5 Bold Predictions for the NCAA Lubbock Regional
UCLA, North Carolina, and Army have all officially arrived in Texas and are ready to get down to business. Texas Tech University is obviously the favorite to win the Lubbock Regional, being that they're elite at home under head coach Tim Tadlock, but they aren't what I would call a heavy favorite. UCLA is coming in as a pretty hot two-seed and had a ton of momentum in the preseason.
Still, Texas Tech, as the national seed and the top seed in the regional, should take care of business against the Bruins, Tarheels, and Black Knights.
To get that done, Texas Tech will need to play at a high level. History proves that just because Texas Tech hosts a regional, that doesn't mean they'll advance. Though, in four straight appearances, Texas Tech has advanced to three out of the four. The lone loss came in 2017 to the Sam Houston State Bearcats who advanced to a Super Regional against Florida State where they were manhandled.
Since that Regional loss in 2017, Texas Tech has lost 18 games at home total. in the same time frame, the Red Raiders have won 92 games. That's a winning percentage of 83.64 percent. Bottom line, the Red Raiders are really good at home.
That's why a prediction of Texas Tech advancing is hardly a bold proposition, so here are five actually bold predictions that may or may not happen this weekend during the Lubbock Regional.
Bold Prediction Number 1: Texas Tech will hit better than 1.6 home runs a game
The Red Raiders hit 83 home runs in 2021. That's the 10th best number in the country. They'll continue mashing through the Lubbock Regional and hit two per contest for however many games they go. For fun, we can set the home run total at 6.5 and take the over. Bombs away.
Bold Prediction Number 2: Texas Tech's Chase Hampton dominates Army
Hampton was announced as the opening starter by Tadlock Thursday morning, and it shouldn't come as a giant surprise. To get through a regional, they'll probably need to play four games. If the team has Patrick Monteverde, Micah Dallas, and Mason Montgomery available after day one, they're feeling pretty good.
Hampton started the final game of the series against Kansas and threw six innings, striking out seven in a scoreless outing only giving up two hits and one free pass. He backed that up with two scoreless, hitless innings against Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament. The freshman righty has seven scoreless appearances on the season and has worked his ERA back down to 3.63.
An ideal start from Hampton to start the regional would be seven-plus innings of low-scoring baseball from Army, allowing the Red Raiders to save the bullpen and get ahead of the weekend.
Bold Prediction Number 3: Texas Tech will average more than 8 runs per game
Texas Tech's season average is 7.8 for runs scored per game. Is 8 runs a game really that bold? Well, yes. UCLA has struggled to find consistent pitching, but it's still a top 35 team ERA and will likely throw a converted closer against the Red Raiders in Sean Mullen, who's 9-1 and has 87 strikeouts if the two teams meet on day two. UCLA's bullpen is also probably the best in the regional, with Texas Tech's behind it. Yes, Texas Tech has the second-best bullpen in this regional.
My confidence here lies in Texas Tech getting a big day against Army, then getting to a bullpen on Sunday afternoon.
Bold Prediction Number 4: Kurt Wilson gets a big pinch-hit
Kurt Wilson broke his thumb a while back. I've not heard an update on his condition. Chalk this one up to a gut feeling.
Bold Prediction Number 5: Texas Tech has a masterful pitching performance out of nowhere
It's no secret the Texas Tech bullpen has struggled at times this season. Really, no fault of their own. It's full of inexperienced collegiate arms that are being used after injuries put the Texas Tech pitching staff in a tight spot. Still, I hold several of these Red Raider arms in high regard and feel like they are an appearance away from really clicking. Namely, Brendan Girton and Derek Bridges. One of those two will need a giant performance to get Texas Tech to a regional and will be asked to pitch in tight spots.
Maybe it's getting the final out of an inning after coming in with multiple ducks on the pond. Maybe it's stretching a relief appearance multiple innings and saving the bullpen. Some Texas Tech reliever you don't expect to shine will absolutely shine this weekend.
My pick? Andrew Devine. The second-year player was close to dominant in 2020 notching a 1.23 ERA in the small sample size of six appearances last season. This season, the wheels have been close to coming off at times. Still, you see the stuff flash at times even when he's struggling, and he's been struggling since day one against Arkansas.
In six appearances in 2020, Devine had four where he didn't walk a single batter and never walked more than one. In 2021, he's got 16 appearances and has only pitched twice and not allowed a walk. In 22 innings pitched he's given a free pass to the batter 29 times via walk or beaning. This weekend, I predict Devine doesn't give up any runs while working moderately clean and shutting up a lot of doubters in the process.
The final prediction is that Texas Tech and UCLA will be the final two teams, with Texas Tech moving on to host the Super Regional.