Texas Tech Flips the Script to Beat Texas in Austin
History repeated itself this past weekend.
In 2018, it was Texas who took two of three in Lubbock, which marked Texas Tech’s last series loss until April 25 of this year.
The opposite occurred in Austin now three years later, as #14 Texas Tech stunned the third-ranked Longhorns, winning the first two games of the series before the hosts earned an 11-3 win in the series finale.
Texas Tech’s bats lived up to expectations, challenging the Longhorn pitching staff, especially in the series’ first two games.
The result of the weekend caused a shift in the Big 12 standings, as Texas, previously tied for first with TCU, dropped two games behind the Horned Frogs with a 13-4 record. The Red Raiders gained one game on the Longhorns, and remain embedded in third with a 10-8 mark.
Texas Tech’s marquee series win, especially after falling to Baylor last weekend, propelled the Red Raiders back into the Big 12 title conversation, and into the #10 spot in College Baseball Nation’s most recent rankings.
Texas slid four spots back to #7.
Texas Tech’s 6-3 game one victory was in large part due to its offensive performance, and the fact that Texas’ strongest weapon, starter Ty Madden, had an uncharacteristic showing on the mound.
The Red Raider bats generated an early 1-0 lead in the second behind a solo home run from Braxton Fulford, and sealed the win with five runs between the fourth and fifth innings.
Texas had countered with two runs of its own in the third to take a narrow 2-1 lead, but was overpowered when Texas Tech shook Madden’s composure, beginning with a triple from Cody Masters down the right field line that scored Fulford and tied the score. A passed ball in the following at-bat gave Masters time to race home from third, and with the lead now in their possession, the visitors from Lubbock did not look back.
Madden was sent to the showers following a three-run fifth, his final stat line revealing just how good Texas Tech was offensively in the early goings. The junior gave up five runs, the most he had in a start this season, along with five hits, and three walks. His velocity was at its typical level, with seven strikeouts, but the Red Raiders timed up to his pitches.
The second game of the series was critical for both teams, and was close for the entirety of the contest, with Texas Tech earning the series victory in a 5-3 win. It was the first series Texas had lost since the final weekend of the 2019 season, and the mood postgame at Disch-Falk Field reflected that.
Texas had its chances though, notably a bases loaded situation down 5-3 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Pinch hitter Silas Ardoin was called upon, hitting .256 entering the at-bat as the team’s primary catcher. Then Texas Tech’s Ryan Sublette, who tallied the win on Friday, entered the game in relief, and struck out Ardoin on three straight pitches, ending Texas’ rally. The final pitch of the at-bat was on the outside edge as Ardoin was called out looking, but as Coach David Pierce said postgame, Ardoin needs to learn to be more aggressive in two-strike situations.
“We didn’t overthink it, we just weren’t aggressive,” Pierce said. “I think Silas has to understand and learn from that. Bases-loaded with a strike thrower, he’s going to come at you. Whether that last pitch was a strike or not, [the umpire] called it a strike, and I think when you get in those situations with the pitch in the umpire’s hand, that’s what we want to avoid.”
Texas pushed two across earlier in the inning, both coming on bases-loaded walks, to cut the deficit to 5-3, but that was as close as the Longhorns got.
There was also another factor in Ardoin’s at-bat, one that does not appear on the box score.
Just before Ardoin stepped to the plate, with much of the home crowd on its feet and Texas clearly maintaining the momentum, the light sprinkle of rain turned into a downpour, joined by lightning. The storm blew across central Texas, and suspended the contest...until Sunday.
When the two teams met on Sunday, and the game picked up where it had left off the day before, something was different. No longer was there a clear momentum in favor of Texas. Both teams had been put on an even level, and both Ardoin and Sublette had over 11 hours to think about the next play.
“It was just kind of surreal, to be honest with you,” Pierce said. “I’ve never done that. Had plenty of rain delays but to actually go the next day and start a game as the home team in that situation was a weird setting.
“We knew it was going to be Sublette, and that played in their favor. If we were able to just delay that thing and play Saturday night, I think it plays in our favor whether we get it done or not.”
As pivotal as Sublette was in closing out the victory, it was the Red Raiders’ bats that put Texas Tech in front early for the second straight game.
The contest was a rubber match for the first five innings, but things unraveled in the sixth, as the Texas Tech offense broke out of its shell. The Red Raiders pushed across five runs in the sixth, including three straight hits, all of which scored runners, with two outs off Texas starter Tristan Stevens.
With the series already decided, Texas displayed a short-term memory and put together a solid performance in game three, winning 11-3. Texas Tech’s hitters, who had been so successful in the series’ first two games, were held at bay, as Pete Hansen entered the game in relief and fired 7.2 innings with just one earned run.
Hansen was called on to pitch in the first inning, after the game appeared to be getting out of hand with starter Kolby Kubichek on the mound. Kubichek was pulled after facing four batters, giving up two hits, two walks, and a run without tallying a single out.
Unlike his predecessor, Hansen was on point, and though the Longhorns' bats scored the most runs in a game since April 18 against Abilene Christian, he was the story of the game.
Inconsistent at times this season, Hansen did allow seven hits, but displayed excellent command, and did not walk a batter. His slider worked to his advantage as he moved to 5-1 on the year.
His start not only earned him a win, but also a new role for next weekend’s series at TCU. Pierce said postgame that Hansen is Texas’ new Sunday starter.
"We definitely have to go and move Pete into that Sunday role right now," Pierce said following Sunday's victory.
Texas looked strong in game three, but Texas Tech deserves plenty of credit for its victories in the series’ first two games, especially considering the Red Raiders were on the road, facing a Longhorns squad that entered the series having won seven of its last eight.
Dru Baker headlined the Texas Tech offense, going 6-for-14 as the leadoff hitter. He also had the Red Raiders’ final two RBI on Sunday, hitting well throughout the series with runners in scoring position. Jace Jung, who entered the weekend with a sky high .368 batting average, was quieter than expected, with a 2-for-8 weekend.
Texas had contributions from several different players, including Ardoin, who battled back from his eighth-inning strikeout in game two and went 2-for-4 with three runs in the series finale.
Texas has little time to stay frustrated, considering a road trip to TCU awaits next weekend. That series is likely to decide the Big 12’s regular season title.
Texas Tech will take a week off of conference action, and host UIC in a four-game set in Lubbock next weekend. The Red Raiders will also face Oklahoma in a non-conference duel Tuesday in Amarillo.