sublette only allowed two hits in four innings, struck out five, and kept TCU off of the board the remainder of the game. The only other interesting development in the last few innings prior to extras was that Jace Jung laid down a flawless bunt in response to a massive TCU shift. While bunting is probably something opponents will generally allow to arguably the premier power hitter in the nation right now, it was good to see that Jace is capable of doing it for potential situations that may require it. TCU was unable to get anything going in the top of the 10th, and a hero swing from Cal Conley walked off the win 6-5 for Tech.
In Game 3, Jace Jung would get the scoring started with a solo shot in the 1st inning. Brandon Birdsell was off to another fine pitching start until departing the game with a shoulder injury. While it did not look to be anything overly serious, it will be worth monitoring considering that Birdsell has been pitching well enough to be featured heavily in the starter mix for TTU. Tech loaded the bases in the second inning on a pair of free passes to Masters and Carter following a beautiful bunt by Cal Conley. Parker Kelly earned a walk to force in a run, and Easton Murrell drove in another, giving Tech a 3-0 lead after two innings.
TCU would get on the board with a solo homer in the 3rd, but Tech would more than answer in the bottom half of the inning. Jung and Stillwell walked, and Cody Masters hit an absolute bomb over the center field monster that may not have landed yet to pay it off and put Tech ahead 6-1. Tech wasn’t done in the inning, either, with Wilson reaching on a walk and making his way around the bases until he was driven home by Parker Kelly. Tech would make quick work of TCU in the 4th and tack on another run in their half to push the lead to 8-1 after four. TTU was sitting pretty, but the Horned Frogs put together a monster top half of the fifth via an RBI single from Wolfe that Kurt Wilson misplayed and jammed his thumb on. It wasn’t scored as an error, but is a play Wilson generally makes, and it proved costly with a 3-run blast from the next batter in Gray Rodgers. TCU found themselves very much back in the game at 8-5, and Tech was unable to answer in the fifth.
The top of the 6th got off to a scary start, with TCU putting their first two on with no outs. However, a strikeout from Hayde Key followed by a pop up kept the runners put, and TCU tried to get cute and put the runners in motion. Fulford again was having nothing of it and picked off the runner at first who found himself in no-man’s land, and the inning was over without any damage done. Speaking of damage, Tech would do their share in the bottom of the sixth. Jace Jung led things off with his second solo homer of the day. Stillwell, Conley, and Masters would then all reach to load the bases. Dillon Carter singled to score Conley and Stillwell.
Tech would then give TCU a taste of its own medicine on the base paths with a successful double steal that plated Masters. Kelly would walk to put two men on, and Fulford brought in Carter with a single. Jace Jung made his second plate appearance of the inning and hit yet another home run to bring in three more runs. Stillwell followed with a solo home run and the rout was on. Tech would finish the 6th inning with 9 runs to push the lead to 17-5. TCU actually managed to score two runs in the 7th, but it still wasn’t enough to prevent being run-ruled by Tech’s firepower. Texas Tech took the series 2-1, and though the series featured plenty of quality performances, none were better than the play of Jung, who finished the weekend 7-13 with nine RBIs and four home runs. Texas Tech got a huge series win over a quality team and got its mojo back.