LUBBOCK, TX - The No. 5 Texas Tech baseball team nearly erased a five-run deficit during the final two innings, but Sam Houston State hung on for a 9-8 decision on Sunday night at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park in game six of the 2017 NCAA Lubbock Regional.
The Red Raiders (45-16) and the Bearkats (43-21) will battle for the regional title and a spot in NCAA Super Regional round on Monday at 2 p.m. CT.
Tech battled from behind the entire evening and answered SHSU’s runs in each of the first two frames. However, a three-run fourth inning gave the Bearkats the lead for good and a three-run eighth inning was enough insurance to force the winner-take-all contest.
The Red Raiders pounded out eight runs on 15 hits fueled by five multi-hit efforts. Freshman infielder Josh Jung and freshman infielder Brian Klein collected three-hit performances followed by junior outfielder Tanner Gardner, senior outfielder Ryan Long and freshman outfielder Grant Little with two hits apiece.
Trailing 9-4 with two outs in the eighth inning, Jung cranked a 2-0 offering and delivered a two-run home run off the scoreboard in right centerfield. For Jung, it was his sixth dinger of the season.
The Red Raiders continued the comeback effort and filled the bases with no outs during the ninth inning. Senior first baseman Hunter Hargrove and Long ripped back-to-back singles to right field, and junior shortstop Orlando Garcia coaxed a five-pitch walk.
After a pair of strikeouts, Klein laced a two-run single into right field to bring the tally to 9-8. Tech was unable to get the equalizer as Little popped up to the shortstop to end the contest.
The Bearkats got on the board first in the opening frame thanks to an RBI groundout from Clayton Harp with one away. His grounder forced only one play to get the out at first base and brought home Johnson who walked earlier in the frame and was moved into scoring position on a single from Fregia.
Just like in last night’s game against Sam Houston State, Gardner put the Red Raiders on the board with a home run to right field to even the tally at 1-1. His fifth homer of the year and third in two nights screamed over the approving Tech bullpen. It marked the 24th time this season the Red Raiders have scored in the opening frame.
SHSU regained the lead in the next inning after a single and hit-by-pitch put two on with nobody out. A sacrifice bunt from Lance Miles moved the runners up coupled with a fielder’s choice ground out by Taylor Beene platted Jaxxon Grisham for the 2-1 advantage.
Tech knotted it up again in the home half of the second and utilized an error by the second baseman on a grounder up the middle by Garcia to pull the score to 2-2. The play brought in Long, who opened the inning with a double to left-center field.
The Bearkats found the lead again in the top of the fourth after Beene hit into a fielder’s choice with runners on the corners. An error on the play reset the scoring threat for SHSU and scored Hunter Hearn. After a pitching change to freshman righty John McMillon, the Bearkats got two more RBI singles from Johnson and Harp to push the advantage to 5-2.
A pair of doubles to left-center field from Garcia and Koelzer in the sixth cut the Tech deficit to 5-3, but SHSU would answer back with a run of their own after capitalizing on an error.
Tech also countered in the bottom of the seventh by scoring one with the bases loaded on a wild pitch. The Bearkats would strand the bases full later in the frame to get out of the jam and protect their 6-4 lead.
The Bearkats were able to get the insurance run back and add on to the lead in the next frame with a trio of two-out runs. An RBI single from Johnson plated Miles, who opened the eighth with a single. Two batters later, a two-run double from Harp extended the advantage to 9-4. Harp finished the game with four RBI for SHSU.
Sophomore right-hander Ryan Shetter was handed his first loss of the season and dropped to 4-1. He was touched up for five runs, three earned, on five hits over 3.1 innings. He tallied two strikeouts against one walk.
The Red Raiders and the Bearkats will play for the regional crown and a berth in super regional play on Monday, June 5, at 2 p.m. CT at Rip Griffin Park.
(Courtsey: Texas Tech Athletics)