The Texas Longhorns (40-20) are back in the Super Regionals for the first time since 2014, when they swept the Houston Cougars in order to secure a World Series birth. This time, the Longhorns are set to play a more unfamiliar opponent — the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
Despite being overmatched in athletic spending and prestige by Texas, Tennessee Tech is far from being the underdogs this series.
Tennessee Tech (52-10) hails from the Ohio Valley Conference, where they secured the regular season crown. Interestingly enough, the Ohio Valley Conference has never advanced a team to the CWS; nevertheless, the Golden Eagles are well equipped to make a deep run in Omaha.
The Golden Eagles, after losing the second game of the Oxford regional to the host Rebels, came through the loser’s bracket and beat Ole Miss twice to advance.
The numbers for this offense are just eye-popping. The overall batting average is hovering at .338, with the lowest batting average in their starting lineup coming in at .310. Burly first baseman Chase Chambers, who goes 6’1 and 250 solid pounds, leads the team with a .404 average, 78 runs scored, and 82 RBIs. Outfielder Kevin Strohschein is hitting .386 with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs. Leadoff hitter Alex Junior has scored 80 runs this season.
As one might guess, this all amounts to Tennessee Tech ranking near the top five in every offensive category tracked by the NCAA. In most of those categories, they are listed as number one — batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and scoring. Just ridiculous.
The good news is that Texas does some have some experience facing an offense nearly as prolific as Tennessee Tech since Texas Tech ranks second behind the Golden Eagles in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and scoring. The Horns were able to take two of three games in Lubbock against the Red Raiders back in May.
On the mound, Tennessee Tech is lead by a trio of starting pitchers of Travis Moths (13-2, 3.86), Marcus Evey (7-0, 4.26), and Alex Hursey (8-4, 4.52). Evey, normally the Saturday starter, will get the baseball to start the first game of the Super Regional, head coach Matt Bragga announced on Friday.
Senior right-hander Travis Moths, the likely starting pitcher on Sunday, is 13-2 and was drafted in the seventh round this week by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The bullpen is lead by arguably the best pitcher on the staff in Ethan Roberts (6-1, 2.41). Roberts leads the team in ERA, saves, and struck out 96 batters in 71 innings pitched this year. If Tennessee Tech has a lead late in the game, I expect the ‘Horns to get a good dose of Roberts.
Texas will have to get another string of solid starts from their starting rotation in Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart, and Blair Henley. Since none of them are big strikeout guys, they have to keep the ball low in the zone and continue to get outs. I expect the Texas bullpen to be tested more often than in the Austin Regional. Parker Joe Robinson, Andy McGuire, and Josh Sawyer are a handful of arms that David Pierce can go to in case they run into trouble.
Although Tennessee Tech has the offensive firepower to beat anyone, Texas has shown the ability to run the score up themselves. Kody Clemens, who was just named a Golden Spikes finalist, continues to dominate at the plate and leads the team with a .346 batting average, 21 home runs, and 68 RBIs. The key at some point is whether Texas can get a timely hit from the bottom of the order.
If you are unable to make it to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for the games, you can watch it on ESPN2 throughout the entire Super rRgional or listen on 104.9 The Horn. Here is the schedule for the weekend:
June 9 – 2:00 P.M. CT
June 10 – 2:00 P.M. CT
June 11 – 12:00 P.M. CT (if necessary)
With both teams exceeding expectations this year, and both teams hungry for the opportunity to go to Omaha, this series has the potential to be the most exciting Super Regional this weekend and go the distance.
Horns in three. Let’s go.