• Comment

Red Raiders don't see lack of playoff experience as disadvantage (VIDEO)

The Red Raiders are ending the longest drought between regional appearances.

Posted: May 29, 2014 - 4:20pm  |  Updated: May 30, 2014 - 12:22am
Back | Next
Texas Tech works through practice on Thursday in Coral Gables. The Red Raiders open the NCAA tournament on Friday against Columbia. (Zach Long/AJ Media)  Zach Long/AJ Media
Zach Long/AJ Media
Texas Tech works through practice on Thursday in Coral Gables. The Red Raiders open the NCAA tournament on Friday against Columbia. (Zach Long/AJ Media)
Get your A-J Media Digital Subscription now!
Get your A-J Media Digital Subscription now!

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Their overall numbers are few, but the players on the Texas Tech baseball team who have been fighting for this moment for three years are not about to go home quickly or quietly.

Juniors Tim Proudfoot and Bryant Burleson are two of those players, going from missing even the Big 12 Championships their freshman year to now leading the 23rd-ranked Red Raiders to their first NCAA regional in a decade.

The moment was not lost on either of them Thursday morning as the second-seeded Tech (40-18) prepared for its workout in advance of the Coral Gables Regional opener today at 1 p.m. CT against third seed Columbia (29-18) at Mark Light Field.

“We’ve been working for this every year,” Proudfoot said. “I’m glad it’s working out this year so far but we’re not going to get complacent. We’re going to keep pushing on.”

Of the four teams in the regional, the Red Raiders are ending the longest drought between regional appearances. Host Miami (41-17) is making its record 42nd straight NCAA tournament appearance and hosting for the 25th time. The Lions earned their second straight NCAA tournament berth, so many of their players remember what this stage was like last season.

Bethune-Cookman (26-311) is also making its second straight NCAA appearance despite being five games under .500. The Wildcats, from nearby Daytona Beach, earned the automatic berth from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Plus, they split a pair of midweek games with the Hurricanes on the road, winning 7-3 and losing 10-1.

So the Red Raiders’ biggest disadvantage going into the whole weekend will likely be their lack of experience on the national stage. Head coach Tim Tadlock, however, said there’s no concern on that front.

“I think our league has prepares us as far as atmosphere goes,” Tadlock said. “The Big 12 this year had nine really good teams, and I think the tournament last week prepared us. “We’ve played some good teams, seen some good teams, had some big challenges along the way and met some of them and not met some of them. From this point forward, you’re just talking about what we all say. You try to play one pitch at a time and try to compete each pitch.”

All season, however, the Red Raiders have made a habit of surpassing expectations, both in the non-conference, then finishing fourth in the Big 12 Conference when many projections had them dead last, then qualifying for the NCAAs.

They’ve overcome all that by doing what they do best and by what Tadlock has preached from day one — winning the day as it comes and not worrying about tomorrow.

“It’s not going to affect us, I think,” sophomore outfielder Tyler Neslony said of the lack of experience. “We’re going to go out there and play the same game no matter what, no matter who we line up against. We’re going to play Texas Tech baseball.”

That means getting a good start from left-hander Chris Sadberry. The junior is 4-2 with a 3.45 ERA, but has gotten a no-decision in eight of his 14 starts. He has, however, allowed more than three earned runs in a start just twice, which makes him a solid candidate to get the Red Raiders off on the right foot in the regional.

“We need to go out and play good defense behind him and give him some support,” Tadlock said. “We put some runs on the board and that makes it easier for the pitcher, and vice-versa. We’ll try to do that any way we can.”

Sadberry will be facing a Columbia team that is one of the hottest in the nation going into the postseason. After starting the year 8-15, the Lions have won 21 of their last 24 games, including the Ivy League Championship series against Bucknell to earn the conference’s automatic berth.

“Where our team is at right now I think our guys are pretty fired up about the opportunity ahead of them,” Columbia coach Brett Boretti said. “We’ve had success this year because we’ve done a good job on the hill. If we can maintain throwing strikes and pitching it behind the guys, we’re finding a way to scratch and score some runs.”

Tadlock said earlier in the week the Red Raiders have been anxiously anticipating for about three weeks where their NCAA destiny would lie. Now they know, and are ready to make something happen.

“Every team in the country hopes to play in the postseason, and we get to do that,” Burleson said. “But we don’t want it to end at a regional. We want to keep it going. I think we’ve got some guys that are humble and they know what we’ve got to do.”

 

NCAA BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

Regionals

(double elimination; x-if necessary)

At A-Rod Park at Mark Light Field

Coral Gables, Fla.

Today’s Games

Game 1: Columbia (29-18) vs. Texas Tech (40-18), 1 p.m.

Game 2: Miami (41-17) vs. Bethune-Cookman (26-31), 6 p.m.

Saturday’s Games

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 1 p.m.

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.

Sunday’s Games

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.

Monday’s Game

x-Game 7: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.

 

george.watson@lubbockonline.com

• 766-2166

Follow George on Twitter

@AJJorge

 

  • Comment