Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock knew he was going to bring left-hander Jonny Drozd out of the bullpen at some point on Saturday.
With Tech having given up a run in the first inning and needing a win to tie its Big 12 Conference series to Texas, Tadlock didn’t wait long, taking a huge gamble by bringing in his most effective reliever in the second inning.
Turns out, it was the right move.
Drozd scattered 11 hits but allowed just two runs in seven innings, and the Red Raiders took advantage of Texas’ miscues and gifts to even the series with an 8-4 victory in front of 4,353 fans at Rip Griffin Park.
“It felt great, after last year and coming in today,” said Drozd, who threw 51/3 scoreless innings of relief in Tech’s series-clinching victory in Austin last season. “It felt fantastic having (shortstop Tim Proudfoot) and (second baseman Bryant Burleson) up the middle. It allowed me to pound the zone and made it easy to get ground balls and get outs, and just kind of coast through.”
The seven innings was the longest relief outing of Drozd’s career — he threw 72/3 in a start at Oklahoma State last year — and he also threw a season high 98 pitches. He came in to start the second after starter Cameron Smith allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the first inning.
Drozd (3-0) never worked a perfect inning, as the Longhorns (21-7, 2-3 in Big 12) had at least two baserunners in five of the seven innings he pitched. Unlike Friday, however, Tech (22-8, 4-4) prevented UT from putting together the big inning, turning a pair of double plays and getting a huge run-saving dive and flip to second by shortstop Tim Proudfoot to end the eighth inning.
UT pounded out 15 hits after touching Tech for 16 in Friday’s 11-1 Longhorns victory. But Tech pitchers cut down on the extra batters that allowed Texas to pile on runs the night before.
“(Drozd) was really just what the doctor ordered today,” Tadlock said. “He came in and just set the tone, established that he was going to throw strikes and change speeds. More than anything we just didn’t want them to be able to tack on runs. They scored one in the first, we knew we were going to him, so why not then?”
The Red Raiders then flipped the script by taking advantage of the Longhorns gifts, most of them coming from an uncharacteristic outing by junior left-hander Dillon Peters.
Peters came into the game having allowed just eight earned runs in 401/3 innings this season, but exited after 31/3 frames having given up as season-high five earned runs on seven hits and two walks. He also threw three wild pitches and hit two batters, and the UT offense contributed with two errors, both of which allowed runs to score.
“It wasn’t about being bad or good,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said of Peters. “It’s an out-of-character thing. He didn’t pitch badly but you can’t go out there every day and be 100 percent perfect. Some of that had to do with their ability to capitalize on whatever extra outs we gave them or whatever bases they followed up with RBIs.”
Every Red Raider in the starting lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the nine scored one run each. Tech never had more than two hits in any inning and finished the game with just four RBIs.
But two of the three wild pitches allowed by Peters scored runs, as did a Jeremy Montalbano passed ball and an eighth-inning error when Kacy Clemens, who had pinch-hit in the top of the eighth, dropped a towering pop-up by Eric Gutierrez with two on and two outs, pushing the lead to 8-4.
“Anytime you can get a pitcher like that who’s had success the last couple of years and this year, anytime you can get to him early it’s big,” said Burleson, who started both of Tech’s double plays and went 2 for 5 with an RBI. “Anytime you even get in a stressful inning on him, that helps more than just getting up there and getting out three times. So it was big for us to get out early on him and I think that helped the rest of the game.”
UT struggled to get the same kind of run production. The Longhorns put at least two runners on base in seven of the first eight innings, but unlike Friday, were never able to get that backbreaking hit to regain control of the game.
The biggest play by Tech came in the eighth. Tech 7-3 and Texas had runners at the corners for its top hitter, Mark Payton, who came into the day hitting .430. He sent a shot back up the middle, but Proudfoot, in just his third game back from a shoulder injury, snared the ball on a diving stab behind the bag and flipped to Burleson at second to end the threat.
Tech would then tack on its final run in the bottom of the eighth that helped offset Tres Barrera’s first career home run to lead off the ninth.
It also helped Tech tie the series with a pivotal rubber match scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. Tech is 3-0 in Big 12 series finales and 6-0 overall this season on Sundays.
“We’ve got to play our game,” Burleson said. “If we play our game, it doesn’t matter who’s against us.”
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NO. 24 TEXAS TECH 8, NO. 12 TEXAS 4
Texas Texas Tech
Player ab r h bi Player ab r h bi
BMarlow 2b 3 1 0 0 SSmith rf 5 1 1 0
Johnson lf 4 0 2 1 Burleson 2b 5 1 2 1
Payton cf 4 1 1 0 Barrios 3b 4 1 1 1
Barrera 1b 5 1 3 2 Gutierrez 1b 4 0 2 0
Shaw rf 5 0 2 1 Kirsch dh 4 1 1 0
Hinojosa ss 5 0 1 0 Conley cf 4 1 1 0
Mntlbno c 3 0 1 0 Hmphrys lf 2 1 1 0
Carter ph 1 0 0 0 Ritchie lf 0 0 0 0
Clemens 1b 1 0 1 0 Redman c 4 1 1 1
McGuire dh 4 0 0 0 Proudfoot ss 4 1 1 1
Gurwitz 3b 4 1 4 0
Totals 39 4 15 4 Totals 36 8 11 4
Texas 101 001 001 — 4 15 2
Texas Tech 211 120 01x — 8 11 0
E — Hinojosa (5), Clemens (5). DP — Texas 1, Texas Tech 2. LOB — Texas 13, Texas Tech 9. 2B — Barrera (6), Shaw (3), Gutierrez (7), Humphreys (3). HR — Barrera (1). SH — McGuire (5). SB — Gurwitz 2(4), Redman (1).
Pitcher ip h r er bb so
Peters (L, 3-2) 31/3 7 5 5 2 2
Hollingsworth 42/3 4 3 1 1 1
CSmith 1 2 1 1 1 0
Drozd (W, 3-0) 7 11 2 2 3 4
Taylor 1 2 1 1 0 1
WP — Peters 3(5). HBP — by Peters (Gutierrez), by Peters (Humphreys). PB — Montalbano. U — Schepis, Morris, Brown, Wiley. T — 2:35. A — 4,353. Records: Texas 21-7, 2-3; Texas Tech 22-8, 4-4.