Longtime Miami head baseball coach Jim Morris was the last to speak to the media during a news conference Thursday prior to the start of the Coral Gables Regional.
A native of North Carolina, Morris commented how nice it was to hear a southern accent, having just listened to Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock address the same media.
For those who haven’t heard Tadlock speak — which may dwindle greatly considering the interest surrounding the program this week — he has the distinctive Texas drawl, having grown up in Denton, and really chooses his words carefully. So carefully, sometimes, that the media who have followed him all season can kind of guess what he’ll say.
“Take it one game at a time.”
“Just go and play the game the right way.”
“It’s just a baseball game.”
Nothing wrong with that. He’s not the first coach to do it, and the players have completely bought into the mantra of worrying about the day in front of them, not the one two days from now or the day behind them.
“When you get in these situations, in any sport, the better you can ... stay in the moment, one pitch at a time, the more you can do that, the better off you’re going to be. Our guys have been really good at that as far as that goes.”
But unless you go to an actual Tech game, see how the players respond to, fight for and generally love playing for their coach, you don’t see the whole side of him.
We saw that emotional spectrum this past week. We saw the guy who will defend his players, loudly and aggressively in an opposing coach’s face, if necessary, when he feels they are being done wrong.
And we saw the emotional side of him, brought to tears when talking about his team and pitcher Cameron Smith after Monday’s regional title clincher. We saw that he is more than just a head coach. Having played here, he is invested in this program. It’s personal to him.
This weekend, as Texas Tech hosts College of Charleston, before what should be a packed house at Rip Griffin Park, those who have not been to a Tech game this year will get to see just how damn good of a coach Tim Tadlock is.
Those of us who went to Coral Gables saw it, because he and his staff completely outworked and outcoached the Hurricanes all weekend long.
It didn’t take him long to find Miami’s weakness — hitting against left-handed pitching, which Tech has more of an abundance of this season than it has had since I can remember.
Miami came into the regional hitting just .262 as a team. The Hurricanes had stumbled in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, going 1-2, but had ended the regular season winning 27 of 30, and they had a top-notch pitching staff of their own in left-handers Andrew Suarez and Chis Diaz and right-hander Bryan Radziewski, plus stellar closer Bryan Garcia.
And the Hurricanes didn’t pitch badly. Tech scored just eight runs in three games against Miami, which will be of enough concern going into the Super Regional starting on Saturday.
But the Red Raiders were absolutely dominant on the mound in those three games because of their “crafty lefties.” Consider these numbers:
■ Of the 37 innings pitched, Tech had a left-hander on the mound for 30 of them.
■ Tech left-handers threw 21 of the 28 innings played against the Hurricanes. The only right-handers used were Ryan Moseley, who had six stellar shutout innings on Sunday before rain stopped the game, and Corey Taylor, who threw an inning of shutout relief to earn the save in a 3-0 win over Miami on Friday.
■ In the three games against Miami, Tech starters Dylan Dusek, Moseley and Cameron Smith combined for 23 scoreless innings. Dusek, the regional MVP who on Monday was named a Louisville Slugger freshman all-American along with outfielder Stephen Smith, and Cameron Smith, who was deserving of the honor as well with his complete-game, three-hit shutout to clinch the regional title, are both left-handers.
■ Tech pitchers held the Hurricanes scoreless in 26 of the 28 innings played in the three combined games. Miami scored 13 runs in five games, only two against the Red Raiders. Columbia scored two runs against Tech in the regional opener.
For not having had any information on any of the teams going in, it was a brilliant job of scouting the opponent and finding the weakness by Tadlock and his staff.
“I commend coach (Matt) Gardner, coach (Ray) Hayward and coach (J-Bob) Thomas,” Tadlock said. “All of those guys did a really good job of rallying the troops and figuring out our game plan. It’s simple. It’s baseball, pitching ahead. It was just one of deals. Guys just really pitched good.”
The team arrived in Lubbock on Tuesday afternoon to a nice welcome from fans at the airport. Tadlock said Monday he was giving the team Tuesday off and would be right back at it on Wednesday.
My guess is Tadlock didn’t wait until Wednesday to start scouting College of Charleston. My guess is he was already doing it on the plane on Tuesday.
That’s why Tech baseball is where it is today.