Gone are the familiar faces of Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Neslony, Stephen Smith and Tyler Floyd for Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock and the Red Raider baseball team.
But with the season starting in less than three weeks, there are plenty of talented new faces that made up the No. 23 signing class by Perfect Game.
“Those guys are a lot of fun to watch,” Tadlock said. “You know what you’re going to get with those guys each and every day which is really nice. When you start making a lineup out and you know guys are going to show up. They’re baseball players.”
Third baseman Ryan Long and sophomore pitcher Davis Martin were complimentary of their new teammates on Friday afternoon, especially Josh Jung, a freshman from San Antonio.
Long mentioned he might move out to the outfield because of Jung’s talent at third base. Martin added that the entire Texas Tech pitching staff is comfortable with Jung there.
Throughout the Red and Black Series this fall, Martin joked that he had to talk with Jung about how vocal he was.
“Between every pitch he’d say, ‘Hey man, good pitch. Good job,’” Martin said. “It’s great, but I was like, ‘Hey man, every second pitch or every third pitch.’ He just smiled and said he’d try his best. He’s a funny character at third base. A lot of us get along with him real well. Yeah, he’s real encouraging over there on third.”
Along with the 16 new faces are 17 returning letterwinners from a team that posted a 47-20 overall record, clinched the program’s fifth conference title in school history and earned its second trip to the College World Series.
Tadlock mentioned back in the fall that they had to shut down left-handed pitcher Dylan Dusek as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Texas Tech coach mentioned that when Dusek threw a couple of times in the fall he felt good.
The discomfort came after.
So far this spring, Dusek has thrown and felt good after.
“What we’re hoping is we can throw him out there once a week out of the bullpen or as a starter, and he’ll give you a little length either way because he’s such a competitor and able to locate, able to command two or three pitches,” Tadlock said. “We’re just hoping he can stay healthy week to week. If there’s a young man who’s going to be diligent about his recovery process from week to week he’s definitely shown that.”
Dusek, now a junior, has appeared in 25 games over his two-year career, including 21 starts. He’s compiled an impressive 10-2 record with a 2.52 ERA and allowed just 31 runs (30 earned) over 107.1 innings pitched.
The locker room after the loss in the College World Series last season was different than how things ended in Omaha in 2014.
“(In 2014) it was, ‘Hey man, we got to Omaha for the first time.’ It was a great accomplishment,” Tadlock said. “Last year that group could really tell what was in front of them. They could see that they could compete with all those teams and knew we were in a position in the bracket we were in and all those things.”
Tech starts the year ranked in the top 25 of three preseason polls. The Red Raiders have been ranked as high as No. 14 by D1 Baseball, while also checking in at No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 25 by Baseball America.
This season, before the first pitch is even thrown, Tadlock is putting his team in a good position to return to Omaha as Tech’s 56-game slate includes 18 contests against 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, including four NCAA Regional hosts, three national seeds, three College World Series teams and the NCAA runner-up.
“It puts us right where we need to be from a competing standpoint,” Tadlock said. “From a going on the road and RPI standpoint at this point in the year it’s easy to say it’s one of the toughest schedules we’ve ever had on paper.”