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Newcomers Power Hot Start on the Diamond

Photo CC: Texas Tech Athletics

We’re officially through two weeks of the 2022 NCAA baseball season and the Red Raider baseball team is currently sporting a comfortable 6-2 record heading into this weekend’s four-game home series against Merrimack.

While the team is actually one game better than it was this time last season, it took a bit of luck, and a whole lot of Trendan Parish, for this team to get where it is. Four of the team’s six wins have come by three runs or less.

Be that as it may, the Red Raiders are still four games over .500 and are ranked No. 19 nationally by D1 Baseball. For the second season in a row the team has put in a lackluster performance in Arlington and followed it up with a nice win streak.

Opening day saw a breakout performance for one of Tech’s freshman players. One that I failed to mention in my season preview. Owen Washburn, son of former major leaguer Jarrod Washburn, kicked off his collegiate career with a 3-hit and 2-walk performance that ended with a walk-off double.

Washburn’s big opener has not seemed to be a mirage seven games later as he is still leading the team with a .357 batting average and is second only to Jace Jung in on base percentage. He has looked poised and confident at the plate batting high in Tech’s offense, drawing many walks and full counts. It seems like the young southpaw has been letting the game come to him, and it has led to some serious offensive success through the first couple of weeks of the season. Hopefully Washburn can keep his hot streak going into March.

Ty Coleman, a transfer from Texas A&M, has also gotten off to a hot start. Eight games in, he is .002 percent of a batting average away from sporting a team triple crown. Currently, he has a .355 batting average, 2 home runs, and 11 RBIs. He was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week this past week for his impressive play at the plate.

Out of nine Red Raiders who have 20 or more at-bats in the young season, only Washburn and Coleman have a batting average above .300 percent. Obviously 20 at-bats is not a big enough sample to judge anyone on this team particularly accurately, but it is worth noting that their offense has had a hard time stringing hits together in games not against Kent State.

What has stood out early for the Red Raiders has been their defense. The pitching staff has not exactly been 95’ Braves good, but they have done a fine job keeping opposing offenses on their toes and deficits manageable. As of Tuesday, Tech’s staff has the most strikeouts of anyone in the Big 12.

Brandon Birdsell, Andrew Morris, Mason Molina, and Chase Hampton have been Tech’s starters this season. All four have exactly two starts eight games into the season, and all four have shown positive signs in their innings.

Birdsell, the team’s Saturday starter, has been the cream of the crop with a 3.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts in his 9.0 innings pitched. His velocity has been as advertised, with his fastball sitting comfortably in the mid 90s. Unfortunately, he did receive the loss against Auburn in his first start of the season, but you cannot feel bad about a performance where he allowed just two runs in his start.

Molina and Hampton have both impressed as well with 3.86 and 4.09 ERAs, respectively. Molina has already struck out 12 batters in just 7.0 innings of work this season while working as the team’s Sunday starter.

Hampton has been working as a mid-week starter, having pitched on back-to-back Tuesdays to kick off his sophomore campaign. He has 12 strikeouts too, but he has pitched 4.0 more innings than Molina, albeit in one more appearance. Once the season slows down, Hampton figures to head back to the bullpen where he did most of his damage in 2021.

The only real positive to talk about with the transfer Morris is that he currently leads the team with 16 strikeouts. This is in spite of his 9.00 ERA. In 9.0 innings he has allowed 15 base runners and three home runs across his pair of starts.

Again, it is early, so now is no time to get too down about anyone on this roster. If his numbers do not look a little more favorable in another two weeks, then we can talk about him in a little more detail.

Now onto the bullpen. Brendan Girton has impressed early. He got knocked up a bit against Kent State this past weekend, but he was absolutely essential to Tech’s opening day win over Michigan and has an ERA of 3.24 and a WHIP of 1.08 in four appearances.

Girton’s partner in crime in the bullpen early has been, surprisingly, freshman Trendan Parish. Parish through five appearances looks like an early candidate for the Mariano Rivera Award. That’s right, the AL reliever award. Not the NL reliever award.

Parish has pitched 9.0 innings and is yet to allow a run or a fourth hit this season while striking out 12 pitchers. Of Tech’s six wins, Parish has collected the save in four of them. Micah Dallas, who?

Parish and Coleman would be Tech’s co-MVPs of the first two weeks (with Washburn on the stage receiving bronze) if that was a real award. They are the three Red Raiders who I am looking the most forward to seeing in the coming weeks.

Seeing if Jace Jung, the Greek god of walks, can get his batting average above .300 percent will also be on the docket of things to look for against Merrimack, Mississippi State, and Rice.

6-2 in a fine record, but there is a reason that the Red Raiders are still not ranked top-10 nationally. They still have a lot to prove. As I went over a couple of weeks ago, this team lost a lot of known commodities. Their newcomers are going to have to dazzle for a lot longer than two weeks before they turn any heads nationally.

In the meantime, I am going to sit back and enjoy this early baseball season while cringing at all tweets by Jeff Passan and anyone else covering the MLB lockout. With the major league opening day officially delayed and the college basketball season nearing its end, this baseball team could mean a lot more to the average Red Raider fan two weeks from now.

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