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Red Raiders intent on using Big 12 Championships to increase name recognition

Mountain men

Posted: May 21, 2014 - 10:48pm  |  Updated: May 22, 2014 - 12:19am
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TCU's Garrett Crain (34) steals second as Baylor's Lawton Langford (8) receives the ball in the fourth inning of a first-round game in the Big 12 conference NCAA college baseball tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. TCU won 8-5. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)  Sue Ogrocki
Sue Ogrocki
TCU's Garrett Crain (34) steals second as Baylor's Lawton Langford (8) receives the ball in the fourth inning of a first-round game in the Big 12 conference NCAA college baseball tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. TCU won 8-5. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The results show Texas Tech swept West Virginia last weekend, building some much-needed momentum going into the Big 12 Championships.

But it wasn’t exactly a typical home series for the Red Raiders, who scored just 11 runs in three games against the Mountaineers. That tied for the third lowest total in a three-game Big 12 series this season and the fewest runs in a home series.

It should also keep the Red Raiders focused going into the tournament. The fourth-seeded Red Raiders (40-16) were set to face No. 5 seed Texas (36-16) late Wednesday night in the tournament’s first round from Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

“I think we’re just finding ways to win,” junior second baseman Bryant Burleson said on Tuesday. “This past weekend we didn’t have our best stuff but we still won all three games. It will be good to get back on the field and I think we can carry that over into this week.”

The series victory could also help Tech play relaxed even against a traditional rival in the Longhorns.

“When we get to the tournament, all we want to do is win,” freshman pitcher Dylan Dusek said after Saturday’s 4-0 shutout of WVU. “We want to have some Big 12 tournament championships up here and make our name known here around Texas Tech and in the Big 12 and in the state of Texas. That’s our goal.”

Mountain men

In three games last week in Lubbock, West Virginia scored exactly five runs and hit a paltry .206.

On Wednesday, in the first round of the Big 12 Championships, the Mountaineers doubled their run production in one game, and almost did it in one inning.

No. 6 seed WVU used an eight-run seventh inning to rally for a 10-9 victory over No. 3 seed Kansas and provide the first upset of the day in the opening game of the tournament.

“We never give up, which is a great mentality to have,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We’re very confident in our whole lineup and we feel like we can get a big spark from a lot of guys in the lineup.”

That spark against the Jayhawks (34-23) came from designated hitter Jackson Cramer, who was just 1 for 6 in two games played against the Red Raiders. His first home run of the season, a three-run shot to right, capped an eight-run seventh inning for the Mountaineers that turned an 8-2 deficit into a 10-8 lead.

“Coach Mazey told me to get a fastball, and I ended up getting a fastball in,” Cramer said. “It was a good thing it was my first home run.”

It was also a good thing for the Mountaineers, who need a good showing at the tournament to get into the NCAA postseason. WVU was sitting pretty after taking two of three against Texas but was swept by Kansas and Tech in its last two Big 12 series going into the Big 12 Championships.

Most coaches on Tuesday touted the league as worthy of six NCAA bids, but with a 9-14 record in conference play, the Mountaineers weren’t guaranteed anything.

“I’ll leave the must-win and the decisions up to the committee,” said Mazey, whose team faces No. 2 seed TCU in the championship round on Thursday at 4 p.m. “I think we are very deserving, we have played 53 games now, 13 of which have been on our home field. To do what we’ve done with this team, with all the travel and adversity it seems like this team has learned to thrive on adversity.”

Kansas, meanwhile, has to deal with adversity it has not seen in about a month. The Jayhawks swept their final three Big 12 series, their last league loss coming April 20 at Oklahoma State.

Now, KU must beat No. 8 seed Baylor, an 8-5 loser to TCU in the first round, on Thursday at 9 a.m. to avoid going 0-2 in the double-elimination format.

“We’ll show up (Thursday) with the same attitude we had today and give it our all,” said KU starting pitcher Jordan Piche´, who struck out a career high 11 in 61/3 innings.

Sean Carley (6-3) tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win despite walking three.

Frogs hold on

No. 2 seed TCU has been on a tear the last seven weeks thanks to strong pitching and defense. The Horned Frogs got more of that on Wednesday, but still had to hold on for an 8-5 victory over No. 7 seed Baylor.

TCU built an 8-0 lead and appeared headed for its 15th shutout this season. But the Bears, needing to win the tournament to get in the NCAA, showed some fight with a run in the eighth and four in the ninth to pull to within 8-5, and had the tying run at the plate.

But Horned Frogs (39-15) closer Riley Ferrell slammed the door to pick up his 12th save, sending TCU to a winner’s bracket game at 4 p.m. Thursday against No. 6 seed West Virginia.

“Good win for our team and our program,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “For the whole game we played really sound baseball. We aren’t going to hit the ball out of the ballpark very often but when the other team gives us something we want to be able to take advantage of it.”

TCU starter Jordan Kipper, who primarily saw most of his starts in midweek action, tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. But the two relievers that followed him surrendered five runs on seven hits in 11/3 innings before Ferrell ended the Baylor rally.

Now, the Bears (24-30) must beat No. 3 seed Kansas, which was upset by the Mountaineers, to keep their NCAA hopes alive.

“It would be really easy for a team that is now (24-30) and coming in to a situation like we have been through to just literally, not figuratively, pack it in,” Baylor coach Steve Smith said. “Putting the four runs aside in the ninth inning, their tone and how they just stuck together in this game, it doesn’t scoring you a lot of points but it does say a lot about them as people and their character.”

Base hits

West Virginia’s eight-run seventh inning was its highest single-inning total this season; The Mountaineers are now 7-1 when scoring at least 10 runs in a game ... Kansas shortstop Justin Protacio extended his streak of reaching base safely to 20 straight games, but it is only the second longest streak for the junior this season ... The Jayhawks hit seven doubles against WVU, tying a Big 12 tournament record set by both Texas Tech and Oklahoma in 1997 ... Baylor has now lost five straight games in the Big 12 Championships. The Bears last win came in 2012 in an 11-2 win over Kansas State ... TCU is now 24-3 in its last 27 games.

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