The #10 Horned Frogs had already hit well against two of the best in Tech’s bullpen. Micah Dallas surrendered six runs on Friday, and Patrick Monteverde allowed four runs earlier in Saturday’s game. Ryan Sublette entered a tie game at 5-5 in the top of the 7th, and the series hung in the balance. A TCU win would have decided the series, but the Red Raiders on a conference losing streak of four games and consecutive series losses and likely taken the team out of Big XII title contention. It’s hard to fathom a bigger situation in a regular-season game than what Sublette faced. However, before we get into this performance, let’s rewind a few years.
Ryan Sublette saw significant action as a Freshman in 2018. There was certainly some promise evident in his appearances, but there were also some real struggles. Kentucky, Louisville, New Mexico, and Arkansas all had great success hitting against him. Sublette would have a redemptive appearance in a late-season game against Dallas Baptist that convinced Tadlock to roll the dice on starting the young pitcher in a Big XII Championship game against the same TCU program he just faced this weekend. The results weren’t pretty. Sublette walked two batters in the first inning, but was bailed out a bit on a double play and did manage to get a strikeout to close the opening frame. The second inning was the stuff of nightmares. A single. A wild pitch allowing the runner to advance to second. A walk. Another walk. Another walk. It was 1-0 TCU with the bases loaded and no one out when Sublette was pulled. TCU would go on to score six in the inning and win the game 12-2, with Sublette’s ERA for the game being 36.00.
Sublette would also see action in the 2018 Super Regionals against Duke. Duke was already ahead 10-2 in the eighth inning when Sublette entered, so this was a chance to give Sublette another chance against a quality opponent in a relatively low-risk situation of a game that had been mostly decided. Again, Sublette had a tough outing, walking the first two batters he faced in addition to giving away a free base on a wild pitch. Duke would only score one run in the inning, but it wasn’t the confidence-boosting performance Tadlock or Red Raider fans hoped for to salvage something out of the loss. Sublette would finish the year with a 9.49 ERA It was not the end to the season that Sublette needed, and some pitchers never recover from a pair of poor performances in key late-season games.
Sublette’s 2019 didn’t start or end much better. An early-season appearance against Oregon featured him immediately giving up three straight hits and a run before being pulled. He would put together some solid outings throughout most of the regular season, but the one that’s remembered came against Michigan in the semifinals of the College World Series. Again, Sublette entered the game in a less-than-ideal situation with two men on, one out, and the Red Raiders down 7-3 in the 6th inning. The game wasn’t over, but it wasn’t looking good. It was over after the 6th inning. Sublette gave each runner a free base on a wild pitch but did get Michigan to pop into the second out. Then all hell broke loose. He walked the next two, the second of which was for a run with bases loaded, and then a double by Michigan plated two more. Sublette was pulled at 10-3, and Michigan would score both men Sublette had left on base to put the game away.
Still, Sublette’s 2019 season, on the whole, showed some very real improvement. He would post a 4.76 ERA and followed it up in the shortened 2020 season with a 3.86 ERA. 2021 got off to another poor start with a tough outing against an extremely good Arkansas team, but everything from Sublette since has been terrific. He put together a sterling 2.2 innings in the series win over a good Oklahoma State team, but it wasn’t an overly high-pressure situation with Tech ahead 6-3 when he entered. Sublette still hadn’t faced down an elite team when the chips were down. All of which brings us to Saturday’s TCU game. TCU’s bats were hot. Momentum was on their side, having tied up the game in the previous inning.
This time, Ryan Sublette was ready. He would only face three batters in the seventh inning, forcing a flyout, a strikeout, and a runner caught stealing who reached only due to an error. In the eighth, only three batters again with a groundout, groundout, and pop out. The leadoff man in the ninth reached on a single, but Sublette would strike out the next two batters. Things got tense after another single put two men on with two outs, but a flyout kept things level at five and sent the game into extra innings. Sublette would hit a batter in the 10th, but otherwise, put together a pair of strikeouts and a lineout. Cal Conley would open the home half of the 10th with the walk-off home run, made only possible because Sublette kept a TCU squad full of quality hitters off the board for four full innings.
Sublette came to Tech with two pitches but has added a third to his arsenal over the years. As it stands, it’s clear that it’s paying dividends. He is currently second on the team in 2021 ERA at 2.95 to only Monteverde among TTU pitchers who have registered a decision. He is a perfect 4-0, has 29 strikeouts to only six walks, and has also had full command with only three wild pitches and two hit batters on the year. With the news that Brandon Birdsell has torn his rotator cuff and will miss significant time, Sublette may be stepping up at the right time. Regardless, the perseverance and work put in by Ryan Sublette have added another great pitcher to the Tech bullpen, and it’s hard not to love to see it paying off for both Sublette and the Red Raider Baseball team.