The season-ending loss for Texas Tech to Sam Houston State Monday stings. For a lot of reasons. . . I’ve felt that sting before over the years.
The Bearkats derailed a great year for the Red Raiders with back-to-back wins in the NCAA Lubbock Regional Sunday night and then Monday afternoon. They did it by playing better baseball than the Red Raiders. They played loose, they played fearless and they played with guts and guile.
Texas Tech in the meantime played its worst baseball of the year all in a 24 hour time span. Missed chances. Errors. 5-30 with runners in scoring position, a lack of urgency and a general malaise. Not horrible, but not Texas Tech Baseball under Tim Tadlock.
I’ve been around Texas Tech Baseball for a few years. I broadcast my first game in 1989. (ya, just typing that made me feel old) Back then fans would have paid good money for Texas Tech to lose of the last day of the SWC Tournament, let alone an NCAA Regional. Things change. Expectations change. And that, my friends is a good thing.
The sting of Monday’s loss should serve as a painful reminder to Tech fans about how hard and special it is to get to Omaha. Hell, just to get to a Super Regional. In a few short years Tim Tadlock has created a beast, and now the beast has to be fed. Fans “expected” Omaha this year. Players “expected” Omaha this year. The program “expected” to be there. And you know what? That’s as it should be. It’s a good thing to have expectations and be disappointed when you don’t meet them.
That said, never let not meeting those expectations diminish what this year’s team accomplished. Big 12 Titles don’t happen around Lubbock all that often. To get back-to-back regular season championships is even more rare. This year’s seniors we’re also a part of a program growth that saw them go from not making the NCAA Tournament to being a part of the national conversation every year. Two trips to Omaha over three years. That’s a lifetime for many programs. Most never get there.
We can and will talk about the demise of this year’s team in the regional and what we think happened over the coming days. For now though, that can wait.
What Texas Tech fans should take heart to is that unlike the sting of 1995 when Tech was a strike away from Omaha twice, unlike the pain of 1997 when Tech won the Big 12 then went 0-2 in the regional and even unlike 1999 when Tech went 2-0 to start the regional like this year’s team did before falling in a DH to Rice to end the year in Lubbock; unlike those year’s this year is different.
Things are different now because this program has been to Omaha. They’ve made that leap, they have skins on the wall and they have proven they can do it at that level. It’s not trying to breakthrough; it’s trying to get back. That’s a huge difference.
I know Tim Tadlock is frustrated by the finish, but I hope he’s emboldened by the process. He’s created a beast and now he gets to feed it. That my friends is a compliment.
See ya at the yard next spring.