Dec. 31, 1997
Texas Tech Looks to Defend Big 12 Title
The Texas Tech baseball program has achieved much success over the last three seasons. It's won conference championships in the form of the 1995 Southwest Conference regular season title and last year, won the inaugural 1997 Big 12 Conference regular season title. It's hosted two consecutive NCAA regionals. It's had numerous players earn All-America honors and enter the Major Baseball League draft. It's made three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. And Texas Tech's home attendance continues to rise as one of the nation's top collegiate baseball attractions.
There's only one achievement separating Texas Tech from the elite college baseball superpowers: a trip to Omaha, Neb. and the College World Series.
Only eight teams earn the right to step on the Rosenblatt Stadium infield to compete for the national title. Nevertheless, that's what the 1998 Red Raiders are gunning for.
"If we stay healthy and don't lose players, I'm not going to put limits on this team," Hays said. "This year is just like last year's team in that nothing will surprise me. You don't know where they might be able to go, but they've got a chance to be pretty good. If they stay healthy, it's kind of up to them in what they can accomplish.
"Our goals are the same- we want to go as far as this team is capable of going. Of course, our goals are to always win conference, get in the regional and get past that. This team is accepting the same goals as we had last year."
Texas Tech (46-14/23-7 Big 12) will enter Big 12 Conference play as marked men as the Raiders won the inaugural 1997 Big 12 Conference regular season championship. Repeating as champions won't be easy against the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the same conference. It will be even tougher because Raiders will have to face that challenge without departed All America players- first baseman Joe Dillon and lefthanded pitcher Jason Gooding along with All-Conference selection/outfielder Brandon Toro board.
Filling Dillon's shoes will be no small task as the senior who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals last year, hit .393, drove in 89 RBI and set school records for home runs (33) and slugging percentage (.939). The Red Raiders will need to find a third starter to make up for the loss of Gooding. Gooding also drafted by Kansas City, had an incredible season as he dominated opposing batters all season and registered an 11-0 record, 3.49 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 116.0 innings. Toro was also a key player as he hit .376, 10 home runs and contributed 51 RBI as an outfielder.
"We've got big shoes to fill with Dillon, Toro and Gooding not back, but we still have a good returning bunch," Hays said. "I don't think we can fill Joe Dillon's shoes. And of course, Jason Gooding was undefeated- those pitchers are hard to come by, but I don't think we've got a guy up there in the middle having an awesome year like Dillon had last year. Although, at this time last year, I was saying the same thing. Dillon just evolved into that go-to person and had an awesome year."
Even without Tech's two All America players, Hays believes his Red Raiders have the talent to be a successful team. How the team comes together will be another story.
"We've got some talented players, but where they'll blend together for our offense, we don't know," Hays said. " We've got some talented pitchers, but how they'll blend together as a pitching staff, we don't know. Our achillies last year was defense and I think this year, we'll be a little bit better."
"We'll be better defensively and I think we'll also be better in the outfield. Whether we can measure up again on the mound, that's going to be a big question and whether we can measure up offensively to where we've been the last few years, that's another big question."
Measuring up to the two previous Texas Tech teams will be no small task. Over the last three years, Texas Tech has accumulated a .772 winning percentage and 146-43 record. The Red Raiders have averaged 48.7 wins per year and have won two conference championships, hosted two consecutive NCAA regionals and appeared in three consecutive NCAA regionals.
"To get where we want to be and where we have been the last few years, you've got to pitch well, play good defense and have a good offense," Hays said. "That's what everybody tries to do and I think this team's got a chance to do that. We need Ward and Wright to pick up where they left off last year and we need Ralston and Stewart to be where they were last year in the pen and if they do that, we'll need the four new pitchers to step up and contribute. We need to pitch near the level we've been pitching for that to happen and hopefully it will."Position-by-Position Anaylsis
Texas Tech returns consensus 1997 Freshman All America and the Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year in sophomore Josh Bard. Bard, a 1998 All-America candidate, will be counted on to provide leadership in his second year at Tech.
Bard's rookie campaign included a .359 batting average along with 13 home runs and 69 RBI in his first year of college baseball. He capped off his spectacular season by playing this summer with the USA Baseball National Team that traveled overseas to compete for the Intercontinental Cup. Bard finished the summer hitting .305 and had three game-winning RBI.
Bard will receive assistance from junior Brandon Buckley. Buckley made his mark last season with a strong campaign. The junior college transfer from Chabot J.C. in California, batted .418 along with 41 hits and 26 RBI in 22 starts and 28 appearances last season.
