The national spotlight will shine down upon the Cliff this weekend when #3 Texas Tech rides into town to take on #6 Kentucky. The biggest series of the weekend will look a lot like a Super Regional in March. UK and TTU match up evenly on almost every facet of the game. The Red Raiders are extremely skilled across the diamond and will give UK their best challenge outside of the SEC. Let’s take a look at what makes the #3 team in the country so strong.
This series could have provided one of the best pitching matchups nationwide had it been played three weeks ago. Texas Tech’s ace Steven Gingery went down with a torn UCL and required Tommy John Surgery after throwing just 2.1 innings this season. The Red Raiders can still bring it every weekend with three quality arms. Davis Martin will take the mound on Friday night with John McMillon and Ryan Shetter on Saturday and Sunday. Gingery and Martin were primed to be the best one-two punch in the Big-12. Martin has picked up the slack following Gingery’s injury by allowing only one earned run in his first 15 innings of the year. Texas Tech’s starters don’t go particularly deep in games, mainly because they haven’t had to expend their arms too much. The Red Raiders have an extremely reliable bullpen that tends to take over in the sixth inning. I expect we will see a few more inning from Texas Tech’s starters this weekend as this is the Red Raiders’ toughest test before entering conference play.
The powerful offense led by coach Tim Tadlock has been on display over the last four seasons. Texas Tech has reached the College World Series twice in the last four years on the back of this offense. 2018 is no different. Texas Tech’s offense is producing at an amazing clip right now. The Red Raiders have a +90 run differential in their first 14 games. With three players hitting over .400, TTU is running through teams early this season. Grant Little leads the Big 12 in hits and runs while the Red Raiders as a whole lead the conference in average, OBP, runs, walks, and hits.
The Red Raiders will be one of the few teams that can go shot-for-shot with UK’s offense and pitching. The Friday night matchup of Sean Hjelle and Davis Martin will most likely result in a pitcher’s duel that will go down to the wire. I like UK’s pitching on Saturday and Sunday to outmatch the Red Raiders. Both teams have solid starting rotations, but the real question will come down to late-inning performances by the bullpens. TTU has shown that their bullpen is effective, but how will they handle UK’s offense? If one of UK’s starters gets in trouble early, who could they rely on out of the bullpen to eat innings? I think this series will show three games that are decided within one inning, perhaps all after the sixth. This should be a fun weekend that will look a lot like a best-of-three Super Regional.
Friday: 4 ET SECN+
Saturday: 1 ET SECN+
Sunday: 1 ET SECN+