COLLEGE BASEBALL: Red Raiders prepared for series against familiar opponent

LUBBOCK Call it the overall Big 12 Conference championship, only the stakes are considerably higher.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders, winners of the Big 12 regular-season championship, host the Oklahoma State Cowboys, winners of the Big 12 tournament title, in the Lubbock Super Regional starting today at Dan Law Field for a spot in the College World Series.
The Red Raiders are going for their fourth College World Series berth, all since 2014 under coach Tim Tadlock. A berth this year would mark the first time Texas Tech has qualified in consecutive seasons.
“Well, you’ve got to give credit to our kids and our administration,” Tadlock said. “We’ve got support behind us. We all work for a guy that’s really easy to work for in (Texas Tech athletic director) Kirby Hocutt. He’s a baseball AD. He believes in college baseball and gives us everything we need to have success. And our staff has done a good job. A bunch of diligent guys (who) like baseball.
“Really, we don’t ever look at it from the standpoint you look at it. We try to put in … I don’t call it work, but we just go do what we do each day and are fortunate to be where we are.”
Texas Tech’s Gabe Holt said the chance to start a string of CWS appearances is just one more carrot for the Red Raiders to chase.
“Last year we went and the experience was unbelievable,” Holt said. “Now we have a chance to go back this year. It feels good.
“We’re two games away. If we get it done this weekend, it’ll be good.”
Texas Tech (42-17) swept Oklahoma State (39-19) in conference play on April 26-28 by scores of 12-4, 10-2 and 5-2. The Cowboys have gone 14-3 since then, winning last week’s Oklahoma City Regional to advance to this weekend’s series.
“We were playing pretty decent before we came out here, and we got out here and (Texas Tech) played great,” Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday said. “Day after day, we ran head-to-head with them and they played great baseball aganst us.
“They had a great comeback on Sunday where we were ahead, I think, into the sixth or seventh inning and they had a couple of kids get some big, clutch hits. You tip your hat to them and say they were better than us these three days, and you go back to work on yourself and just try to play better baseball.
“Any time you get beat, you’ve got to see what your response is. If your response is correct, you have a chance to move forward. If your response is not positive, then you could find yourself going in the wrong direction. Our kids responded well to being challenged.”
While words like revenge or atonement were never uttered, Oklahoma State players are fully aware of the situation.
“I’m honestly excited,” Cowboys outfielder Carson McCusker said. “I think we owe these guys. We’re familiar with this field and this team and I think it’s a good matchup.
“I think we’re coming into this series with a chip on our shoulder and that only motivates us to play better.”
Oklahoma State pitcher-outfielder Noah Sifrit said the April visit to Lubbock was a humbling experience for the Cowboys.
“We knew we were a good team coming into that series, but Tech is a good team, too,” Sifrit said. “I think it gave us a perspective of what we needed to work on. Our main focus during the next series (a sweep of Oregon State) was to regroup and battle back. We all came together as one.”
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are just as intent on not letting Oklahoma State gain any satisfaction this week.
“In my career, I’ve never lost to Oklahoma State,” Holt said. “I think I’m 7-0. In the back of my mind, I’m like, eventually they’ve got to beat us. This would be a terrible time to lose.”
Texas Tech infielder Josh Jung, who was drafted Monday by the Texas Rangers with the eighth overall pick, said the familiarity between the teams puts an extra emphasis on execution.
“It’s one of those things where both of you know what you’ve got,” Jung said. “There’s no wild cards here. It’s going to be very intense and I just can’t wait to play them again.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times, let alone five. There’s all kind of stuff like that goes on, but I think the advantage is you know who they are, you know what they’ve got.”
The situation increases the significance of Texas Tech being at home for the series, Jung said.
“It’s huge. The Lubbock faithful is going to come out and rock this place,” he said. “Having home-field advantage is big any time. We play on turf and they play on dirt. Everyone says turf’s a little easier. They have wind, too, I guess.
“It’s just a huge advantage being at home, being comfortable, sleeping in your own bed, not having to be in a hotel, getting your own routines before games. It all plays a factor and it’s really important.”
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