LUBBOCK, Texas — Less than two months after breaking his thumb, Kurt Wilson returned to the Texas Tech lineup for the NCAA Tournament and delivered two key hits in a Red Raider win Saturday.
In his second game back from the injury, the Red Raider outfielder smashed a solo home run off the foul pole in the seventh inning and a two-run single in the eighth, helping Tech beat North Carolina 7-2.
The victory put Texas Tech one win away from winning the Lubbock Regional.
Wilson’s clutch late hits put some distance between the Red Raiders and Tar Heels, but the game was close through the early and middle innings.
Texas Tech carried a one-run lead through a wild sixth inning that featured a seven-minute-long, double-review. Umpires were looking at whether a deep UNC drive hit off the top of the wall or the bottom of the bleachers, and then whether the batter Mac Horvath had avoided Jace Jung’s tag at second base when attempting to stretch his hit to a double.
When the dust cleared, both calls went in favor of Texas Tech. Reliever Ryan Sublette replaced starting pitcher Patrick Monteverde after the long delay with the tying run on third base and one out.
He struck out two hitters to end the threat and cruised through the ninth inning, striking out eight hitters along the way.
Before Sublette and Wilson’s heroics, the Red Raiders enjoyed a picture-perfect start to the game. Dru Baker drilled the third pitch of the game off the left-center field wall for a double. Two batters later, Jace Jung uncorked a blast into the right field bullpen.
Cole Stilwell followed Jung’s home run with a single, but after that, Texas Tech’s bats went quiet for a stretch.
Austin Love, the Tar Heels’ best starting pitcher, went Friday and led them to a 5-4 win over UCLA. The victory earned them a spot in Saturday’s game, but with Love unavailable, Coach Scott Forbes was forced to cobble together nine innings without a traditional starting pitcher.
UNC’s Gage Gillian made his first start of the season and lasted two innings. He was relieved by lefty Shawn Rapp, who came into the game with a 5.36 ERA. However, the two pitchers held Texas Tech without a hit or walk in the second, third and fourth innings.
With two outs in the fifth and the game tied 2-2, Tech finally cooked up a run. Baker reached on a walk and the next hitter, Braxton Fulford, smoked a ball down the left-field line for an RBI double.
Three runs would be all Texas Tech pitching needed. Monteverde went 5.1 innings and allowed two runs before handing the ball off to Sublette. The two pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts and only walked one batter.
The Red Raiders will get two chances to win the regional. They will play the winner of UCLA and UNC at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, and will play again Monday if they lose that.