OMAHA, Neb. -- Getting a little taste of your own medicine is no way to have your season end. For Texas Tech, that’s exactly what happened Tuesday afternoon in Omaha at the College World Series.
Ole Miss pinch hitter John Gatlin – hitting .103 before his RBI single – blooped a Cameron Smith offering over the head of a drawn-in infield to score pinch runner Aaron Greenwood and extend the Rebels’ stay in Omaha with a 2-1 win – their first at the CWS since 1969.
The Red Raiders made it to their first CWS behind a series of low-scoring affairs that, for the most part, they were able to win those close games. The most runs in any of the seven NCAA tournament games were five – against TCU on Sunday and in the regional opener against Columbia – both 3-2 wins. They entered play in the College World Series coming off three shutouts in a row, starting with a regional championship against Miami (Fla.) and back-to-back 1-0 wins against College of Charleston.There was a long stretch of time on Tuesday where it felt we were heading for another one of those 1-0 Texas Tech victories. Freshman starting pitcher Ryan Moseley – making only his fifth start of the season – was brilliant in his career-long 7.1 innings of work. He allowed just four hits and one unearned run while walking three and striking out six.
Facing an Ole Miss team that managed just one hit in its CWS opener against Virginia, Preston Overbey recorded the Rebels’ first extra-base hit in Omaha with a double in the third inning. But thanks to Moseley’s devastating sinker, Ole Miss couldn’t cash in and finished the inning just 2-for-35 at the plate in its 12 innings at the CWS.
Moseley’s first two-ball count came with one out in the fourth inning. He had it working.
“The fastball was so hard and had a lot of depth to it,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Moseley’s best pitch. “I don't know if we realized it would sink where it would be a swing and miss. We swung through more fastballs today than I can ever remember the entire season, and so it was hard. It just kept sinking and then you look up at the jumbotron and see just the action of it. “
After Texas Tech wasted a two-out triple in the sixth inning, Texas Tech and Ole Miss were a combined 0-13 with runners on base and 0-10 with runners in scoring position. Surely, we were destined for another 1-0 final.
Then came the seventh inning. A pitching staff that posted scoreless innings in 64 of its 72 postseason innings and finished with a tournament ERA of 0.76, actually let one cross the plate. Naturally, it was unearned. Sikes Orvis reached on an error by Burleson at second base. Three batters later, pinch hitter Holt Perdzock laced a single just past the reach of a diving Ryan long at third base. As the saying goes – it’s a game of inches.
“It's a game of inches obviously,” Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said. “The ball goes down the third baseline. But, you know, it's why we all love this game. It's why we all keep showing up, because it's very unpredictable, and just an inch here or an inch there and the game could go either way.”
We weren’t going to have a Red Raider 1-0 win. But they weren’t done quite yet.
Adam Kirsch singled with one out in the top of the ninth and in came pinch runner Zach Davis, known for his blazing speed, which he put to use immediately. Davis swiped second and moments later, stole third even with a lefthanded hitter at the plate. Pinch hitter Anthony Lyons lifted a sacrifice fly to rightfield and we were tied. Speed kills.
“As a pitch runner, obviously you want to put your team in the best situation that you can and get in scoring position, and that's what I tried to do,” Davis said. “I was able to get back and I just knew I had to get in scoring position for our team, and that's what happened.”
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders it would be all they could muster. Gatlin’s hit in the ninth, which scored the second unearned run of the day for the Rebels, ended the best season in program history. Tadlock wouldn’t of had it any other way.
“We talk about we enjoy playing close games,” Tadlock said. “If you don't enjoy a close baseball game, if you want everything to be a blowout, I mean, that wouldn't be much fun, would it? So we kind of relish those moments and enjoy them and try to thrive in them. It just didn't work these two games.”
In the end, Texas Tech was Texas Tech’d.