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Know the Opponent: Texas Tech/Western Illinois








Defensively, Texas Tech can expect to be outstanding up the middle: second baseman Michael Davis, shortstop Orlando Garcia and center fielder Tanner Gardner all coming back. 


That trio doubles as the three of the seven Red Raiders to start 50+ games last year that are returning, so that's at least four everyday starters Texas Tech is replacing. Davis and Gardner were two of the top three on the tem last year in doubles - Davis was tied for third in the Big 12 in doubles last year - but were not particularly big RBI producers. (Texas Tech lost its top four in RBIs from last year.) 


Much like MSU, Texas Tech is a young team, with just four seniors. 




The Red Raiders return their top two starters from last season - Steven Gingery and Davis Martin - so I think it's reasonable to see both of them on Friday: Texas Tech plays Western Illinois before the 4 p.m. game against MSU, so it stands to reason to pitch your Nos. 1 and 2 in an Opening Day doubleheader. Both of them made 14 starts, Martin doing it with a 10-1 record and a 2.52 ERA and a .233 batting average allowed. Gingery pitched his 68 innings with a 3.18 ERA and a .245 batting average allowed. Eriksen Lanning is also returning after making 11 starts last year. 


While a few relievers are coming back with experience from last season, the best lockdown guy from a year ago was Parker Mushinski: he only pitched 14 innings last year, but did so with a sub 1.000 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per innings pitched) and a .163 batting average allowed. 






The Leathernecks (I'm serious, that's their real mascot; isn't that awesome?) return most of their best hitters: five of its top six in batting average last year are back for more, including all of its top four. Those top four hitters from a year ago are center fielder Roman Visintine, first baseman Conner Currier, utility man Chris Tschida (more on that later) and outfielder Cord Church. 


The field is a different story: the Leathernecks seem to be doing some shuffling around there. Catcher, first base, second base and center field seem to be locked up, but there could be some shuffling around for the rest of the returning position players. Tschida could be at shortstop or in the outfield, for instance, and Deion Thompson could be subbed in at any number of positions.  




Injuries did a number on this staff last year, forcing several pitchers into roles that were not previously projected for them. Some of them did well - sophomore Ian Koch turned into an all-conference starting pitcher, for instance - so the roles of the returning arms isn't necessarily a given with no regular season games before this to judge them on. 


The Leathernecks do return a couple ofbullpen pieces are back - closer Nate Westfahl and Colan Borchers - and last year's No. 1 starter, Koch. Other than that, the pitching staff looks a bit slim.



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