"We're fortunate to have two real good, experienced catchers and it's important to have that," Hays said. "We had that last year and one of them got hurt and we only had one, so I'm not sure if two's enough."
Backing up both Bard and Buckley will be junior Brent Huddleston who is coming off a redshirt season.FIRST BASE
First base is a wide open position wide as the Red Raiders must find a replacement to fill the void left by consensus All-America and 1997 senior Joe Dillon.
Texas Tech has added several players to accomplish that task. Freshman Scooter Martines, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii and was drafted in the 31st round by the Detroit Tigers in the 1997 draft, is the early frontrunner for the starting position. Catcher/first baseman Brandon Buckley could also see action at first along with sophomore Coastal Carolina transfer Mark Austry, who batted .333 for the NCAA Division I school a year ago.
"We've got two or three guys we can put over there," Hays said. "Brandon Buckley can play over there some, Scooter Martines is a guy we recruited to play at first and of course, Mark Austry. That gives us three guys over there to try and plug in."SECOND BASE
Consensus All America and senior Keith Ginter blossomed into one of the nation's top leadoff hitters and second basemen last year after transferring to Tech from Cypress Junior College. Ginter took the Big 12 by storm last year as the 5-9 177-pounder batted.426, hit 17 home runs, drove in 77 RBI, scored 93 runs and stole 29 bases. He also added a .529 on-base percentage and .743 slugging percentage as the Raiders' leadoff hitter. His outstanding season helped him earn four All-America first team selections, consensus All-Big 12 and Dallas Morning News Big 12 Player of the Year honors.
"Keith had an outstanding year last year," Hays said. "Hopefully, he'll be able to do it again."
Ginter has been slowed in the fall with an elbow injury. Should Ginter be injured or unable to play with his injury, a trio of other players will challenge for the starting job including junior college transfers Kevin Jordan (Blinn J.C.) and Peter Nelson (Marin, Calif.) along with UCLA transplant Brennan Burns.SHORTSTOP
Tech lost 1997 starter Jess Olivares, but the Raiders should be strong at shortstop this season as junior Jason Huth, who started 14 games at that position returns. Huth batted .271, stole 14 bases and hit seven triples and five home runs in 58 starts.
The Red Raiders also added a junior college transfer in Junior Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who played middle infield at the same junior college as Ginter, Cypress J.C., has been drafted three times in his career and may be ready to step in immediately and challenge for the position.THIRD BASE
Both corner positions- third base and first base are wide open positions for Texas Tech. Tech returns solid veterans, along with some new additions at the hot corner.
Senior Jose Alvarez is the top returnee with the most starts (23) at third base. Alvarez came through with some big games last season and finished with a .242 batting average with 22 RBI and four home runs on the campaign. Junior Jason Huth could also see action at third base as he has in the past. True freshman David Tuley (Spring, Texas) may also figure into the picture.THE OUTFIELD
Texas Tech will have some new and familiar faces in the outfield as Hays will blend experience with youth. Departed is Brandon Toro (.376, 10 HR, 51 RBI) and returning to the lineup for his second season at Tech is senior Jason Landreth. Landreth, a 1997 Big 12 All-Tournament team selection, hit .379, drove in 66 RBI , stole 29 bases and hit nine home runs. He also managed to hit 29 doubles to rank third nationally in that category.
Sophomore Joe Smith, who hit .327 with nine RBI last season, will also challenge for a starting position along with Kevin Jordan and Jason Huth.
Two newcomers- junior college transfer Ryan Ruiz from Saddleback College, Calif. and freshman Miles Durham from Abilene, Texas, a sixth round draft choice by the Los Angeles Dodgers, will add speed and defense to the team. Others who could challenge for playing time include redshirt freshman Steve Richardson, sophomore transfer Mark Austry (Coastal Carolina), senior Jose Alvarez, senior Brent Huddleston and senior two-sport (football-baseball) athlete Duane Price.
"For us to be better in the outfield, Ruiz and Durham are two keys because of their speed," Hays said. "Both are centerfielders and they're competing for the starting job there and one of them could end up in right field fairly easily."THE PITCHING STAFF
Texas Tech returns two starters from last season in All Big 12 selections Monty Ward and Shane Wright. Ward averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings last year and compiled a 9-4 record with a 4.07 ERA in 15 games started. Ward, who ranked seventh in the nation in strikeouts, returns to the Raiders after a successful summer pitching for the USA Baseball National team. Wright arrives after walking only 10 batters in 90 innings last year (one/game). He registered a 3.90 ERA and 10-2 record in 12 games started as the No. 3 pitcher last year and will be counted on even more to carry the load.
