OKLAHOMA CITY — TCU starting pitcher Russell Smith stands 6-foot-9, and hitting him proved to be a tall task for Texas Tech hitters Friday.
The lanky lefty struck out 10 Red Raiders and allowed just three hits through six innings. TCU won the game 7-2, earning itself a bye through the next round of the Big 12 tournament.
Since No. 3 Texas Tech lost, it will have to turn around and immediately play another game against No. 7 Kansas State Friday afternoon. The winner of that game will play No. 2 TCU for a chance to go to the Big 12 Championship Game. The loser is eliminated from the tournament.
Tech managed only one hit and did not get a runner into scoring position through the first four innings against Smith. Nate Rombach launched a two-run moonshot in the fifth, but that was all Texas Tech would get off Horned Frog pitching.
It was a tough-luck start for Red Raider pitcher Patrick Monteverde, who limited hard-hit balls but still allowed four runs in six innings.
TCU’s Porter Brown led off the game with a bloop double over third baseman Parker Kelly’s head. Zach Humphreys followed that with another double and came around to score to put the Frogs up 2-0.
The Red Raiders got sloppy in the field in the third inning. Jace Jung and Cal Conley each committed errors, allowing two more runs to score despite TCU hitting the ball out of the infield just one time.
Rombach’s blast cut the deficit to 4-2 in the fifth inning and after Monteverde struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning, the Red Raiders appeared to pick up some momentum.
Braxton Fulford led off the top of the sixth with a walk, but with his pitch count high, Smith dug deep to retire the next three hitters and end the threat.
Now trailing 5-2, Texas Tech threatened again in the eighth inning. Big 12 Player of the Year Jace Jung came to the plate with two runners on base and one out, representing the tying run. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle turned to his side-arming lefty closer Haylen Green to face him.
Jung bounced a ground ball to first base for a fielder’s choice. The next hitter, Cole Stilwell, stared at strike three to end the inning.
Tim Tadlock turned to freshman Levi Wells to start the bottom of the eighth and he could not find the strike zone. Wells walked four hitters and allowed a single, turning it over to Derek Bridges without recording an out.
TCU scored two runs in the inning and the game ended on a Max Marusak double play.