Texas Tech’s power-packed lineup finally arrived Monday in time to end Duke’s NCAA baseball tournament run one win short of the College World Series.
The Big 12 Conference leaders in home runs this season, the Red Raiders pounded three to beat Duke 6-2 in the third and deciding game of the Lubbock Super Regional at Rip Griffin Park.
Texas Tech (44-18) advances to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series, an event that last included Duke in 1961.
Duke (45-18) had held Texas Tech to one home run (a solo blast) while splitting the first two games of the best-of-three series Saturday and Sunday.
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But Gabe Holt, Michael Davis and Brian Klein all sent Duke pitches over the right-field wall on Monday as Duke’s run of staving off elimination came to an end.
"It helps a lot when you run into one," said Davis, whose two-run homer in the fourth inning put Texas Tech ahead for good.
Holt’s solo shot put Texas Tech on top in the third inning, Davis’ two-run shot broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth and Klein’s solo home run in the seventh gave the Red Raiders a 4-2 lead.
Entering Monday’s game, the Blue Devils had won five previous elimination games in the NCAA tournament. That included Duke’s 11-2 bashing of Texas Tech in game two of the super regional series on Sunday.
But Duke never led in Monday’s game despite having runners on base in every inning. The clutch hits needed to overcome Texas Tech’s power eluded Blue Devils, who stranded 14 runners, including the bases loaded in the first and eighth innings.
"There was nothing about what we did where I felt we didn't play well, we didn't compete well," Duke coach Chris Pollard said. "I thought we completed great. I thought we stayed in the moment well. But we just didn't come up with that one big hit when we needed it."
Texas Tech took the lead in the third inning on its first hit of the game. After Duke freshman starting pitcher Bryce Jarvis fell behind Holt three balls and one strike, the fifth pitch of the at bat was over the heart of the plate and Holt ripped a home run to right field for a 1-0 Red Raiders lead.
Batting while trailing for just the second time in the three-game series, Duke responded quickly to tie the score. Chris Crabtree fouled off eight pitches before lining a double down the right field line to end Texas Tech starting pitcher Davis Martin’s day.
After Martin was removed, Ty Harpenau, who retired the first two batters he faced. But Jimmy Herron’s groundball between short and third turned into an infield hit that drove in Crabtree to tie the game at 1-1.
That didn’t last long, though.
With Jarvis having allowed just one hit and one run over the first three innings, Duke coach Chris Pollard replaced him with freshman left-hander Matt Dockman. Jarvis had been battling a stomach virus this weekend and Pollard knew he couldn't last more than four innings. He liked the matchups for Dockman, who had pitched 1 ⅔ perfect innings to close out Duke’s 11-2 win in game two on Sunday.
But, facing two left-handers on Monday, he allowed a Zach Rheams double and Davis’ no-doubt home run that gave Texas Tech a 3-1 lead.
"Knowing that Bryce was up over 50 pitches and it felt like, to me, he was starting to fatigue in the third, especially with the illness and the heat," Pollard said. "We played the percentages right there. Dockman had done a good job (Sunday). Credit Texas Tech. Both of those pitches were breaking balls. They did a good job of sitting on a couple of offspeed pitches."
Having stranded eight runners on base over the first five innings, Duke got a clutch hit from Herron to slice Texas Tech’s lead to a run in the sixth inning.
After Chase Cheek doubled, Herron hit a line shot to right field that appeared headed straight toward Holt. But Holt misplayed the ball and it sailed over his head to the wall for an RBI triple, driving in Cheek.
Chris Proctor had a chance to tie the score, but struck out and Texas Tech protected its 3-2 lead.
Klein blasted Texas Tech’s third home run of the day, a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh, restoring the Red Raiders’ two-run lead at 4-2.
As it had all game, Duke had a scoring chance in the eighth inning when Max Miller drew a lead-off walk and Jack Labosky reached on an infield single.
After Cheek grounded into a force play, Herron beat out an infield chop for a single to load the bases.
Proctor worked the count full, but hit a routine fly ball to centerfield that ended the inning with Duke still down by two runs.
"We brought in guys in tough spots and guys made tough pitches against some really good hitters," Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said.
Texas Tech used a pair of two-out, run-scoring hits to score twice in the eighth to finally put Duke away.
"Tough guys, tough outs one through 27," Tadlock said. "There's a reason they are in that position. They were fun to play."