Texas Tech hosts College of Charleston in NCAAs
LUBBOCK, Texas (WCIV/AP) - The series between Texas Tech and College of Charleston in this weekend's NCAA super regional is an improbable matchup.
Big 12 coaches picked the Red Raiders to finish eighth out of nine teams this season. The Cougars failed to win the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title.
The Cougars had to win the conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament. They are just the fourth No. 4 seed to ever earn a super-regional berth and the only one in this year's tourney.
It is the first super regional for the Red Raiders (43-19). The Cougars (44-17) will be playing in their second super regional.
But now, none of that matters.
Both teams took some time to warm up Friday ahead of Saturday's game.
Cougars head coach Monte Lee said the trip to west Texas was not too bad, 2.5 hours by air. The team was decked out in Hawaiian shirts for the flight in an attempt to stay loose and have fun ahead of the series.
"The big thing for us is consistency. Stay loose, have fun. There will be nerves, but after a few pitches, hopefully they relax and play baseball," Lee said in a press conference Friday afternoon.
In the other dugout, Texas Tech's head coach is trying to do the same thing with his team.
"I don't think we ever line up and look at their jersey. We try to play each pitch the best," said Tim Tadlock. "They play good baseball in South Carolina. Monte has done a good job a long time."
The players are trying to focus on their game -- and not the other team.
"We don't talk too much about them We worry about us. If we play our game, it's fine," said Texas Tech's Bryant Burleson.
"Super Regionals is something to be excited about. This is the first time for all of us. We just can't get nervous, just play our game," said Red Raider Adam Kirsh. "I wouldn't say we feel like we're an underdog. Coach Tadlock talked about it. It's a baseball game. We know what's at stake. We know it will be tough. They're a great club. We just have to stay consistent," Lee said.
In a game of improbables, the Cougars don't feel like outsiders in the tournament as a four seed. They also see the pressure as sitting more squarely on Tech's shoulders.
"They've got two power guys and a lot of good batting averages, good home field advantage. We're just trying to stay loose and enjoy it," said Cougar pitcher Michael Hanzlik.
"We've stayed loose. There's pressure as a one or two seed. Being away is a little pressure, but we handled it well last week and we expect to handle it well again," said Blake Butler.
Staying loose is a message Lee has preached to his club all season. It seems to have sunk in.
"We're always staying loose, having a good time," said pitcher Taylor Clarke. "Just enjoying the playoff run."
The first game is Saturday, with the winner of the best-of-three series moving on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.