LUBBOCK — Despite the Longhorns’ resiliency and the quality of bats up and down the lineup in 2018, neither could overcome a season-high ten walks issued to Texas Tech hitters. The Red Raiders recovered from Friday’s down-by-their-standards offensive performance to score in seven of eight at bats and explode offensively to tie the series with a 16-5 win.
Junior Chase Shugart held Tech scoreless in the first, but a solo shot from TTU shortstop Michael Davis plus a triple and eventual run from TTU center fielder Cody Farhat, part of his 4-for-4 day, gave the Red Raiders a 2-1 lead after three.
The fourth didn’t look like it would be a big offensive inning for Texas Tech especially after Shugart earned two groundouts on six pitches. But Shugart struggled to find the zone to get that third out. He walked three straight batters to load the bases for Farhat who delivered with a single up the middle on a 0-1 pitch to score two.
Shugart returned for the fifth and earned a quick groundout. He then couldn’t put away Tech right fielder Brian Klein with a 0-2 count, allowing a double. He got behind another batter, and was punished for it. Josh Jung sent a ball over the center field fence to make it 6-1, but the Tech offense was not finished.
Texas could not escape the inning despite recording the first two outs, and another double allowed by Shugart scored one more. Pierce brought in junior Matteo Bocchi to relieve Shugart but he couldn’t cool the Red Raider bats.
Farhat singled to bring in one of his three RBIs on the day, and a failed pickoff by Bocchi let one more come around. After five, Tech held a 9-1 lead. Texas head coach David Pierce knew his opponents could and would hit against his staff. What troubled him was the additional help his team gave to the hometown team.
“You’ve got to pitch ahead and you’ve got to attack the strike zone because you’re never going to win games if you give up 12 free passes and eight of them score,” Pierce said. “It’s just impossible for your offense and your defense to continue to overcome.”
Though Texas fought back with two in the sixth and seventh, Tech successfully responded in each frame with several runs coming as a result of one of those ten walks.
“We’re in Lubbock with 4000 feet elevation,” Pierce said. “It’s a great park to hit in, you have to understand that. You have to earn it and we gave it to them.”
Texas was able to use some arms during non-pressure situations in order to get them some work prior to the conference tournament. Pitchers like juniors Beau Ridgeway and Chris Fearon fit this description, but not the pitcher Pierce brought out in the seventh.
With runners on first and second and a 2-0 count, Pierce brought in freshman Bryce Elder. Elder has been one of Texas’ most reliable arms and used arms out of the bullpen with today’s 20th appearance tied for the team lead.
He entered not trying to retain a lead or keep a game close, but with a 2-0 count and runners on in a game his team was trailing by six runs.
“In a blowout game, I wanted him to feel the mound,” Pierce said explaining his usage of the freshman. “All I wanted him to do is feel his release point and feel the mound to be ready for tomorrow. He’s a guy that will bounce back. He’s one of our best strike throwers. He’s fighting confidence and we’ve got to pick him up.”
The mound on Dan Law Field appeared steep on TV cameras and was described as such by Pierce postgame. A brief inspection after the game confirmed what Pierce had described in his interview.
Texas now is 32-18 with a 13-7 Big 12 record good enough for second place. The Longhorns are one game ahead of the Red Raiders and the Oklahoma Sooners heading into Sunday’s important rubber match. Conference leading Oklahoma State remains at 15-3 in conference as they are hosting Iowa from the Big 10.
Sophomore Blair Henley is the probable starter tomorrow for the Longhorns, with Texas Tech’s starter still to be announced. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.