LUBBOCK – The No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament justified their ranking on Saturday as Texas Tech led wire-to-wire in a 6-0 win over Sam Houston State at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park, advancing to Sunday's final of the Lubbock Regional.
The Red Raiders (45-15) connected on a trio of homers off of Bearkat (41-21) starter Heath Donica in the first five innings of the game and got a stellar effort from Steven Gingery on their way to the win. The loss snaps a season-best nine-game win streak for the Kats and drops them into Sunday's elimination game between Arizona set for 2 p.m.
The Wildcats stayed alive earlier in the day, eliminating Delaware, 6-5, in 12 innings after a weather delay of more than two hours that forced the nightcap back to a 9:30 p.m. start. A victory over Arizona would propel the Kats into the regional final against the Red Raiders where they would need to defeat Texas Tech in consecutive games to advance. The first game of the regional final is set for 6 p.m. on Sunday, following the elimination game against Arizona.
AT THE PLATE
The Bearkats had traffic on the bases, but only managed four hits on the night, none for extra bases and stranded eight runners. Bryce Johnson reached a pair of times after being hit by a pitch, as did Hunter Hearn with a single and a walk.
On the other side, Texas Tech got a big night from Tanner Gardner who went 3-for-4 with a pair of 2-run homers, while Ryan Long added a solo shot of his own to help lead a nine-hit Red Raider attack.
ON THE BUMP
Gingery entered the regional leading the Big XII in ERA and wins and ranked second in strikeouts and opponent batting average, showing why in earning his 10th victory of the season. The sophomore lefty struck out eight and allowed just a pair of singles in six innings of work, needing just 85 pitches to navigate his evening. He gave way in the seventh to reliever Jose Quezada who struck out five of the seven hitters he faced before Dylan Dusek closed things out in the ninth.
Meanwhile, Donica lasted 6 1-3 innings and struck out five, but was touched up for six runs – four earned – in falling to 9-2 on the year. The senior retired eight in a row after allowing a pair of runs in the first, but saw three of the nine hits he allowed leave the yard.
Brad Demco turned in a solid relief effort, striking out three in 1 1-3 scoreless frames before giving way to Jordan Cannon who worked out of a mini-jam to get the final out of the eighth and then went on to toss a perfect ninth.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Red Raiders, who were the visiting team on the scoreboard on the second day of the regional, came out on the attack from the start, getting to Donica for a pair of runs in the opening half of the first. Tanner Gardner provided the damage with a two-run home run after a single by Grant Little opened up the game. The Bearkat starter punched out a pair in the inning, but needed 34 pitches to get through the inning, leaving a pair of Red Raiders on base.
The Kats tried to muster a rally in their half, putting the first two hitters of the inning on against Gingery via a leadoff single from Riley McKnight and Bryce Johnson reaching on a hit-by-pitch; however, a pair of strikeouts and a caught stealing ended the threat.
Donica proceeded to retire the next eight hitters he faced before Ryan Long touched him up for a solo home run to open the Red Raider fourth. The Kats could not take advantage of another walk and hit batter in the bottom half, and Texas Tech played longball once again in the top of the fifth when Gardner connected on his second two-run homer of the night to up the lead to 5-0. Michael Berglund put one more on the board for Texas Tech in the inning with a two-out double into the right-field corner.
Sam Houston left a pair of runners stranded in the fourth and did not get its second hit of the game until a one-out single from Andrew Fregia in the sixth. The Kats would threaten again in the eighth when Johnson got as far as third base but Quezada was able to keep him there with his fifth strikeout of the evening.
- With his strikeout of Orlando Garcia in the top of the fifth, Heath Donica recorded his 200th career strikeout, making him just the seventh Bearkat in program history to record 200 strikeouts in a career.
- Bryce Johnson reached base a pair of times, swiping second in the bottom of the eighth. It was his 31st swipe of the year and the 65th of his career. The 31 for the season ties him with Brad Kelley's mark from 1987 for third most in program history, while his 65 career steals knots him with Floyd Ciruti for fourth all-time.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the loss to Texas Tech…
“Give Tech all the credit tonight. It was a pivotal game. They came out and were fast and loose and swung the bats extremely well. They did what they needed to. They looked like a top-three team. We didn't play our best game tonight. Tomorrow is a brand new day. It takes two losses to finish you out of this thing and the word ‘quit' is not in our vocabulary.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the performance of Heath Donica…
“I really respected the performance he had tonight. He is a warrior. He's going to give us everything he's got. He's going to compete for his team. He'll go down as one of the top two or three pitchers I've had. Tech came out with a really good game plan and capitalized on mistakes.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on facing Arizona on Sunday…
“It will be a dogfight. I think the two ball clubs are very similar. You can see the passion on both sides. Neither one of us want to see our season end.”
Heath Donica on his outing…
“Playing in the Southland Conference, there are a lot of good hitters. Give a lot of credit to Tech. They've got some guys who can really swing it. When you're a sinker guy and you leave your fastball up over the plate, up doesn't work very well. You have to learn how to pitch without your best stuff.”
Lance Miles on facing Texas Tech pitching…
“He (Steven Gingery) did a really good job of mixing and locating his pitches. I think we could have done a better job of having quality at bats. We have to play better on our end. That's the thing about baseball. We get another day to come back out here. We're going to face a good Arizona team. It will be a good test for us to respond.”