Much of the preseason for the Texas Tech baseball team was spent searching for offense. But going up against a preseason all-American on opening day, head coach Tim Tadlock banked on playing defense in a low-scoring game.
He was right, but at the same time, he needed just a touch more offense than the Red Raiders could generate in a 1-0 loss to No. 3 Indiana on Friday at Rip Griffin Park.
Hoosiers senior left-hander Joey DeNato shut down Tech (0-1) for six innings, and relievers Scott Effross and Ryan Halstead closed it out with three innings of shutout relief for the Hoosiers (1-0).
The loss breaks a string of five straight opening-day wins for Tech and is their first shutout loss on opening day since 2008.
“When you’ve got a guy throwing mid to upper 80s and he throws one up around your chest, it looks pretty big,” Tadlock said of DeNato. “We moved on him early. Opening day and there might have been a little over aggressiveness from that standpoint. We might see that same pitch in a week and hit it out of the park. Timing will be better, and we helped him early. At the same time we got some good pitches to hit.”
Tech just failed to do anything with them, but unlike last year when strikeouts were the Red Raiders’ offensive downfall, it was DeNato and his ability to get Tech hitters to elevate.
DeNato, who was 10-2 with a 2.52 ERA in helping lead the Hoosiers (1-0) to the College World Series, enticed 10 fly-ball outs of the 21 he recorded, striking out three and walking just one. He worked out of a jam in the second by picking Bryant Burleson off of first with runners at the corners and no outs, and finished by retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
“He’s been very solid for us the first three years,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. “I thought he showed a lot of maturity even in that situation (in the second). He was not rattled and so it’s a luxury to have those guys with some experience behind you.”
DeNato (1-0) got all the run support he would need within the first three batters of the game.
Leadoff hitter Will Nolden greeted Tech starter Dominic Moreno’s first pitch by ripping it to the gap in right-center field for a double. After a grounder to short moved Nolden to third, Sam Travis scored him with a sacrifice fly to center and a 1-0 lead.
“First inning, first pitch, opening day you just try to go and throw a strike, and kudos to (Nolden) because he got all over it,” Moreno said. “That’s what good teams do, they manufacture runs when they need it and that was the difference in the game.”
From there, though, Moreno (0-1) settled down and pitched six solid innings, scattering five total hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The Hoosiers got just two more baserunners into scoring position the rest of the game as Tech left-hander Jonny Drozd worked three perfect innings to close out the game.
Tech pitchers just got no help from the offense, and it wasn’t because of a bunch of newcomers.
Of the nine batters in Tech’s staring lineup, only freshman Matt Broadbent at first and Heath Herrington in left were playing their first Division I game, and Herrington was lifted for a pinch-runner before his first at-bat.
In the second inning, Eric Gutierrez doubled over third and went to third on a bunt single by Bryant Burleson. But Burleson was picked off, Ritchie bounced out off DeNato’s glove, freezing Gutierrez at third, and after an Alec Humphreys walk, Devon Conley, who led Tech with 52 strikeouts last year, collected his first of 2014 to end the inning.
In the fourth, DeNato erased a one-out infield single by Gutierrez by getting Burleson to hit into a double play. Then, in the seventh, Tech wasted a leadoff hit-by-pitch of Barrios with two fly outs and a grounder to third.
Finally, in the eighth, freshmen Anthony Lyons and Ryan Long each had pinch-hit strikeouts around a Tyler Neslony single. Pinch-runner Zach Davis, but senior transfer Adam Kirsch flew to left to end Tech’s last threat of the game.
“We put some freshmen in some tough situations today, but at the same time it was right on left for Lyons and Long,” Tadlock said. “They got fastballs and they can hit fastballs. Ideally you’d like maybe to star them in the game, but it’s game one. We felt like it would be a low-scoring game and we wanted to commit to playing defense and try to piece together some offense. Maybe we need to take a different approach to score some runs.”
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INDIANA 1, TEXAS TECH 0
Indiana Texas Tech
Player ab r h bi Player ab r h bi
Nolden cf 4 1 1 0 Kirsch dh 4 0 0 0
Schwarber c 4 0 1 0 Proudfoot ss 4 0 0 0
Travis 1b 3 0 1 1 Barrios 3b 3 0 0 0
Donley dh 2 0 0 0 Gutierrez rf 4 0 2 0
DeMuth 3b 4 0 0 0 Burleson 2b 3 0 1 0
Smith lf 3 0 1 0 Broadbent 1b 3 0 0 0
O’Conner lf 0 0 0 0 Ritchie rf 0 0 0 0
Dedelow rf 4 0 0 0 Herrington lf 0 0 0 0
Ramos ss 3 0 1 0 Hmphrys ph 1 0 0 0
Rodrigue 2b 3 0 0 0 Lyons ph/lf 1 0 0 0
Conley cf 2 0 0 0
Neslony ph 1 0 1 0
Davis pr/cf 0 0 0 0
Randolph c 2 0 0 0
Long ph 1 0 0 0
Redman c 0 0 0 0
Totals 30 1 5 1 Totals 29 0 4 0
Indiana 100 000 000 — 1 5 0
Texas Tech 000 000 000 — 0 4 0
DP — Indiana 1, Texas Tech 1. LOB — Indiana 6, Texas Tech 4. 2B — Nolden, Schwarber, Ramos, Gutierrez. SF —Travis. SB — Davis.
Pitcher ip h r er bb so
DeNato (W, 1-0) 6 3 0 0 1 3
Effross 2 1 0 0 0 2
Halstead (S, 1) 1 0 0 0 0 1
Moreno (L, 0-1) 6 5 1 1 3 3
Drozd 3 0 0 0 0 2
HBP — by Effross (Barrios). BK — Moreno. U — Alexander, Sooter, Howard, Leible. T —1:58. A — 2,751. Records: Indiana 1-0; Texas Tech 0-1.