Perseverance Puts Texas Tech's Dylan Dusek In College World Series Spotlight
OMAHA, Neb.—Dylan Dusek had a long road to his College World Series moment Sunday night. He beat leukemia as a young child and overcame Tommy John surgery. The redshirt senior lefthander is the lone Texas Tech player who has been a part of all three CWS trips in program history. But in each of the Red Raiders’ two previous appearances—2014 and 2016—injuries prevented him from taking the mound.
On Sunday, Dusek got his moment in the spotlight of Omaha, when he drew the start for Texas Tech in its CWS opener against Florida, the No. 1 overall seed. For two innings, in front of 19,100 fans at TD Ameritrade Park, he battled. He held the Gators to one run on one hit and two walks and struck out one batter, before giving way to righthander Ryan Shetter in a piggyback arrangement the Red Raiders have used throughout the postseason. Texas Tech went on to win, 6-3, to move on in the winners’ bracket and Tuesday night will play Arkansas.
Dusek said getting the opportunity to start Sunday “meant the world” to him.
“I’m not going to say I deserved it, but my name was called,” he said. “When I ran out there I wanted to do the best for my team. That’s always what I’ve wanted to do my whole career at Texas Tech. I definitely didn’t want to just come in and pitch, I wanted to win the game for my team.”
In 2014, Dusek went 8-0, 1.94 as a freshman and was named Most Outstanding Player at the Coral Gables Regional. But he was banged up in Omaha and didn’t get on the mound as Texas Tech went 0-2. When the Red Raiders returned two years later, Dusek was out for the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and could do nothing more than watch his teammates win a game in Omaha for the first time in program history.
This year, Dusek wouldn’t be denied. He’s mostly come out of the bullpen since last year returning from surgery. But over the last month, he and Shetter have become a strong tandem, with Dusek serving as the opener. The arrangement started on the final weekend of the regular season at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech is now 4-0 when employing the “DuShetter” combination.
It worked Sunday, as Shetter held Florida to one run in 4.1 innings, striking out seven batters. Righthander Ty Harpenau scattered one run on one hit and two walks in the final 2.2 innings to finish the game.
The Dusek-Shetter tandem is an uncommon approach, but it’s working for Texas Tech.
“First of all, they can both really pitch,” coach Tim Tadlock said. “They can both execute pitches. They’re both very selfless in what they do.
“They know what we’re doing. We’re doing it for the good of the team and that’s kind of our plan going in. And it’s been kind of neat to watch.”
Dusek is just enjoying the opportunity to help his team on the biggest stage. When he ran out to the mound in the bottom of the first inning, he took a moment to soak in the experience.
“I never thought I would pitch in front of that many people,” he said. “I stepped on the mound in the first inning and I definitely looked around and enjoyed it all. It’s probably one of the best moments in my life.”
Dusek’s path to the College World Series has been tougher than most. He battled leukemia from the time he was three years old until he was six. He most remembers all the shots and the times he had to get his blood drawn and the lengthy hospital stays.
Dusek doesn’t think about his bout with cancer often. But it’s always there to remind him when things get tough, he can persevere.
“When something negative happens I definitely use that to fall back on,” he said. “Like, ‘Hey Dylan, you could be laying in a hospital bed right now diagnosed with cancer, doing chemotherapy with no hair. Look at the life you have starting for a Texas Tech Red Raider baseball team on opening night of the World Series.’ I’d say that’s a pretty good feeling.
“Every time I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself or above myself I make sure I head back down and think about how blessed I am and for all the kids that have leukemia and are looking up to me.”
Dusek has been one of Texas Tech’s best pitchers this season. He is 3-0, 2.18 with 31 strikeouts and 13 walks in 33 innings. He runs his fastball into the low 90s and mixes in solid secondary stuff. He was drafted in the 27th round by the Giants, but the lefthander is happy to wait for pro ball.
It’s been a long road to the College World Series and, right now, all Dusek wants to do is to find a way to extend the ride.
“I love this team and I want to give it all to this university and this has been my life,” Dusek said. “I would love to keep winning with this team.”