To say there’s been a stark contrast in success for the Texas Tech baseball team between playing at home and on the road would be an understatement.
After opening the season winning its first four games at Rip Griffin Park, the Red Raiders took a five-day jaunt through central and south Florida, and it was anything but a vacation. Tech came back with just one win in five games, ending with an 8-6 victory over Florida International after having struggled in several phases of the game.
But first-year head coach Tim Tadlock isn’t worried about the results. His main concern is finding answers to questions he knows will be coming up later in the season when it really counts: in Big 12 Conference play.
“It’s a little bit like the fall in that we’re learning a little bit about our team each time we go out,” Tadlock said. “It’s allowed us to start some different guys on the mound, it’s allowed us to try to establish some roles out of the bullpen. Just getting to go out and play five games in a row will help us. We’re trying to put the different pieces together.”
Luckily for Tadlock and the Red Raiders (5-4), they return home where they will play eight of their next 10 games before embarking on Big 12 play. They open today a three-game set against La Salle, a team that because of weather cancellations has played just four games this season, winning one.
The opponent, however, is not Tadlock’s concern right now. Getting his team to play at a high level on a daily basis is the main focus, along with finding players who will do that consistently, game to game, week to week.
In trying to get to that point, Tadlock has shifted players up and down the lineup, in and out of the lineup, and to different positions in the field. Sophomore second baseman Bryant Burleson has been the most consistent, hitting .412 with a team-best .523 on-base percentage, and junior outfielder Devon Conley has been good at getting on base and producing runs, whether it’s been at the top of the order or in the middle.
Other than that, few players have remained consistent from one week to the next. In fact, of the nine position spots in the field (including designated hitter), Tadlock has started three different players in at least five different positions, and has started four different players at two.
“We’re trying to give each of these guys an opportunity, and we’ve still got some guys that haven’t gotten them,” Tadlock said. “But we’re trying to give guys opportunities (who) we feel like have earned that opportunity. We have changed some things in the lineup, but at the same time we’re learning a little bit each day for what we need to do.”
Two big areas the Red Raiders have struggled in have been errors and strikeouts.
The Red Raiders easily lead the Big 12 with 72 strikeouts, an average of eight per game with three double-digit totals in the five games in Florida. Most of those have come with runners in scoring position and prevented Tech from either taking a lead or extending one it already possessed.
“It’s not so much the strikeouts as the approach during the at-bats,” Tadlock said. “A lot of times we’re just missing the pitch in an at-bat. For some that’s a timing thing and being early. Some are just missing the pitch, and the pitching has been tougher this week than it was last week.”
Tadlock is quick to point out that it is just nine games into the season, and the ones that count are still a couple weeks away. He’s confident answers will be found by then.
“Our kids have been showing that they are competing every day,” Tadlock said. “And what I mean by that is they’re trying and making the effort to win baseball games.
“The more times we get to see these guys, each individual in different roles, the better we should be at the end.”