Texas Tech helped itself a great deal in the Big 12 baseball race on its first weekend of conference play, taking two of three from No. 4 Texas, which was the near-unanimous choice to win the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll.
The last thing the Red Raiders want to do is to ostensibly give back one or more of those victories by losing to one of the cellar dwellers.
This weekend presents just such an occasion to trip up. No. 6 Tech visits Kansas, which was the near-unanimous choice for last place in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll. Tech (22-5, 2-1) and KU (9-14, 0-3) square off in a three-game series at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence.
The Red Raiders haven’t swept a three-game Big 12 series against the Jayhawks since 2017. KU won one game each in the series played in 2018, 2019 and 2021, the 2020 Big 12 schedule being a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I remember they came in here last year, (and) they beat us Friday night in front of a big crowd,” Tech outfielder Cody Masters said, referring to a 7-4 game in a series opener. “We’ve definitely learned lessons in the course of this season and in the past, a lot of experience being around some good teams.
“Especially in the Big 12, those feel like fistfights at the end of them. They don’t come easy whatsoever.”
The only teams without a conference loss already are No. 7 Oklahoma State (18-7, 3-0), which swept Kansas last weekend, and West Virginia (14-9, 0-0), which starts conference play this weekend at No. 12 TCU (18-7, 5-1).
Tech has a chance to put itself in good position if it can take care of business against Kansas and do the same next weekend at home against Kansas State. The Wildcats (13-11, 0-3) were slotted seventh in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll.
“The biggest thing is not taking them lightly,” Tech pitcher Austin Becker said. “This conference is a tough conference, regardless if it’s Kansas or Texas or whoever you throw in there. It’s a tough conference, it’s not going to be an easy win, and that’s our mindset going into every Friday night from here on out.”
Tech relief pitcher Brendan Girton has been dealing with tendinitis, Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. The sophomore righthander didn’t pitch in last weekend’s series against Texas and a midweek series against Stephen F. Austin.
“I do believe that sometimes guys do feel things,” Tadlock said. “Sometimes they go away, and he felt something and we’re waiting for it to go away.”
Girton is 3-0 with a 4.08 earned-run average and 18 strikeouts in 17 2/3. …
Center fielder Sam Hunt had two doubles and three runs batted in in Tech’s victory Tuesday against SFA and two singles in the win on Wednesday. Hunt started in place of regular center fielder Dillon Carter, who’s been struggling at the plate, though Tadlock said Carter was unavailable both days.
“Sam’s in there because he had to be in there,” Tadlock said. “Dillon Carter’s our best center fielder, bar none, but he could not play the last two games.”
That aside, Tadlock praised Hunt for being ready.
“Sam got in there and played good,” Tadlock said. “Had some good at-bats. Caught the ball in center.”
Tadlock said Hunt made a misjudgment on a throw back into the infield in Wednesday’s game, but “Sam’s competitive,” Tadlock said. “He’s been waiting for his turn, and he’s getting it and doing something with it.”
Who: Texas Tech at Kansas
When: 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Hoglund Ballpark, Lawrence, Kansas
Records: Texas Tech 22-5, 2-1 in the Big 12; Kansas 9-14, 0-3
Rankings by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association: Texas Tech No. 6, Kansas unranked
Starting pitchers: Friday, Texas Tech RHP Andrew Morris (2-0, 4.13 earned-run average) vs. Kansas LHP Daniel Hegarty (2-2, 7.23). Saturday, Texas Tech RHP Brandon Birdsell (3-1, 2.70) vs. Kansas RHP Cole Larsen (0-4, 5.16). Sunday, Texas Tech LHP Mason Molina (1-3, 3.28) vs. Kansas RHP Ryan Vanderhei (3-2, 4.81).
Online streaming: Big 12 Now on ESPN+