The Texas Tech baseball team has been waiting most of the Big 12 Conference season to take that big leap forward, and Sunday was a perfect chance to do just that.
The Red Raiders got the pitching performance they needed from left-hander Jonny Drozd, who threw 72/3 scoreless innings. But he got no offensive help and was one-upped by OSU starter Mark Robinette, and in the end a shaky Tech bullpen proved to be the difference.
No. 19 OSU struck for three runs on three hits a balk and a walk off two Tech relievers in the ninth, breaking a scoreless tie en route to a 3-0 win and a 2-1 series victory over the Red Raiders at Rip Griffin Park.
“Just frustrated,” Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said. “I don’t know about emotion, but just frustrated. Ball lands over the outfielder in no-doubles (defense). That’s frustrating, just the whole frustrating deal, the whole inning basically was, the way it started. And a little disappointed in the bullpen, obviously.”
Causing the disappointment is that Tech could have taken a huge step toward securing a berth in the Big 12 Championships later this month with a win. At worst, Tech (22-26, 7-14 in Big 12) will enter the final series at home against Baylor May 16-18 with a one-game lead on Texas (6-15) for eighth place in the Big 12 standings, with the top eight teams going to Oklahoma City May 22-26.
Both teams are off for finals this week before Tech hosts Baylor and UT is at TCU. Tech’s one-game lead means its magic number is two — any combination of two Tech wins vs. the Bears (who were swept by Kansas), a win and a UT loss to TCU, or two Longhorns losses in Fort Worth — to qualify for the postseason tournament.
One more loss in their final five games will ensure the Red Raiders’ third overall losing season in the last five years. But that is of little concern to the Tech head coach.
“What matters is getting into the postseason,” Tadlock said. “Then, the last time I checked, if you keep winning in the postseason you get to keep playing a long time. All that will take care of itself.”
Drozd gave Tech a chance at that win on Sunday with arguably his best outing of the season, considering the circumstances. He scattered four hits and four walks with four strikeouts, overcoming some early struggles with the help of his defense to hold the Cowboys off the scoreboard.
OSU (34-12, 9-8) got the leadoff runner on in four of the first five innings, including having the bases loaded and one out in the third. Each time, however, Drozd pitched his way out of the jams.
“I focused on keeping the ball down ... especially since in Saturday’s game they hit it so well,” said Drozd, who set career marks for innings pitched and number of pitches (113). “I just focused on that and made sure not to let them square it up too bad.”
Robinette (5-0) went a step further, holding Tech scoreless in a complete-game effort. He didn’t allow a single walk while striking out seven, and retired 10 of the last 11 Tech batters he faced in throwing 131 pitches.
The Red Raiders had just two legitimate scoring chances in the game, getting runners to first and second with two outs in the fifth and sixth innings. Each time, however, Robinette came back to make the pitch to get out of the inning.
“We didn’t get the two-out hits today even though we had a couple of chances,” Tadlock said.
Oklahoma State, down to its last chance, took advantage.
Johnathon Tripp (1-2), who pitched Tech out of a two-out, two-on situation in the eighth, gave up a leadoff double to Zach Fish just out of the reach of a diving Brennan Moore in right-center. Andre Wheeler came on and proceeded to balk Fish to third, then walked Victor Romero to put runners at the corners.
Rick Stover then ripped a 1-2 pitch over Moore to the wall in right to break the scoreless tie and put runners at second and third. With the defense pulled in, nine-hole hitter Gage Green bounced a single over second baseman Bryant Burleson and into center to score two runs and make it 3-0.
Tech got a runner to second in the ninth on a dropped fly in left by Jarrett Higgins before Robinette struck out pinch-hitter Brett Bell and got Jarrard Poteete on a fly to center.
Sandwiched around Tech’s final-exam schedule, the Red Raiders host Dallas Baptist at 3 p.m. Tuesday and play a road game against Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. May 15.
They’ll be trying to wash away the taste of Sunday’s loss in the process.
“These two games (at Arizona State after finals) are important,” Tadlock said. “It’s important for us to get back to basics and play good baseball, offensively and defensively.”
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OKLAHOMA STATE 3, TEXAS TECH 0
Oklahoma State Texas Tech
Player ab r h bi Player ab r h bi
Saxon cf 2 0 0 0 Conley cf 4 0 0 0
Walton 2b 3 0 0 0 Burleson 2b 4 0 1 0
Kritmeier 1b 4 0 0 0 Barrios 3b 4 0 0 0
McCurry ss 2 0 0 0 Gutierrez 1b 4 0 1 0
Rea 3b 3 0 1 0 Proudfoot ss 3 0 1 0
Fish rf 4 1 2 0 Bell ph 1 0 0 0
Romero c 3 0 0 0 Poteete dh 4 0 1 0
Higgins pr 0 1 0 0 Moore rf 3 0 0 0
Nurdin dh 0 0 0 0 Ritchie lf 3 0 2 0
Stover dh 4 1 2 1 Randolph c 3 0 0 0
Green lf 4 0 2 2
Totals 29 3 7 3 Totals 33 0 6 0
Oklahoma St. 000 000 003 — 3 7 1
Texas Tech 000 000 000 — 0 6 0
E — Higgins (4). DP — Texas Tech 1. LOB — Oklahoma State 9, Texas Tech 6. SH — Saxon 2(10), Walton (13). CS — Fish (2), Conley (1).
Pitcher ip h r er bb so
Robinette (W, 5-0) 9 6 0 0 0 7
Drozd 72/3 4 0 0 4 4
Tripp (L, 1-2) 1/3 1 1 1 0 0
Wheeler 2/3 2 2 2 1 1
HBP — by Drozd (Rea), by Drozd (Saxon). BK — Wheeler (2). U — Harmon, Droll, Oros. T — 2:36. A — 2,816. Records: Oklahoma State 34-12, 9-8 in Big 12; Texas Tech 22-26, 7-14.