LUBBOCK, Texas – The No. 3 Texas Tech baseball team hits the road and begins an eight-game road trip against No. 5 Kentucky on March 9-11 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.
All three games will be available on SEC Network Plus, streamed through ESPN.com & the ESPN app. The series can also be heard on the Texas Tech Sports Network on 97.3 FM, the 97.3 app, TuneIn app and online at TexasTech.com. Live stats will also be available at Sidearmstats.com/ukentucky/baseball.
The Red Raiders (14-0) and the Wildcats (12-2) meet for the first time in the two program’s histories on Friday afternoon in Lexington. Tech has faced nine current members of the SEC and is slated to face another in Arkansas on April 24-25 in Fayetteville.
It’s the highest-ranked matchup for the Red Raiders so far this season, having completed a four-game sweep of then-No. 11 South Alabama last weekend in Lubbock. Tech put together big scores of 8-1 & 14-2 in the first two games of the series with the Jaguars, then followed it with 5-2 & 9-7 victories in the final two contests to earn their third sweep of the year.
Before the trip to Lexington, Tech played in its first Wednesday game of the season, putting together a 7-2 win over New Mexico at Rip Griffin Park. It was the 16th time the two squads have met under head coach Tim Tadlock’s tenure at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders opened the scoring with a three-run second inning and cashed in on four more runs throughout the contest to get the victory.
Tech’s three-run second frame was kick-started by senior infielder Michael Davis, who launched his team-leading fourth homer of the season into the visiting bullpen early in the inning. The two-RBI and two-runs scored day for the Lubbock native came on the heels of capturing Big 12 Player of the Week accolades on Monday after a 10-hit week against UTSA, UTRGV & South Alabama. He finished the week with four multi-hit performances, including a three-hit bid in the series finale against the Jaguars on Sunday.
In that contest, Davis came a triple shy of the cycle, throwing down a double in his first at-bat, then hit a two-run homer later in the game, while scoring three runs. Overall, Davis topped conference hitters last week in hits, hits per game, runs, runs per game, RBI and total bases, helping the Red Raiders to a four-game sweep of the Jaguars, as well as road wins over UTSA & UTRGV.
The previous week was not a typical stretch for the Red Raiders, playing games on Monday & Tuesday to close out four-straight days of games, followed by a four-game weekend. It was business as usual for Tech, putting together a 6-0 week to improve to 13-0 for the first time in program history.
The Red Raiders capped a three-game sweep of UTSA with a 10-6 win on Monday in San Antonio, followed by a 3-1 victory on Tuesday four hours south in Edinburg. Tech returned home and completed a four-game sweep of No. 11 South Alabama over the weekend, racking up scores of 8-1 & 14-2 in the first two games, with 5-2 & 9-7 victories to close out the series.
It was the first time since 1996 the Red Raiders had swept a four-game set against a ranked opponent, when Tech did so against No. 14 Texas A&M (March 29-31, 1996).
The Red Raider defense & pitching staff had another strong showing against New Mexico, holding the Lobos to just two runs on seven hits on Wednesday. It was the 10th time in 14 games this year Tech has held its opponent to two or fewer runs, already putting together three shutouts this season.
Head coach Tim Tadlock will send junior right-handed pitcher Davis Martin to start Friday’s contest against the Wildcats, with sophomore righty John McMillon tabbed for a game two start on the mound. The duo has each put together 3-0 starts to the 2018 season in three appearances, the quickest for both Red Raiders, as McMillon was 2-0 in 2017 after coming out of the bullpen. Sunday’s starter is TBA.
They’ll face one of their toughest tests this season in a red-hot Kentucky lineup that boasts a .335 team average heading into the weekend. Six everyday Wildcat players are hitting above the team clip, with senior Luke Heyer leading the charge with a .478 average in 13 games. He tops the Wildcats in hits (22) and runs (17), while sophomore T.J. Collett has driven in a team-high 25 runs. Kentucky has also utilized the long ball frequently in 2018, with eight each coming from Heyer & Collett, and 28 overall by the team, generously helping opponents to a 7.58 team ERA this season.
On the mound, the Wildcats have pieced together a 3.43 ERA this season from 16 pitchers. Junior RHP Sean Hjelle, sophomore lefty Zack Thompson & redshirt-junior right-hander Justin Lewis have been picked to start this weekend’s set against the Red Raiders. Hjelle leads the starting trio with a 0.92 ERA, allowing three runs on nine hits this season, with 18 strikeouts and three walks to go with it. Thompson holds a 5.52 clip after nine runs on 12 hits, 18 strikeouts & seven walks, while Lewis comes in with a 2.95 ERA and a team-high 27 strikeouts, allowing eight runs on 14 hits this year.
The six polls kept the Red Raiders in their same spots for the most part this week, moving up to No. 3 in one poll to hold the third spot by four different publications. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper & Baseball America round out Tech’s top-five rankings for the fourth-straight week at No. 4 & No. 5, respectively. Kentucky is ranked as high as No. 5 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper & NCBWA. The Wildcats check in at sixth by three others, with a No. 8 spot rounding out their top-10 mark heading into the weekend.
After the series with Kentucky, the Red Raiders travel about 45 minutes away to Louisville to take on the No. 8 Cardinals on March 13-14 at Jim Patterson Stadium.