Junior southpaw Zach Stewart (1-2, 4.72 ERA) and junior closer Brad Ralston, who finished last season with a team-best 3.65 ERA along with seven saves, both return to the bull pen. Ralston is recovering from off-season knee surgery. Tech received some bad news in the fall when the coaches found that junior Chad Reynolds would be sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury.
"We don't have that many pitchers back, so they're all going to have to pitch," Hays said. "That was a big disapointment to lose Chad Reynolds. Wright and Ward are back as starters and Ralston and Stewart are back in the bullpen. Plus, we've added four new guys, so basically it's those eight people on the mound. We don't have anything set in stone yet. They're a pretty good eight but we sure don't need any injuries."
Four transfer pitchers will also need to perform right away. Juniors Cade Allison (Odessa J.C.), Eric Cooper (Chabot J.C., Calif.) and Jesse Cornejo (Seward County J.C., Kansas) along with sophomore Lubbock Christian transplant Steve Watkins will be expected to make a significant impact early on.WHAT THE RED RAIDERS LOSE IN 1998
55% (33 of 60) of the starts 50% (23 of 46) of the wins 58% (303.6 of 524.2) of the inningsHitting
45% (339 of 761) of hits 53% (57 of 108) of home runs 49% (291 of 584) of RBIPlayers
10 Total Players 5 pitchers 5 position players (4 starters)PRESEASON DEPTH CHART (tentative)
Catcher: Josh Bard, Brandon Buckley, Brent Huddleston
First Base: Scooter Martines, Brandon Buckley, Mark Austry
Second Base: Keith Ginter, Kevin Jordan, Peter Nelson, Brennan Burns
Shortstop: Jason Huth or Junior Rodriguez, Brennan Burns, Peter Nelson
Third Base: Jason Huth, Kevin Jordan, David Tuley, Brennan Burns or Jose Alvarez
Right Field: Miles Durham or Ryan Ruiz, Joe Smith, Mark Austry, Duane Price, Steve Richardson
Center Field: Ryan Ruiz or Miles Durham, Duane Price
Left Field: Jason Landreth, Joe Smith, Kevin Jordan, Jason Huth, Steve Richardson
No. 1 Starting Pitcher: Monty Ward
No. 2 Starting Pitcher: Shane Wright
No. 3 Starting Pitcher: One of four- Cade Allison, Jesse Cornejo, Eric Cooper, Steve Watkins
Middle Relief: Zach Stewart, Cade Allison, Jesse Cornejo, Eric Cooper or Steve Watkins
Short Relief: Brad Ralston, Zach StewartRED RAIDER NEWCOMERS (13)
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Thr./B Cl. Exp. Hometown/College/High School Cade Allison P 6-5 200 R/R JR TR Odessa, Texas/Odessa College/Odessa Mark Austry 1B/OF 6-0 185 L/L SO TR Fort Worth, Texas/Coastal Carolina/Arlington Heights Brennan Burns INF 5-10 165 R/R FR TR Orange, Calif./UCLA/Tustin Eric Cooper P 6-4 220 R/R JR TR Fremont, Calif./Chabot College/Trevington Jesse Cornejo P 6-3 185 L/L JR TR Wellington, Kansas/Seward County/Wellington Miles Durham OF 6-3 195 R/L FR HS Abilene, Texas/Cooper Kevin Jordan INF 6-1 195 R/R JR TR Midland, Texas/Blinn J.C./Lee Scooter Martines 1B/OF 5-10 205 R/R FR HS Honolulu, Hawaii/Panattou Peter Nelson INF 5-11 195 B/R JR TR Mill Valley, Calif./Marin/Tamalpais Junior Rodriguez INF 6-1 190 R/R JR TR Sonora, Calif./Cypress J.C./Sonora Junior Ruiz OF 5-9 160 L/L JR TR El Toro, Calif./Saddleback Mission Viejo/El Toro David Tuley IF 5-11 180 R/R FR HS Spring, Texas/Klein Steve Watkins P 6-4 180 R/R SO TR Lubbock, Texas/Lubbock Christian Recruiting Class Facts Total Newcomers: 13 Junior College Transfers: 9 Redshirt Freshmen: 1 True Freshmen: 3 Ranked 25th by Collegiate Baseball as a classPRESEASON RANKINGS
