LUBBOCK — Texas Tech came into the weekend series as a team known for its bats. It was ranked highly in the country in slugging, average, and runs per game. On Friday, Texas beat the Red Raiders at their own game.
A six-run third that included home runs from sophomore David Hamilton and junior DJ Petrinsky boosted Texas to a four-run advantage. TTU cut the deficit to two after the stretch, but Texas added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth to take game one at Rip Griffin Park, 12-6.
“Just a great offensive performance by the entire lineup,” Texas head coach David Pierce said after the game.
Junior Nolan Kingham started for the Longhorns and it appeared as if his early inning struggles would continue in Lubbock. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt put a TTU runner in scoring position, and a groundout brought him home. However, Kingham left the opening frame with just that one run allowed.
Texas immediately countered in the second with a RBI single from junior Tate Shaw, and Texas looked to be in a chess match with the No. 8 Red Raiders. Then came the third inning.
Sophomore Duke Ellis tripled, with the umpire ruling his hand reached third base just before the tag. Junior Kody Clemens brought him in with a single, giving Texas the lead. Hamilton followed freshman Zach Zubia’s one out walk with a ball that struck the scoreboard in deep right-center to bring home three.
Tech starter Davis Martin didn’t rebound with the next batter, issuing a walk. That brought Petrinsky to the plate. He pulled a high fly ball to left field that Gabe Holt lost in the sun. It didn’t matter as it was found beyond the left field fence making it 7-1.
Those six runs gave Kingham a much-needed cushion. Texas head coach David Pierce said on Wednesday he likely would let his starters extend this weekend with the long break following this series. Though TTU got two back in the third off a two-run home run, Kingham continued to work.
He marched out to begin the fifth with 81 pitches, and two singles didn’t plate any runs. He marched out to begin the sixth with 98 pitches, and two singles once again didn’t plate any runs.
Clemens knocked a solo home-run to deep center in the seventh to give Kingham some help. That wouldn’t be the last time the sellout crowd of 4432 heard from Clemens.
Kingham then marched out to begin the seventh, proving that Pierce didn’t mince words on Wednesday.
The Red Raiders got two back before Kingham was replaced by junior Josh Sawyer, but the lefty failed to record an out. Junior Parker Joe Robinson replaced him, and though he gave up a run on a groundout to the first batter he faced, he locked in and forced a fly-out to end the seventh.
Though Kingham’s line had 11 hits, six runs (four earned), and two walks over 6.1 innings, his 127 pitch effort allowed Pierce to save some bullpen arms for games two and three of an important conference series.
“He was competing,” Pierce said. “He was fresh. His legs were under him. He’s got next week off. He’s got a good 12 days, 14 days off. I had no problem pushing him this weekend.”
Kingham’s performance energized his teammates in the field.
“I love playing behind Nolan,” Clemens said. “He’s got that attitude on the mound that everybody can see, and that type of confidence. He did really well tonight.”
Texas pushed one more across in the eighth on a wild pitch to make it 9-6, still well within striking distance for a potent Texas Tech offense. Robinson kept that distance constant by allowing a leadoff double but retiring the next three batters.
The deficit remained at three heading into the ninth and the crowd remained in the game. That is until Clemens returned to the plate.
Clemens clobbered a 1-1 pitch over the right field fence for his fifteenth home run of the season and his second on the night. It was his first career multi-home run game at Texas.
“We always come in here confident,” Clemens said. “It’s the only way you’ve got to be. I think everybody just saw the ball well today and had great discipline at the plate. It showed.”
Pierce added glowing comments for his star second baseman after the game.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Pierce said. “Not only personally but as a teammate, as a presence in the box, and as a presence in the middle of the lineup. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Texas added two more in the ninth to go up 12-6 before junior Andy McGuire entered to pitch the ninth.
The ninth inning was not clean by any means. McGuire walked two and hit a batter to load the bases with two outs, but he erased the issue with a strikeout to end the game and to give Texas an important road conference win.
Texas not only won, but won convincingly against one of the elite teams in the country. In addition, important bullpen arms like Bryce Elder and Matteo Bocchi were saved for the rest of the weekend. Sawyer can likely return after throwing just 11 pitches.
Tomorrow, the Longhorns can go for a series win that will boost their postseason resume.
“Just an outstanding job by our team, an outstanding job by our offense, and great to get a Friday night win on the road against a very quality team,” Pierce said. “Early turnaround, one o’ clock start tomorrow, so we’ll need to be ready to go.”