The 2014 Texas Tech baseball postseason roster contains just three players who were on campus when Tim Tadlock was hired as an assistant by then-head coach Dan Spencer.
That means that the turnaround from 2013 to 2014 was done mostly by players the current head coach recruited himself over the last three years. And in just two seasons, the Red Raiders (40-18) have gone from the doormat of the Big 12 Conference to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA regionals.
On Monday, after seeing its name splashed onto the screen, selected to compete in the Coral Gables, Fla. Regional hosted by Miami, that quick turnaround wasn’t lost on the players.
“It means a lot,” said right-handed pitcher Dominic Moreno, who came to Tech as a sophomore in 2013 after one season at Howard Junior College in Big Spring. “Bringing in, some of the junior college kids he brought in ... it’s pretty amazing knowing that we were Tadlock’s first signing class. We are some of the guys he expected to turn this thing around. It’s special knowing that we helped do that.”
It was a feat not many outside the program thought would be accomplished, thus the general sense is that the 2014 Red Raiders are about a year ahead of schedule to being able to compete for Big 12 championships and regional berths.
For the 35 guys who started the season on the active roster, however, it didn’t take long to realize there was something special at work here.
“Since day one we definitely had a vibe about us, from the beginning,” senior designated hitter Adam Kirsch said. “We play well with each other. We’ve had a great year and hope it continues.”
Day one of the 2014 season started with a 1-0 loss to preseason all-American and 2014 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Joey DeNato of Indiana. The next three days saw the Red Raiders pound the 2013 College World Series participant Hoosiers 23-7, including a 7-0 shutout in the series finale.
That helped Tech get off to a good start in terms of Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), but just as importantly, in terms of confidence. The Red Raiders also picked up their first victory over Rice since 1996 and took a three-game series from TCU for the first time since 2002.
“Going in against Indiana, we had some internal chatter,” Moreno said. “They’re a top five team and if we split with them it would be a great start to the season. So going in we were aiming for two wins. We go in there and win three of four and we started to feel pretty special. We hit them well and it wasn’t even close the next three games. So going in there we knew we could be something good. We were cautiously optimistic we could keep it going.”
Keep going the Red Raiders did, posting a 15-3 record going into Big 12 play. One of the reasons for the successful season was they never hit a big, prolonged slump. Only five times this season did Tech lose two straight games, and only once did the Red Raiders lose three or more in a row. Four times, the Red Raiders came back from consecutive losses to win at least four in a row.
That’s not to say, however, the Red Raiders haven’t faced adversity. Actually, they’re facing probably their biggest bout of it now going into the NCAA regionals off an 0-2 performance at the Big 12 Championships in Oklahoma City after going in as the No. 4 seed.
On the other hand, it could provide plenty of motivation.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m kind of glad we went 0-2,” Moreno said. “Going through this year, how many times did we lost two or three games straight and then look at what we did right after that? We’ve responded well. We’ve gone 5-0 multiple times. We go 5-0 now, we’ll be in Omaha.”
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NCAA CORAL GABLES REGIONAL
at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, Coral Gables, Fla.
All games on ESPN3
Schedule (all times CDT)
Game 1: No. 2 Texas Tech vs. No. 3 Columbia, 1 p.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Bethune-Cookman, 6 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 loser vs. Game 3 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.
Monday (if necessary)
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.