It's a curious rivalry that we share with the Red Raiders. Lately, it hasn't reached the fever pitch that things did with Baylor in the last couple of years, but the fire doesn't burn much cooler. My best friends that are Tech fans and I stay best friends because we avoid talking about the rivalry. It's a rule that we have, and it keeps the beast at bay. Because this rivalry gets the blood hot, and now we have a real reason to keep quiet about it again.
The game on Sunday between TCU and Texas Tech is a rematch in a couple of different ways. In the context of this season, it's a rematch of the series that the Red Raiders won in Fort Worth back in April, a series where the two sides found plenty to be mad about outside of baseball. But bigger than that to me, it's a rematch of the Game 3 CWS matchup between these two teams in 2014.
Two years ago, TCU was making their second ever trip to the CWS and Texas Tech was making their first. I road-tripped up to Omaha that year with a group of about seven Texas Tech fans. Along the way they told me about all the times in the past that Tech had been on the cusp of a CWS appearance, but had fallen just short. I knew the game would be important to Tech fans, I just didn't realize how important. It was a culmination of years of waiting and heartbreak for Tech baseball fans. And what did TCU do on Sunday, June 15th, 2014? We broke their hearts again.
The atmosphere was off the charts. Tech has some of the best fans in the state, and droves of them showed up at TD Ameritrade Park, outnumbering TCU fans it seemed like three to one. The fan bases set what was, at that time, a CWS Game 3 record for attendance with 24,587 souls showing up to watch the game. TCU legend Preston Morrison was on the mound for the Frogs looking for some personal redemption. He had gotten knocked out of the game after just two innings and took the L the last time he faced Tech; his worst outing of the season. But in Omaha he dazzled, striking out 10 Red Raiders in 7 1/3 innings of work.
Cody Jones led off the game with a double, a little foreshadowing of the lead-off hitter he would become in 2015. After moving over to third on a fielder's choice, Boomer White brought him home with an RBI sac fly to make it 1-0 TCU. Morrison held that 1-0 lead until he left the mound with one on and one out in the eighth. Riley Ferrell relieved him to attempt a five-out save. Ferrell was unhittable that year, and when he took the mound it usually meant that the game was over. So, when he immediately gave up a single to put runners on second and third TCU fans weren't even that nervous.
He only needed to get two outs, and for Ferrell, striking out the last two batters wasn't too much to ask; in fact, it was expected.
In the next at-bat, Tyler Neslony tripled off the wall in right field, scoring both Texas Tech baserunners and putting the Red Raiders up 2-1. The ballpark exploded with "RAIDER", "POWER" chants that drowned out any joy left in the hearts of TCU fans. Neslony's shot was monsterous, and it probably would have been a home run with the new, smaller seam baseballs that are being used right now.
But the euphoria was short lived for the Tech fans, as the Joneses, Keaton and Cody, both singled in the bottom of the eighth and an error by the Red Raiders allowed Keaton to get home and tie the score at 2-2. Boomer White delivered the final blow, sending a pitch into left to bring home Cody and just like that TCU was back on top 3-2. Ferrell atoned for his less-than-perfect eighth when he opened up the ninth with a strike out. Tech managed to get a couple of runners on, but a double play gave TCU the victory.
For about an hour and a half to two hours, none of the Tech people in my group said a word to me. They weren't mad, just crushed. Texas Tech lost their next game 1-0 to Ole Miss and was eliminated from the tournament with an 0-2 record. If you think that the Aggies had a bone to pick with us last weekend, that's nothing compared to how the Raiders feel about this game. They want this one bad. Neslony, along with a few other teammates from that 2014 squad still play for Tech, and the memory is fresh for the fans too.
In baseball, there's never been a better time to appreciate the rivalry that TCU and Tech share. If the folks over at Dave Campbell's Texas Football are right, it might not be too long until we see what this rivalry can really be. With everything that's going on over at Baylor, Tech may actually have the chance to step into the spotlight and challenge for the conference crown next season. For now though, this Red Raiders baseball team is already the Big 12 Regular Season Champion, and since TCU didn't get a chance to face them in the conference tournament, they're the last team to check off our list on the TCU Revenge Tour 2016.
The Frogs will come out swinging, and hungry for revenge indeed. But Texas Tech has revenge on their minds too, and they've been waiting a lot longer for it than we have.