LUBBOCK, Texas — When Texas Tech outfielder Kurt Wilson broke his thumb in an April 11 game against TCU, his coach Tim Tadlock did not expect to get him back in the lineup at any point of the season.
After Wilson’s performance in the Lubbock Regional last week, Tadlock is glad he was wrong.
In his first three games back at the plate, Wilson delivered five hits, five RBI and a Most Outstanding Player honor.
He banged a home run off the right-field foul pole for a critical insurance run in Saturday’s game against North Carolina. The next night against UCLA, he ripped two RBI singles.
“It’s been awesome to watch,” teammate Patrick Monteverde said. “He comes up big when we need him most.”
Wilson is no stranger to coming up big at the right time. In 2019, “Mr. June” hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in Game 3 of Tech’s Super Regional against Oklahoma State, sending the Red Raiders to the College World Series.
He was able to provide similar — if slightly less dramatic — heroics in 2021, but it was a long road to get to that point.
After suffering the injury, Wilson made himself useful by taking on a new role.
The broken thumb was on his left hand, leaving his dominant, right arm healthy and functional. He was a two-way player for his first three years at Texas Tech, and while he didn’t pitch in 2021 before the injury, he returned to the mound while he was unable to hit, with a bulky brace on his left hand.
He pitched in three games, posting a 3.37 ERA in 2.2 innings.
Wilson was eventually cleared to hit on the Monday before the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City, Tadlock said. He did not hit in the tournament, but his recovery timeline outpaced what Tadlock originally thought when he went down.
“Everything just healed up the right way,” Tadlock said. “It doesn’t always happen that way, but it did.”
To regain his timing before hitting in live games again, Wilson took at-bats against his teammates in “intrasquad” games.
His performance there indicated what was to come.
“He’s been lighting up the pitchers in intrasquad so it really wasn’t anything new,” Monteverde said after Wilson’s big game against UNC.
While Wilson was out, the bottom of Texas Tech’s lineup struggled to produce runs. If the big bats went cold at the top of the order, Tech was often left with the sort of low-scoring performances that got them eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament early.
Tadlock slotted Wilson eighth in the order last weekend, and his two hits against UCLA helped the team score eight runs despite hitless performances from stars Dru Baker and Cal Conley.
Now, the Red Raiders are back in Super Regionals, where Wilson hit his clutch blast in 2019. The opponent this time is Stanford, which scored 36 runs over its four Regional games.
The Red Raiders will need to score to keep up with the high-powered Cardinal offense, and Tadlock is fortunate to have Wilson back at the plate to help them do that.