For much of the season, Texas Tech never had a defined “go-to pitcher.”
Instead, it relied on matchups, coach Tim Tadlock’s discretion and the hot hand.
Nine pitchers started for the Red Raiders and only one of those never pitched in relief — Dylan Dusek.
For most of the season, it worked as the staff combined for a 3.27 ERA.
In Coral Gables, though, it really all came together.
In four games, Texas Tech only allowed four runs, shutting down the Columbia and Miami offenses.
“I really thought coach (Ray) Hayward and coach (Matt) Gardner and coach (J-Bob) Thomas just did a fine job really throughout the whole year preparing those guys,” Tadlock said. “I mean, it’s kind of what you shoot for ... to be pitching good at this time of year.”
And that is exactly what the Red Raiders are doing.
Dusek was named the Coral Gables Regional Most Outstanding Player after he blanked the Hurricanes for eight innings, only allowing four hits and striking out three.
Still, he is not starting Game 1 against the College of Charleston (44-17) on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
Texas Tech (43-19) is expected to start Chris Sadberry, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Miami Marlins on Friday, in Game 1.
Sadberry, who is 4-3 with a 3.49 ERA, pitched against Columbia in the regional, going 51/3 innings and only surrendering two earned runs, while striking out five.
For Tadlock choosing Sadberry to start Game 1 against the Cougars was easy.
“He’s been the one guy throughout the spring that we’ve sent to the mound every week as a starter,” he said. “And really this time of the year you just want to send a guy out that you trust. ... He seems like the right guy at the right time.”
Texas Tech is 10-5 in Sadberry’s 15 starts this season. It is 12-1 when Dusek takes the mound.
And what started the season as a question mark has become almost a luxury for Tadlock. Dusek, a freshman, is 7-0 this season with a 2.08 ERA, Cooper product Ryan Moseley pitched six shutout innings against the Hurricanes and Cameron Smith was even better, throwing nine shutout innings as the Red Raiders defeated Miami 4-0 and won the regional.
And then there is Dominic Moreno, the season’s opening day starter, and Corey Taylor (2.62 ERA).
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to those guys at the same time,” Tadlock said “Those young men that went out there and competed really well, all of them, threw the ball well.”
Tech needed everyone of those performances as the offense struggled in the South Florida heat. The Red Raiders only averaged 2.75 runs per game, hit .216 and slugged a woeful .264. It seemed the only thing Tech did right at the plate was be patient, drawing 18 walks.
But, with the pitching staff dealing, the offense didn’t need to fill the scoreboard with crooked numbers — it just had to scratch out enough runs to win.
“It is great. (Performances like those) gives us some breathing room so we don’t have to stress and force some at-bats,” junior infielder Tim Proudfoot said.
And Monte Lee and the College of Charleston know that all too well.
The Cougars have already named their starters for the series: Tyler Clarke, Bailey Ober and Tyler Thornton. Ober was the Colonial Athletic Association’s Most Outstanding Player, sporting a 1.55 ERA and a 10-2 record. Clarke, who is starting Game 1, was 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA. Thornton, who will start Game 3 — if the series lasts that long, has a 3.03 ERA.
“I think one of the keys in winning at any level in baseball is the quality of start,” Lee said. “How many quality starts do you get over the course of the year? Our guys tend to give us a quality start. I think that’s been the biggest thing.
“Coach Tadlock talked about it just a minute ago, that they throw strikes. Our guys throw strikes. We challenge hitters and we move our fastball around and change speeds a little bit, and we pitch to contact. I think that’s a big factor and why we’ve been respectful.”
Tadlock, though, knows that pitching and hitting can be interchangeable.
“It all goes hand in hand. ... A pitcher goes out and throws up goose eggs and it makes it easier for the hitters or the hitters can go out and get some runs and it makes it easier for the pitcher,” Tadlock said. “... So it depends on who the guy is on the mound and what day it is how all that works.”
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