LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The series between Texas Tech and College of Charleston in this weekend's NCAA super regional is an improbable matchup.
Before the season, Big 12 coaches picked the Red Raiders to finish eighth out of nine teams. The Cougars needed to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to qualify for the NCAAs. They are just the fourth No. 4 seed to ever earn a super-regional berth and the only one in this year's national tourney.
The unlikely pairing won't affect the Red Raiders play, second-year Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said.
"Our only expectation is to go do things right and play the game the right way," said Tadlock, a 1992 Texas Tech graduate. "That's all we can do is prepare for the games and do our best."
Cougars coach Monte Lee, in his sixth year, said his team is built on pitching and defense
"The reason we've had so much success this year has been our ability to score first," Lee said. "We've been very consistent and that has really led to our success this season."
It is the first super regional for the Red Raiders (43-19). The Cougars will be playing in their second super regional, having reached the round in 2006. College of Charleston (44-17) beat Long Beach State 4-2 in the Gainesville Regional. Texas Tech beat Miami, 4-0, on Monday to win the Miami Regional.
Here are five things to know as the two teams prepare for Game 1 on Saturday, with the winner of the best-of-three series moving on to the College World Series:
COUGAR PITCHERS: The Cougars' weekend rotation has been strong all season. They have two 10-win pitchers and the probable starter for the first game, sophomore Taylor Clarke, is one of them. His ERA is 2.62 and he has struck out 89 to lead the team. Freshman Bailey Ober, who also has won 10 games and has an ERA is 1.55, will likely start Sunday. Freshman Tyler Thornton probably would get the nod if a third game is needed Monday.
RED RAIDERS BATS: Sophomore Eric Gutierrez is Texas Tech's strongest batter, leading the Big 12 in home runs with 12 and in RBIs. He's gotten 72 hits and holds a .312 batting average. Behind him in the order is senior Adam Kirsch, the conference newcomer of the year, who has 10 home runs and is batting .300. Ahead of Gutierrez in the order is Tyler Neslony, who is batting .393 in 145 trips to the plate. He is just coming off a 19-game hit streak.
COUGAR HITTERS: College of Charleston plays tough defense, so it doesn't rely heavily on batting to win. Still, senior left fielder Brandon Murray has gotten six home runs on his way to a .275 batting average. Leading the team in RBIs with 54 is sophomore third baseman Carl Wise, batting .297. Freshman first baseman Nick Pappas has five home runs, while batting .274.
TEXAS TECH PITCHERS: The Red Raiders have two seven-win pitchers, but junior Chris Sadberry has been their most consistent player on the mound with 15 starts. Dylan Dusek, one of those with seven wins, was the MVP of the Miami Regional and carries a 2.08 ERA. The team is 12-1 when he's pitched. Jonny Drozd also has seven wins, though he hasn't started any games.
COACHES: Both coaches played for the teams they now coach. Tadlock (69-49) has turned around the Red Raiders program in just his second year. When he arrived, Texas Tech was the doormat of the Big 12 and this year they finished fourth in conference play and went on to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA regionals. A 2000 graduate of College of Charleston, Lee served as an assistant coach for South Carolina for six seasons. Lee (231-128) had the Cougars in an NCAA regional in his second year, and they returned in 2012.