LUBBOCK, Texas – Cal Conley went 4-for-4 with three RBI, but the Red Raider defense stole the show as No. 9 Texas Tech baseball opened its four-game series against UConn with a 4-3 win Friday afternoon at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
Conley accounted for four of the team’s six hits and all three of its RBIs, but the Red Raiders (11-3) received key defensive contributions all over the diamond to secure its fourth consecutive one-run victory. Tech improves to 1-1 all-time against UConn (4-7) in its first game against a Big East opponent since a meeting with the Huskies in 2013.
Tech starter Brandon Birdsell (2-0) turned in a career-high 6.0 innings of work, throwing zeros on the board in five straight innings after allowing a run in the top of the first. He finished with one run allowed on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Andrew Devine gave 2.0 shutout innings, and Connor Queen recorded the final two outs for his second save in as many games.
Defense was the story Friday with a highlight play in nearly every inning. Catcher Braxton Fulford, named to the Buster Posey Award watch list this week, got it started with a caught stealing in the first inning that wiped out a leadoff single. The Lubbock native made another play in the fourth on a bunt, bursting down the third base line, sliding to his knees to field the ball and spinning to make the throw to first for the out.
The middle infield turned an inning-ending double play in the third, before Easton Murrell got in on the action in back-to-back innings. With one on and one out in the fifth, Murrell made a diving catch in right field, then popped up and fired it in to second for the double play. An inning later, he ran to his left and laid out to rob make a diving catch and rob a Husky of extra bases.
Two more key plays came in the ninth with Tech protecting a 4-2 lead. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Parker Kelly made a diving catch to his left at third base that kept it a two-run margin. Then with the lead trimmed to 4-3 and the tying run at second with two outs, UConn got a base hit to right field and Kurt Wilson fired home to nail the game-tying run at the plate and end the game.
Conley provided the offense for the Red Raiders with a two-RBI double in the first that gave Tech a 2-1 lead and an RBI single in the third that made it 3-1. Tech added another in the seventh as Kurt Wilson drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a balk, and scored on a Dru Baker bunt that got thrown into right field.
Dru Baker and Jace Jung combined four five walks on the day to help set the table for Conley. Baker went 1-for-1 with two walks and two runs, while Jung added three walks and a run.
UConn starter Ben Casparius (1-2) allowed three runs on three hits over 5.0 innings. All seven losses for the Huskies has been by two runs or fewer as they move to 2-5 in one-run games this season.
The four-game series against UConn continues on Saturday with a 2 p.m. first pitch on ESPN+. Lefty Patrick Monteverde (2-0, 0.00 ERA) will be on the bump for the Red Raiders against right-hander Joe Simeone (0-1, 4.91 ERA) for the Huskies.
Release Provided By Texas Tech Athletics