OMAHA, Neb. — For all the walk-off hits and grand slams that have highlighted the NCAA baseball tournament so far, the stage is set for pitching to take over when the College World Series opens Saturday.
Thirteen pitchers who will be in Omaha were taken in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, with No. 1 national seed Florida leading the way with six, including five in the first four rounds. There are the high-quality freshman and sophomore arms sprinkled throughout all eight teams.
Cory Raley had his sights set on Michael Davis.
As soon as Davis fielded a grounder and threw the ball to first for the final out of the super regional to punch Texas Tech’s ticket to Omaha, Raley — the former starting quarterback for Uvalde High School — was gunning for the sophomore.
“I was head hunting,” Raley said with a smile. “He never played football before. I wanted him to know what that was like. I got him. I got him good.”
It was the first Omaha dog pile for those two Red Raiders.
There’s something about super regional action that makes Tyler Neslony come alive at the plate.
The senior entered last weekend’s super regional series against East Carolina hitting .308.
He finished hitting .314 after going 5-for-12 (.417) throughout the weekend.
“I was just swinging at my pitch and not chasing whatever the pitchers were throwing,” Neslony said. “That’s what we’re all trying to do. Fortunately some of the balls I hit landed. That’s how the game is.”
They call him T-Flo the Laser Show.
It doesn’t take long to figure out why.
This past weekend in the super regional series against East Carolina the laser show was on full display — three times — inside Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
Dalton Brown was confused.
Ryan Shetter has just wrapped his arms around him and congratulated him.
But, Brown was just sitting there in the dugout Saturday, watching as Texas Tech was in a dead heat with East Carolina, in an eventual 3-1, 13-inning win that helped send the Red Raider to the College World Series in Omaha.
Then Shetter told him the good news.
Brown, a Texas Tech right-handed reliever, was selected in the 30th round by the Milwaukee Brewers of the MLB Draft.
Stephen Smith grinned as he tried to look past the obvious.
Nine years ago Smith was in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Then 12 years old, Smith took the mound for the Lubbock Western All-Stars in the championship game of the Little League World Series in front of 24,200 fans.
In 2014 he was older, bigger and stronger as a freshman starter in the outfield when Texas Tech made its first appearance at the College World Series.
Three times this postseason Texas Tech faced elimination. All three times, the Red Raiders responded.
On June 6, after falling to Dallas Baptist 10-6 the day before in the Lubbock Regional, Tech got strong pitching in a 5-3 victory against the Patriots to advance to the super regional round.
In last weekend’s best-of-three super regional, Tech rallied from an 8-6 Game 1 loss against East Carolina to win Saturday’s game 3-1 in 13 innings and Sunday’s series finale 11-0.
Texas Tech will take on TCU at 2 p.m. Sunday in a College World Series opener.
The pairings and game times for the first two days of the CWS were announced Monday.
Texas Tech (47-18) and TCU (47-16) each won their best-of-three super regional series to make the eight-team field in Omaha, Nebraska.
At Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock’s introductory press conference, he said there was a man who once told him that you couldn't get to Omaha from Lubbock.
That man, who Tadlock said he never talks to anymore, was wrong.
“But it's a baseball game. You get good baseball players, you can win games wherever you are,” Tadlock said after the Red Raiders clinched their second College World Series berth in three years by defeating East Carolina 11-0 at Rip Griffin Park on Sunday.