Junior Chris Sadberry and Hunter Redman were the first two Texas Tech baseball players chosen in this week’s pro draft, one in the sixth round, the other in the eighth.
Saturday afternoon, the duo combined to put the Red Raiders to within one game of Omaha almost all by themselves.
The left-hander Sadberry continued Tech’s dominant run of pitching from the Coral Gables Regional with eight shutout innings, Redman, Tech’s stalwart catcher, made three nice defensive plays, two of them preventing runs on plays at the plate, and the Red Raiders grabbed a 1-0 victory over College of Charleston in the opener of the Lubbock Super Regional at Rip Griffin Park.
“We had some good fortune on our side on those two balls in the infield where we get the outs at home,” Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “And you need that a little bit this time of year. Obviously Chris did a great job, pitching ahead in the count, making pitches. He kind of did what he’s been doing and pitched well.
“That game is a funny game. It’s an unpredictable game. It’s a game of inches.”
Those few inches that went Tech’s way inched the Red Raiders (44-19) onto the precipice of a milestone — one game away from its first College World Series berth. Tech has been here before, but not since 1995 and not at home, where a Rip Griffin Park crowd of 4,811 came early and stayed loud.
“Unbelievable,” Redman, drafted in the eighth round by the Dodgers, said of the crowd. “It was awesome.”
So was Sadberry (5-3).
He picked up where the Tech pitching staff left off in Miami, holding the Cougars (44-18) scoreless while scattering four hits with no walks and a season-high eight strikeouts. The eight innings pitched were also a season high.
“I just spotted up my pitches, really,” said Sadberry, who was drafted in the sixth round Friday by the Miami Marlins. “I just tried to go out there and attack the hitters. I went out there and attacked them with my fastball and let my other pitches work off of that.”
Sadberry’s ability to keep Charleston off balance was never more evident than in two key moments that defined the game, each thwarting scoring attempts by the Cougars.
The first one came after a leadoff double by right fielder Brian Glazer in the third. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third, but Sadberry came back to get Champ Rowland to roll over on a breaking ball.
Shortstop Tim Proudfoot fielded it to his right and threw out Glazer at the plate, then Sadberry came back with a strikeout of Blake Butler to end the inning.
“Timmy set the tone there for the day when he made that play and Hunter was able to bock the plate. That out was really big,” Sadberry said.
The Cougars failed to get a runner past first for the next four innings, but an infield single by Glazer and an error by Tech third baseman Ryan Long set up another scoring opportunity.
Again Glazer was sacrificed to third. Sadberry got Rowland to roll over on a breaking ball again, this time back to Sadberry, who flipped to Redman, and Redman hung on after the collision with Glazer to keep Charleston scoreless.
“(Sadberry) made two good pitches to (Rowland) and luckily they got in on his hands,” Redman said. “Heck of a play by him coming in to get it and getting rid of it quick.”
In between, Tech scored the only run it would need when Tyler Neslony tripled to right past Glazer, scoring Stephen Smith, who had singled. It is the fifth straight game Tech has scored four or fewer runs, but the Red Raiders are 4-1 in those games.
“These playoff games, it seems like it gets tougher and tougher to get hits,” Neslony said. “Every time we try to get runners in scoring position, we’re just trying to get them in any way we can. We know one or two runs will be enough, especially when Chris pitches like he did.”
The rest of the game the Red Raiders were as off-balance offensively as Charleston was thanks to Cougars starter Taylor Clarke (10-4). He limited Tech to five hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He retired 10 straight at one point between Neslony’s triple in the third and a leadoff single by Adam Kirsch in the seventh. Smith had two of Tech’s other three hits.
“I thought I had everything working for me pretty well,” Clarke said. “After that first inning, the nerves settled down a little bit and I was able to execute some pitches and get ahead of batters a little better.”
Sadberry, however, was just one step ahead, and because of that the Red Raiders are one step from the ultimate goal in college baseball.
“Nothing changes,” Sadberry said. “Yeah, there is a big game on the line, but at the same time we’re going to show up every day, ready to play.”