The news that Tim Tadlock would entrust the regional opener to the arm of Chase Hampton instead of Patrick Monteverde, Micah Dallas, or Mason Montgomery was a bit of a surprise, as was the inclusion of Kurt Wilson in the starting lineup for the first time since suffering a broken thumb earlier in the season. Tadlock pushed the right buttons here, though, as Wilson looked no worse for the wear and Hampton turned in a terrific performance to largely save its most experienced arms for the remainder of the regional.
Army would strike first with some small ball on a perfectly placed drag bunt to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Texas Tech looked like it would answer and then some by getting its first two batters on base in the bottom of the first, but a pair of flyouts and a strikeout ended the threat. Hampton made quick work of the Black Knights in the second inning, and just as in the first, Tech was able to get two men on with no outs in their half of the inning.
A Kurt Wilson sacrifice fly put runners on the corners. Parker Kelly, who was in the midst of a hitting slump, crushed a double through left-center that very nearly went for a home run. Unfortunately for Tech, the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double which only scored one run instead of two. A fly-out and a strikeout ended the inning with Tech only plating a run.
With the game at 1-1 entering the 3rd inning and Tech having left multiple runners in scoring position, things were still a bit nervy. A leadoff single only added to this, and Army proceeded to move the runner around the basepath on a steal to second. The Black Knights would send the runner towards third on a strikeout and it appeared that Tech was about to pull off the unconventional double play on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out, but Fulford’s throw was in the dirt and Kelly wasn’t able to snag it. The ball deflected into the outfield and the runner trotted in to give Army the lead once again at 2-1.
Tech started the third with a Jace Jung single, and Cole Stilwell hit a ball to the fence that was snagged at the wall. The frustrations for the Tech bats were piling up, and Cal Conley stepped up to the plate. Conley didn’t leave anything to chance at the wall as he obliterated a pitch over right center field into the trees beyond the park to allow Tech to regain the lead at 3-2. That would be all for Tech in the third inning, but the big hit turned the tide a bit. Army wasn’t interested in going quietly, though. The Black Knights earned a leadoff walk and put another man on with a single to have two on with one out.
Army would test Kelly at third base with a line drive hit, but Parker was keen on redeeming himself for letting one skip away earlier. Kelly made a diving stop and stepped on third, then threw across the diamond for a terrific double play. Having fully seized the momentum now, Kurt Wilson opened the Tech half of the fourth inning with a double, and Braxton Fulford blasted a homer over left-center to push the lead to 5-2. In the fifth inning, Cal Conley would show off his fielding skills with a whirling throw to first. Easton Murrell misplayed a ball in the outfield and very nearly handed Army another gift run, but the runner was thrown out at home.
When Tech took the field in the bottom of the 5th, Conley decided that he hadn’t put on enough of a show yet, so he hit his second homer of the day off of the scoreboard and Tech found itself leading 6-2 heading into the sixth inning. Hampton would work a scoreless sixth, and Tech was unable to get anything of its own going in the inning. Hampton’s day ended here, but it was undoubtedly a good one in which Tadlock’s faith in giving him the big start was rewarded. Connor Queen replaced Hampton, and the only mark on his day happened against the second batter he faced who hit a solo home run.
This 6-3 score would end up being how the game finished, and the other interesting development was Micah Dallas entering in the ninth inning to close out the win. Dallas did exactly that in getting the Black Knights to go in order to secure Tech’s opening round victory and entry into the comforts of the winner’s bracket. The Red Raiders will face a North Carolina squad that pulled a bit of an upset against a UCLA team that was a trendy pick to perhaps win the regional. So far for Tech, things are going about as well as they could hope, but there is plenty of work left to be done.