Even when it isn’t at full strength, the Texas Tech baseball team can be a dangerous squad. The Red Raiders proved that to be true this weekend by taking two of three games from No. 10 TCU in Lubbock despite playing the entire series without Dru Baker and playing without Dylan Neuse for all but one at-bat.
Both players entered the weekend listed as day-to-day with no word on Baker’s injury. Meanwhile, Neuse was slowed after being hit on the left ankle by a pitch in a mid-week scrimmage.
Fortunately, the rest of the Texas Tech lineup came through and for most of the weekend, it was the long-ball that took center stage.
In all, the Red Raiders would belt seven homers on the weekend. That included four from second baseman Jace Jung who had three in Sunday’s 17-7 victory that saw the game called after 6.5 innings due to the 10-run rule.
Also going deep in the series finale was Cole Stillwell and Cody Masters as Tech handed TCU their second-straight loss in Big 12 play after the Horned Frogs entered the season 6-0 in the league standings. In all, the Red Raiders pounded out 13 hits with five players collecting at least a pair.
But it was Jung who stole the show. The Big 12 leader with 15 dingers, he went deep in the bottom of the first to give Tech a 1-0 lead. He then repeated that feat with a solo blast in the 6th to push Tech’s advantage to 9-5. Finally, he concluded his day with a 3-run shot later in that inning as Tech would plate nine runs in that frame to blow open the game.
In the top of the 6th, TCU actually had the equalizing run at the plate but Red Raider catcher Braxton Fulford got his team out of the jam by throwing behind the runner at first for a successful pickoff play. After that, the Red Raider bats made certain to put the game out of reach.
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On Saturday, life with a bit more dramatic at Rip Griffin Park. But again, a Red Raider long ball would be the story of the day. With the game knotted at 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th, shortstop Cal Conley blasted a no-doubt homer to left field for the walk-off win. It was the second Red Raider walk-off homer in extra innings this season.
Conley’s heroics put an end to a back-and-forth contest. And it put an end to a three-game Big 12 losing streak.
After dropping the final two games of last weekend’s series at Kansas State, the Red Raiders were reeling a little bit after dropping the first game of the TCU series 7-3. On Friday, the Frogs jumped all over the Red Raiders with six first-inning runs and Tech could never climb back into the game.
But Tim Tadlock’s team was able to battle back, despite the absence of two of its best players, Baker, who is hitting .427 and who has 15 RBI on the season, and Neuse, the team’s regular center fielder. And this could be a turning series when it comes to the regular-season Big 12 race.
Had the Frogs been able to take the series, Tech’s chances of winning the conference would have taken a significant hit give that TCU swept its first two conference series of the year. But now, the Red Raiders are right back in the mix and it’s all thanks to the long ball which helped carried Tech to two huge wins over the boys from Fort Worth.