Texas Tech's big bats cool against Loseke, Arkansas again

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Arkansas pitcher Barrett Loseke throws during a College World Series game against Texas Tech on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas pitcher Barrett Loseke throws during a College World Series game against Texas Tech on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.

— Texas Tech ranks top 10 nationally in most offensive categories, but the Red Raiders have been unable to solve the Arkansas pitching staff through two games this season.

The Razorbacks held Texas Tech to six hits and struck out 14 Red Raiders in a 7-4 win Wednesday at the College World Series. It was a similar effort to April 24, when Arkansas tied a school record with 17 strikeouts and held Texas Tech to four hits in a 5-1 win at Baum Stadium.

The Red Raiders' stats are significantly lower against Arkansas than in other games. For instance:

-Texas Tech is batting .313 in 62 games against other teams, but .159 in two games against Arkansas.

-Texas Tech averages 3.98 extra-base hits per game, but has two this season against Arkansas - both Wednesday on doubles by Brian Klein and Michael Davis.

-Texas Tech averages six walks per game, but has six walks total in two games against Arkansas.

-Texas Tech averages 1.2 stolen bases per game, but has zero this season against Arkansas, and was 0-for-1 Wednesday when Cameron Warren was thrown out at second base by catcher Grant Koch. The Red Raiders advanced to second base three times on indifference calls.

What is the secret to shutting down the Red Raiders? Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson said he doesn't want to disclose too much because the Razorbacks could see Texas Tech again Friday night, but he said much of Arkansas' success can be attributed to staying ahead in counts.

"If you look at their numbers in certain counts - like 2-1 counts, for example - they're hitting almost .400 as a team," Johnson said. "That's very impressive. That lets you know when a pitcher is behind and has to throw a fastball, those guys aren't missing it.

"We tried to stay out of that, and when we did get into it we were able to spin it really well and throw it for a strike."

Much like the April meeting, Arkansas was bolstered by a strong relief performance from right-hander Barrett Loseke, who pitched three scoreless innings and struck out five batters. Loseke had a career-high 10 strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings against Texas Tech earlier this season and was named national pitcher of the week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

"I knew I had past success against them and I didn't necessarily try to repeat what I did last time, but I knew I could get them out," Loseke said, "and that gave me confidence to go out there and execute my game plan."

Loseke entered Wednesday's game after starter Kacey Murphy allowed a two-run single in the fifth inning to pull Texas Tech within 5-2. He retired the first six batters he faced, including four by way of a strikeout.

“You almost get lackadaisical because it seems like he just keeps striking out people,” second baseman Carson Shaddy said. “It seems like he’s always getting a first-pitch strike…and works really quick, which is fun to be a part of. The only thing that’s not fun is that I don’t get any action, it seems like.”

Johnson said Loseke threw 37 fastballs in his 41 pitches and was able to locate it inside, outside and up in the strike zone. Loseke's fastball was consistently clocked at 92-93 mph.

"I tell our guys all the time you can have one pitch and it can turn into two or three if you can locate it and move it around," Johnson said. "That’s what Barrett is doing right now.

"Barrett’s just in that zone right now. The last month-and-a-half of the season he has been really good. He has just really been able to command his fastball."

Arkansas removed Loseke with two outs in the eighth inning to create a lefty-on-lefty matchup between closer Matt Cronin and Texas Tech designated hitter Zach Rheams. Cronin struck out Rheams on three straight fastballs that were clocked at 94 mph.

Cronin ran into some trouble in the top of the ninth inning when he walked a batter and allowed consecutive hits, including a two-run single by Cody Farhat. But Cronin retired the next three hitters, including one- and two-hole hitters Gabe Holt and Brian Klein to end the game.

Texas Tech's top four hitters - Holt, Klein, Josh Jung and Grant Little - were a combined 3-for-17 Wednesday. The quartet entered with batting averages of .352, .314, .390 and .380, respectively.

"I think it's a deal where you have to sequence the right way and not fall into patterns," Arkansas catcher Grant Koch said of the success against Tech's hitters. "You have to adjust quickly and our pitchers have done a really good job of that."

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