The Red Raiders opened the 2023 season with Sophmore Pitcher Kyle Robinson who potentially due to first collegiate start jitters, gave up five hits and four runs in just two innings. The defense also got off to a rocky start with a couple of errors to start the day ,but all hope was not lost. Brendan Girton came out in relief in the 2nd inning for the Red Raiders and completely shut down the Zags. Girton pitched six shutout innings in his season debut, allowing only one hit. The Zags led heading into the bottom of the third until Austin Green was up to the plate, hitting his first home run as a Red Raider and the first home run of the season, scoring three, tying up the game at 4-4. Neither team scored again until the bottom of the 5th when Gavin Kash hit the second home run of opening day to plate two, giving the Red Raiders the lead. The Red Raiders scored a couple more runs throughout the end of the game to take the season opener 8-4.
Game two saw minor changes to the lineup, with Dylan Maxcey taking over at catcher for Hudson White. Mason Molina made his sophomore season debut for the Red Raiders on the mound, allowing only one hit and recording seven strikeouts. The Red Raiders’ bats were making contact early, though much of that contact ended in flyouts for a while until Austin Green was able to capitalize off an RBI double to begin the scoring for the Red Raiders in the bottom of the 3rd inning. The Red Raiders continued to put up unanswered numbers against the Zags until the 8th inning when the Zags plated 3 to make the game 9-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th, where the Red Raiders answered and brought the score to 10-3 to then shut down the Zags in the top of the 9th and secure the win. We saw some freshmen arms in the bullpen with Zane Petty and Taber Fast making their first appearance of the season. Petty pitched one inning in relief, allowing no hits and no walks with one strikeout. Fast threw for two innings in relief, allowing no hits, just one walk and recording two strikeouts.
Bo Blessie took the mound for the Red Raiders and showed incredible improvement from the previous season, pitching for six innings, allowing just one hit and recording four strikeouts, all in his first start as a Red Raider. Once again, the lineup saw minor changes, Will Burns getting the start at shortstop for Tracer Lopez, Damian Bravo replacing Owen Washburn in left field. Gage Harrelson moved from the 2-hole in the lineup down to the 8-hole. Gage Harrelson got the scoring started for game 3 in the bottom of the 4th with an RBI double to give the Red Raiders a 2-0 lead.
Will Burns added another shortly after with a sacrifice flyout moving the score to 3-0 heading into the 5th. In the top of the 5th, Hudson White showed off his power from behind the plate as he secured the final out of the Zags’ half of the inning by throwing out Brock Bozzett as he tried to steal second. In the Red Raiders half of the 5th, Kevin Bazzell recorded his first collegiate home run on the first pitch of the inning to put one more run on the board for Tech. The Red Raiders were able to capitalize again in the bottom of the 6th inning as Ty Coleman, Gavin Kash, and Hudson White had RBI at-bats to extend the lead to 9-0. The Zags were able to get their first run on the board in the top of the 8th, but the Red Raiders answered in their half of the 8th with Ty Coleman securing his 5th hit of the day with a bases-clearing double and Hudson White with another sacrifice flyout to bring the score to 12-1. The Zags scored a pair of runs across in the 9th, but the Red Raiders came out on top 12-3.
Trendan Parish opened the final game of the series for the Red Raiders and gave up a run in the first inning. Parish thrived when under pressure with batters in scoring positions. After almost four full innings, Parish was pulled with two outs on the board, and Brandon Beckel came in, keeping the Red Raiders trailing by only one. The Red Raiders called on three more pitchers throughout game four, Garrett Crowley, Josh Sanders, and Damian Bravo. Sanders’s appearance in game four was his second appearance of the series going for two innings after closing game one on Friday.
While there were minor changes throughout the series, game four saw a glimpse at the duality this team possesses. Taber Fast was brought in for an inning at first base, and Damian Bravo, who played in the lineup and right field in game three, coming in to close on the mound. The Red Raiders entered a scoring drought after putting up two in the first and didn’t score again until the 5th inning when Gavin Kash tied up the game at 3 with an RBI hit. Hudson White followed this with RBI double to put the Red Raiders on top at the end of the 5th. The Zags fought back, and tied things back up at five going into the 7th. Gavin Kash put the Red Raiders ahead again in the bottom of the 7th with an RBI triple, his second triple of the series. A back-and-forth battle began between the Red Raiders and the Zags which led to a tie once again at 8 heading into the bottom of the 9th. The Red Raiders ended the series with an almost bang after loading the bases tied up in the bottom of the 9th. The win was secured with just a walk-off walk, but a win nonetheless taking down the Zags 9-8.
Gavin Kash is the real deal. In his first series with the Red Raiders, he hit .692 and had an OPS of 1.953 with nine hits and eight RBI. Gage Harrelson shows almost no signs of being a true freshman, his speed and accuracy at the plate are incredibly impressive and leave much to look forward to down the stretch of the season. This team did have bumps on the defensive front, racking up errors in all but one game of the series (4-0-1-6), the most coming in game four at six, but despite those errors the Red Raiders were able to work through the struggles and come away with a sweep to open their season. We saw impressive pitching outings from Brendan Girton Friday, Mason Molina Saturday, and Bo Blessie on Sunday, leaving much promise and comfort for fans when looking toward conference play.
Ty Coleman proved why he was named first-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12 after ending the series with a .467 batting average with seven hits and six RBI and going 5-5 from the plate in game three. After attending all four games of this series in person, one of the things that stuck out to me was the personality this team processes. They were communicating on offense between each at bat and seemed to click together in a way that is not often seen this early on rebuild teams. Each game in this series saw in-game changes to the lineup as well as defensive changes during later innings. While we did not see dramatic lineup changes in this series, we got a glimpse at this team’s versatility. Though this is only the first series of the season, it’s clear there is much to look forward to from this team going forward.