After a thrilling series victory over Oklahoma St. this past weekend, the Red Raider baseball team is set for another key Big 12 battle down in the state’s capitol this weekend. The Longhorns were picked to finish 4th in the conference this year (just behind TTU) and should pose another tough test during a difficult part of the Red Raider’s schedule. Following this weekend’s action and a road trip to Albuquerque on Tuesday, Tim Tadlock’s team will return home to tangle with TCU Friday through Sunday. That means in the first three weeks of Big 12 action, the Red Raiders will have faced the other three teams picked to finish in the conference’s top 4. Another series win this weekend, especially since it is on the road, would be huge for the Red Raiders conference title chances.
The problem for the guys in red and black is the squad continues to lose key players from the roster. First it was Bo Blessie, who was dealing with arm soreness and hasn’t been seen on the mound since he left his start on February 28th. In his place Pitching Coach Matt Gardner has gone with a combination of FR Tabor Fast and SO Kyle Robinson. While both have had plenty of good moments, consistency has been lacking. Getting one of them to settle into that role is a key for Tech moving forward.
Next it was CF Dillon Carter who suffered a wrist injury on March 12th and is reportedly out for 6 to 8 weeks. The JR out of Argyle was having a terrific start to his season (.400, 5HRs, 18RBI) and has been difficult to replace both in the field and at the plate. Filling in for Carter has been a group of Red Raiders led by Gage Harrelson, Damian Bravo, and Owen Washburn. While the offense has been good from the group, Carter is an elite defender and there just isn’t anyone on the roster (or most rosters in college baseball) that can replace his impact in the field.
And now heading into this key series this weekend, the Red Raiders will be without the services of right-handed relief pitcher Brandon Beckel, who was suspended for four games after being ejected for taunting/trash talking OSU hitters on Sunday. The San Antonio native has been an ace out of the pen (3-0…0.64era…7app) and is definitely a tough guy to replace. Coaches Tadlock and Gardner have plenty of options to try to replace his right-handed production (Robinson, Parish, Bravo, Devine, Coombes, Sanders, Lopez) but clearly one or more has to step up a bit in Beckel’s absence.
So, how do you get over the loss of a key bullpen arm for this weekend? While other relief pitchers stepping up in his place is the easy and also a right answer, I think there is another answer, as well.It’s the starting pitching. Without Beckel, the Red Raiders can likely not afford to get just 3.2 innings out of both their Friday and Sunday starters. Texas Tech could really use a much better performance from RSO Brendan Girton on Friday in the opener. Girton has not completed five full innings since his start vs Western Illinois on February 24th. Besides Girton, Molina and the Robinson/Fast combo need to do their part as well.
Coming into the 2023 season it looked as if depth would be a key positive for this Red Raider team. Unfortunately, it appears that it is getting tested more and more every week. Next man up has been performing pretty well so far. A new next man will likely need to emerge in Austin this weekend.
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