(polls included before press time) Collegiate Baseball: 7 Oklahoma State, 12 Oklahoma, 17 TEXAS TECH, 24 Texas A&M, 25 Baylor, 31 Texas. Baseball America: 8 TEXAS TECH, 13 Baylor, 16 Oklahoma State, 22 Oklahoma.RED RAIDERS IN LAST THREE YEARS
Year W-L Pct. Honors/Accomplishments 1995 51-14 .785 SWC tourn. title, NCAA Regional 1996 49-15 .766 Host NCAA Regional 1997 46-14 .767 Big 12 title, host NCAA Regional Totals 146-43 .772 2 conf. titles, 3 NCAA Regionals Avg. wins per year: 48.67 Avg. losses per year: 14.33THREE-YEAR COMPARISON
(with selected collegiate baseball programs) By Victories Wichita State 158 LSU 156 Florida State 155 Miami, Fla. 149 Alabama 148 TEXAS TECH 146 Clemson 146 Tennessee 139 Oklahoma State 137 Southern Cal 137 Rice 132 Auburn 132 Central Florida 132 Stanford 126 Notre Dame 125 Cal-State Northridge 122 Florida 122 Texas A&M 120 Mississippi State 119 Ohio State 118 Santa Clara 116 Oklahoma 113 Texas 112 UCLA 110 Pepperdine 103 Washington 100 By Winning Percentage School W-L Pct. Wichita State 158-46 .775 LSU 156-46 .772 TEXAS TECH 146-43 .772 Florida State 155-50 .756 Miami, Fla. 149-49 .752 Clemson 146-54 .730 Santa Clara 116-24-1 .729 Alabama 148-56 .725 Tennessee 139-55 .716 Auburn 132-54 .709 Oklahoma State 137-59 .699 Southern Cal 137-59-1 .695 Rice 132-58 .694 Central Florida 132-60 .688 Notre Dame 125-58 .683 Stanford 126-64 .663 Ohio State 118-61 .659 Florida 122-66 .649 Oklahoma 113-61 .649 Texas A&M 120-65 .649 Cal-State Northridge 122-68 .642 Brigham Young 111-62-1 .637 Texas 112-65 .633 Mississippi State 119-70 .629 Arizona State 108-64 .629 Pepperdine 103-63-1 .617 UCLA 110-77-1 .585 Washington 100-78 .561 TWO-YEAR COMPARISON (with selected collegiate baseball programs) By Victories Alabama 106 Wichita State 105 LSU 104 Florida State 102 Miami, Fla. 101 TEXAS TECH 95 Cal-State Northridge 94 Clemson 92 Oklahoma State 91 Rice 89 Southern Cal 88 Stanford 86 Georgia Tech 86 Tennessee 85 Mississippi State 85 Notre Dame 85 Auburn 82 Florida 82 UCLA 81 Santa Clara 81 Pepperdine 77 Texas A&M 76 Ohio State 76 Washington 76 Brigham Young 75 Arizona State 74 Central Florida 73 Oklahoma 71 Texas 68 By Winning Percentage Wichita State 105-29 .784 LSU 104-31 .770 TEXAS TECH 95-29 .766 Alabama 106-33 .762 Miami, Fla. 101-32 .759 Florida State 102-34 .750 Cal-State Northridge 94-39 .707 Southern Cal 88-37-1 .698 Clemson 92-40 .697 Notre Dame 85-37 .697 Oklahoma State 91-40 .695 Rice 89-39 .695 Stanford 86-39 .689 Tennessee 85-39 .685 Brigham Young 75-37 .670 Auburn 82-41 .667 Georgia Tech 86-44 .662 Florida 82-42 .661 Santa Clara 81-42 .659 Mississippi State 85-45 .654 Texas A&M 76-43 .639 Ohio State 76-43 .639 Pepperdine 77-44 .636 Arizona State 74-43 .632 Central Florida 73-45 .619 UCLA 81-49-1 .618 Washington 76-48 .613 Oklahoma 71-45 .612 Texas 68-46 .596 BIG 12 BASEBALL RECORDS OVER LAST THREE YEARS By Winning Percentage School W-L Pct. TEXAS TECH 146-43 .772 Oklahoma State 137-59 .699 Texas A&M 120-65 .649 Oklahoma 113-61 .649 Texas 112-65 .633 Kansas State 89-74 .546 Baylor 89-78 .533 Missouri 89-80 .527 Nebraska 89-85 .511 Kansas 81-88 .479 Iowa State 72-86 .456