On May 4th, Texas Tech faced off against the Sooners in a non-conference matchup in Amarillo in which the Red Raider bats heated up and carried Tech to a dominant 14-4 win. In Friday’s opener, it appeared early on like the Red Raiders were headed for another route. Tech loaded the bases in the first inning and Cody Masters cleared them with a grand slam, and it was 4-0 before Oklahoma had even stepped in the batter’s box. The Sooners would plate one in the second inning on a sacrifice fly, but Jace Jung answered in the following frame with a solo HR, and Tech still appeared in control as it held a 5-1 lead going into the 4th inning.
The Sooners, however, would not go down quietly and piled up hits in the 4th inning. Oklahoma hit single after single to cut the lead to 5-3, and with two men on base, hit a 3-run homer to take the lead. It looked like things would get even worse with a double and a pair of wild pitches, but Tech got out of the inning. Still, the damage was done, and it was an entirely new ballgame with the Red Raiders now trailing 6-5. Tech would only manage a single in the top of the 5th, and a double ended Patrick Monteverde’s day in the bottom of the 5th, an outing which certainly wasn’t Monteverde’s best. Tim Tadlock has been finding ways to get do-it-all athlete Kurt Wilson on the field while he rehabs a thumb injury. Wilson made a pinch-run appearance against Texas and pitched in the dominant win over Oklahoma in Amarillo.
With Monteverde departing and a man on second with one out, Tadlock surprisingly tabbed Wilson in a key situation. In retrospect, Tech perhaps should have gone to one of its more experienced arms. Wilson walked the first batter he faced, and the Sooners advanced both men on a groundout. A wild pitch would bring in Oklahoma’s seventh run of the game, but a groundout ended the inning. Now down 7-5, Tech had work to do in the top of the sixth. Cal Conley got on base, and Cole Stilwell would hit a home run to square the game at 7-7. The game would stay that way through the bottom of the 7th. Brendan Girton had come in after Wilson but got himself in a tough situation in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners on the corners and only one out.
Tadlock went to his ace closer in Ryan Sublette, but the result was identical to Wilson’s, as Sublette tossed a wild pitch that brought in a run. Sublette would strike out the next two he faced, but the Sooners again held the lead at 8-7. Cal Conley hit a solo home run in the 8th to tie the game up again at 8-8. Sublette found a groove and retired the next six batters he faced in order, with four of those being strikeouts. This sent the game into extra innings, where an Oklahoma leadoff triple put the game in a precarious situation. Tech would toss its third run-scoring wild pitch to drop the opener 8-9 in frustrating fashion.
The Red Raiders would take out those frustrations the remainder of the series. Game two began with a pair of doubles from Max Marusak and Jung that put Tech on the board 1-0. Micah Dallas would make quick work of the Sooners in the bottom half of the 1st, and Fulford would earn a walk in the second to be brought in by a Dru Baker single to push the lead to 2-0. The Sooners would get one man on base in the bottom of the second, but Dallas got the strikeout to end the inning. In the third inning, Texas Tech would pour it on.
Singles by Jace Jung and Cole Stilwell and a wild pitch put two Red Raiders in scoring position with only one out. Easton Murrell earned a walk to load the bases, and a Dillon Carter double plated Jung and Stillwell to push the lead to 4-0 with still two men in scoring position. Again Tech walked to load the bases, this time with Parker Kelly earning the free pass. Dru Baker entered and hit a grand slam to bust the game wide open and give Tech an 8-0 lead in only the third inning. The Sooners put a few men on in the bottom of the third to try and answer, but Dallas again got the strikeout to shut it down.
Dallas would continue to come through with key strikeouts, as three Oklahoma batters reached in the fourth inning, but none made it home. Tech’s lead grew to 9-0 in the fifth inning as Easton Murrell was brought home by a Dru Baker single for Baker’s fifth RBI of the day. Oklahoma finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning on an RBI single, but Tech still held a comfortable 9-1 lead, and it would stay that way until the 7th inning when a Braxton Fulford dinger made it 10-1 to open the inning.
Dillon Carter would reach on a single, and a Dru Baker walk followed by a throwing error put runners on the corners. Tadlock, who isn’t one to typically move the runners, put on the double steal successfully to make it 11-1. The Sooners attempted to limit the damage by intentionally walking Jung, but then unintentionally walked Cole Stilwell to load up the bases. Cal Conley proceeded to hit Tech’s second grand slam of the day to make it 15-1, and the rout was truly on. Micah Dallas was no longer needed after a fine six innings of work, and Connor Queen would replace him and allow one run in the final three innings to finish off an impressive 15-2 win.
Sunday’s rubber match turned into a home run derby for Texas Tech. This series and the game in Amarillo had already featured plenty of bombs from Red Raider hitters, but the display on Sunday was truly impressive. Unlike Saturday’s game, there wouldn’t be any grand slams, but five different Tech players hit home runs, and all but one went for multiple RBIs. By the end of the day, the wall behind centerfield had been pelted with baseballs. That is, except for Jung, who instead hit over it with a towering shot that may not have landed yet. Jung is currently tied for 4th nationally in home runs and 2nd in RBIs.
The game frankly was over as soon as both teams took the field. Texas Tech had 14 hits for the second straight game, except this time the feat was accomplished in only seven innings with the run-rule taking effect to mercifully end the onslaught on the Sooner pitchers. For Tech, Mason Montgomery and Chase Hampton combined for a quality day on the mound that limited Oklahoma to only two runs, but they didn’t even need to be as good as they were considering how well Tech was hitting.
The Red Raiders entered this series right on the edge of position for a national seed and thus needed a good result from the weekend to stay in the hunt. Friday’s loss put that in jeopardy, but the dominance on Saturday and Sunday impressed enough to more than offset that. Tech is now No. 5 in the D1 Baseball Top 25, No. 7 in the Baseball America poll, and No. 8 in RPI. A sweep of the Jayhawks would likely secure a top-eight finish and a national seed, as would a series win and a win or two in the Big XII Championship.
Texas Tech was mathematically eliminated from the Big XII regular-season title race with Friday’s loss but rebounded as well as they possibly could have to remain in control of their destiny to host a Super Regional. That Tech won the series against whichever team ends up as Big XII champion stings, as this Red Raider squad certainly could win the conference. Perhaps if the injury bug hadn’t bitten quite as much, Tech would have pulled off a few more sweeps to win the league, but the bigger Omaha goals are still very much in play. If Saturday and Sunday’s efforts are any indication, Tech may be peaking at the right time.