2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 23 Texas Tech
Last season: 39-17 (14-10 in Big 12); reached super regionals
Final Ranking: No. 11
Coach (record at school): Tim Tadlock (340-169, nine seasons)
The good news: Third-year sophomore second baseman Jace Jung is one of the best players in college baseball and gives Texas Tech a middle-of-the-order bat as good as any in the country. There is also a lot of potential with Tech’s projected weekend rotation. Fourth-year junior righthander Brandon Birdsell has excellent raw stuff and was Texas Tech’s best starting pitcher in 2021 before he was lost for the second half of the season due to a rotator cuff injury. Sophomore righthander Chase Hampton was effective as a swingman last season, working with a fastball that was up to 96 mph, and he also pitched well over the summer in the Cape Cod League. Fourth-year junior righthander Andrew Morris is an interesting wild card here. He enrolled at Division II Colorado Mesa at 16, so he’s only 20 now despite being in his fourth year of college baseball. He struck out 115 in 78 innings last season for the Mavericks, leading with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches the mid 90s. Pitching is not typically what you think of when you think of the Texas Tech teams of late, but the 2022 squad is capable of changing that.
The bad news: Outside of Jung and fourth-year junior first baseman Cole Stilwell, who had a breakout season in 2021 with eight home runs, the lineup is short on players with track records of being impact hitters. It’s not that the lineup is all that inexperienced—the order could feature up to eight players in at least their third season of college baseball and as many as four fifth-year seniors—but most of the returners have been role players rather than stars to this point. Each prominent fifth-year senior position player, third baseman Parker Kelly, shortstop Kurt Wilson, and outfielders Easton Murrell and Cody Masters, has played in big games at Tech, including games in Omaha, but none of them has had any single season with more than 145 at-bats and none of them has had multiple seasons of 100 or more at-bats in their career. Texas Tech is a program that tends to turn role players into stars over time, but this is a veteran group that hasn’t quite found that next gear yet.
Player to know: Jace Jung, 2B
Jung was nothing short of excellent in 2021, hitting .337/.462/.697 with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs, which earned him Big 12 player of the year honors and a spot on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. A good pure hitter with a swing opposing coaches describe as having a lot of room for error in it and obvious raw power, Jung is not only the key to the Texas Tech lineup and one of the most productive players in college baseball, but also a top-shelf prospect for the 2022 draft. Jung will be the favorite to win Big 12 player of the year again in 2022, and if he does, he’ll be the first back-to-back winner of the award since Nebraska’s Alex Gordon in 2004-2005.
Path to Omaha: The path to Omaha for Texas Tech almost always starts by securing a regional and super regional at home, as the Red Raiders have historically proven to be nearly impossible to beat in Lubbock, and the hope is that last season’s result, a two-game drubbing at the hands of Stanford in a super regional, turns out to be a one-off. Beyond that, finding impact bats to provide protection for Jung and Stilwell in the lineup will be key. The pitching staff is talented enough and Jung is such a singular talent that the lineup doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as some of the great Texas Tech lineups of the recent past in order to be good enough, but it does need to find some depth.
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HS—Fort Worth, Texas