Texas Tech baseball coach Tim Tadlock has felt all along that if his team could just get into the Big 12 Championships and build some momentum on the way, it could do some damage.
This ought to do the trick.
One night after collecting season highs in runs and hits, the Red Raiders got another solid pitching performance from Jonny Drozd and enough offense to earn their second Big 12 Conference series victory of the year with a 7-1 win over Baylor at Rip Griffin Park.
Tech (25-27, 9-14) will now go into a series finale looking to collect a sweep instead of avoiding being swept, which would be a huge boost to the Big 12 tournament’s eighth seed next week Oklahoma City. The Red Raiders have won six of their last nine games.
“Obviously we’d like to be in better shape right now, but you want to be able to play your best baseball right now,” head coach Tim Tadlock said. “Right now, where we are, and where we’ve been the last month, we’ve been gearing toward playing our best baseball right now and for the last two days, some balls fell, we’ve pitched OK and had some balls hit at us.
“We need to keep focusing on playing the game the right way.”
Drozd (4-5) ran his scoreless innings streak to 132/3 with six solid innings on Friday. He scattered seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts, and only eight of the 27 batters he faced got the ball out of the infield, and only four of those were hits.
“It’s mainly just making pitches,” Drozd said. “If you can spot up your pitches and let your defense work behind you in key situations, it usually turns out fine. It’s a big confidence booster knowing your team is going to back you up and take the pressure off.”
Dominic Moreno pitched the last three innings, scattering a run on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts to earn his first career save.
After torching Baylor pitching for 17 runs on 21 hits on Thursday, the Red Raiders picked up where they left off, staking Drozd to a three-run lead in the first on a Devon Conley RBI double and a two-run home run to left by Eric Gutierrez.
The blast by Gutierrez makes him the first Red Raider with home runs in consecutive games since Barrett Barnes did it twice in his sophomore season in 2011 against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
Nine-hole hitter Tim Proudfoot also had a pair of RBIs, getting a one-out bloop single with the bases loaded in the fourth, then ripping a triple to the gap in left-center in the seventh to push Tech’s lead to 5-0.
Barrios added a two-run single in the seventh after walks to Brett Bell and Conley loaded the bases.
“A lot of times teams get complacent when they beat a team by a lot,” Proudfoot said. “It was god to see that we came out the next day and started right where we left off.
“We’re playing good right now, and a lot of teams say it matters at the end and not at the beginning. You’ve got to finish hot and it’s better to finish hot than to start hot. Hopefully we can keep this going into the tournament.”
Baylor starter Dillon Newman (3-3) allowed four earned runs on six hits in six innings. He walked two, which doubled his total from the entire season going into Friday, and struck out three. But the Bears struggled again offensively.
Baylor scratched a run in the eighth on an RBI single by Lawton Langford. The Bears outhit the Red Raiders 12-8 but stranded 14 runners on base, nine in scoring position.
“That is the number,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said of the runners stranded. “We had opportunities but just couldn’t get the timely hit, couldn’t get one in the gap when we needed it. That’s the nature of this game. It’s not how many hits you get but when you get them, and give some credit to (Tech’s pitchers).”
The teams will wrap up the series on Saturday at noon. Right-hander Corey Taylor will get the start for the Red Raiders opposite Baylor right-hander Austin Stone.