May 16, 2013

Tech punches ticket to OKC

After the Red Raiders' 17-5 beat down of Baylor -- a win that sends Texas Tech to the Big 12 Baseball Championship tournament and eliminated Texas from postseason play -- Tim Tadlock joked maybe every night should end at 3 a.m.

The Red Raiders arrived back at the Lubbock airport from Tempe, Ariz., after a meaningless game against No. 13 Arizona State about 16 hours before first pitch of the most important game of the season Thursday.

At 24-27 overall, Tech's RPI is so far shot it didn't matter if the Red Raiders beat the ranked Sun Devils 100-0 or lost 8-5 as they did. However, it was important to follow through on the return trip to Tempe as Arizona State visited Lubbock earlier in the year to try to preserve that scheduling alliance when RPI will matter more.

It was nice to honor a contract and shake off the rust from finals, but the only thing the boys from Lubbock can do to make the NCAA Regionals is win the Big 12 postseason championship. And they could have come out lethargic for the big game.

They didn't.

Tech has given itself a small chance to do something incredibly special by way of obtaining a season-high 21 hits against Baylor while the Bears gave up a season-worst 17 runs. Meanwhile, Texas lost at TCU, 5-1, to dissolve the Red Raiders' magic number of two entering Thursday.

"A lot of times, more than anything right now, it's a good thing when your team wants to continue playing," Tadlock said. "Anything can happen from here."

The Red Raiders are headed back in the Big 12 tournament as the No. 8 seed. They were the ninth team and last team in the league standings a season ago and eight teams get to go to Oklahoma City.

That dark mark ultimately played into firing former skipper Dan Spencer.

Trailing 2-1 with two outs in the bottom third, designated hitter Jarrard Poteete hit one of the best balls of the season halfway up the scoreboard in right center field for a three-run homer and a 4-2 lead.

It was still too close for comfort with a lot of baseball left. Getting critical hits, the single biggest thing that has held the Red Raiders back all season in Big 12 play, was about to give way. At least for one night.

Masek held in the top fourth after giving up a leadoff single, but the Red Raiders' fourth started off as bad as it could with two strikeouts. Then Tech redefined what a two-out rally is with seven unanswered runs with 10 batters going to the plate after the first two outs for seven runs through three Baylor pitchers for an 11-2 lead.

Every Red Raider starter had a hit by the end of the fourth.

It was over in Lubbock, and Texas was well on its way to finishing last in conference play for the first time since 1956.

"We played good tonight," third baseman Jake Barrios, who had four RBI as did Poteete, said. "It was great to see. Coming down the home stretch, hopefully we can get on a streak here and keep it going. Just keep playing good baseball."

The Major League Baseball Draft is looming. If Thursday's game was Masek's last at Rip Griffin Park, what a way to end his home career.

He had some initial struggles and a fairly high pitch count through three innings, but the ace shut Baylor down from the fourth until the seventh after which he was pulled. He allowed five hits for two runs, walked two and struck out seven with 108 pitches to advance his record to 5-1 and a 1.52 ERA through 71 innings.

"I didn't come out as sharp as I would have liked to," Masek said. "Obviously our offense showed up to play tonight. Seventeen runs, that speaks for itself. They really carried us through this game."

He'll get at least one more college game at Bricktown Ballpark.

Tech can't do any better than eighth place, but the final two games against Baylor aren't throwaways. They're tune-ups for the double-elimination tournament while honoring the way great game is supposed to be played.

"Every time we line up to play we're going to play to win," Tadlock said. "It's important that guys respect the game and play the game the right way. I think that's how we get rewarded."


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