Texas Tech is finding its groove just in time for the home stretch of the regular season.
The Red Raiders, who had a losing record in Big 12 play less than two weeks ago, are 1 ½ games behind first-place Baylor after a weekend sweep against an Oklahoma State team that came in leading the league. Tech has won five straight conference games for the first time in two years and is as high as No. 11 in this week’s polls.
“I feel we definitely have gotten the ball rolling a little bit better, obviously,” relief pitcher John McMillon said. “As long as we keep getting better every day and keep thinking our best baseball is in front of us, we’ll be all right.”
The Red Raiders (29-13, 11-7) reached the College World Series in 2014, ’16 and ’18, and entered the season as the Big 12 favorites. They were just 6-7 in the league after losing in extra innings at Baylor on April 18.
Tech came back to win that series, beat New Mexico on Wednesday and outscored Oklahoma State 27-8 over three games. Josh Jung went 5 for 8 with a double, home run and six RBIs, Dylan Neuse homered, tripled and drove in five runs, and Red Raiders pitchers combined for 46 strikeouts.
“We haven’t had the season we wanted to,” Neuse said. “With these conference games the last couple weeks, even the mid-weeks, we just brought an attitude where we have to step up and perform and execute.”
Tech is 7-2 since Jung moved from third base to shortstop on April 14. The projected first-round draft pick has been error-free at short and is batting .400 (12 of 30) with three home runs and 12 RBIs in the nine games since he replaced freshman Dru Baker.
“We’ve been telling these guys since day one how much fun they are to watch play,” Tadlock said, “but since we moved Josh over there, it’s been a lot of fun.”
The Red Raiders, like all Tadlock teams, are strong offensively and rank in the top 50 in the major statistical categories. Freshman Micah Dallas (4-0, 3.74 ERA) and Killian (7-2, 4.22) have been fixtures in the weekend rotation, with Erickson Lanning (0-1, 4.63) and Arkansas transfer Bryce Bonnin (3-1, 5.68) alternating in and out. Bonnin made his second Big 12 start Sunday and struck out eight and allowed no earned runs in 4 2-3 innings.
Tech finishes with conference series at Oklahoma and at home against TCU. Baylor closes at home against Kansas State and on the road against Oklahoma State. Of those four opponents, OSU is the only one higher than fifth in the standings.
“I think this weekend is going to have momentum that carries over our next few series,” McMillon said, “and we really need that.”
IN THE POLLS
UCLA (34-7) has won 13 of its last 14 and remains No. 1 in the major polls. Stanford (31-7) is No. 2 by D1Baseball.com and Baseball America and No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. Oregon State (31-10-1) is No. 3 by D1Baseball.com, and Vanderbilt (34-9) is No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 3 by Baseball America.
Vanderbilt (34-9, 15-6) has won six straight Southeastern Conference games for the first time since 2014. The Commodores swept Georgia to go up two games on the Bulldogs in the SEC East. Patrick Raby matched the program record with his 29th career win on Saturday.
Freshman Alex Binelas became the first Louisville player since 1998 to hit for the cycle, going 5 for 6 with eight RBIs against Alabama A&M on Friday. For the week, the third baseman batted .643 (9 for 14) and had an on-base percentage of .722 and slugging percentage of 1.571.
WOLVERINES ON ROLL
At eight games, Michigan (31-11, 11-3) has the longest winning streak among Power Five conference teams and owns a half-game lead over Indiana in the Big Ten. Sitting No. 53 in the RPI, the Wolverines still have work to do to secure an at-large NCAA Tournament bid if they don’t win the conference tournament. None of their next five games are against opponents better than 84th in the RPI, but their final seven are against teams in the top 50 this week.
BOBCATS ON PROWL
Texas State (31-13) is quietly having its best season in 10 years. The Bobcats’ 10-game win streak is longest in the nation, they never trailed in their weekend sweep at Louisiana-Lafayette and they’ve beaten Texas and Texas A&M in the same season for the first time since 2001.