Texas Tech’s Brandon Birdsell didn’t break a sweat Saturday.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound right-handed hurler topped the radar gun around 96 miles per hour and — when the command of his fastball wasn’t there — used his breaking ball to fool Kansas State batters in the second of a Big 12 Conference three-game home set.
And while his pitches were working for a majority of his six-inning start, Birdsell’s nerves were calmed early as the No. 4 Red Raiders lineup erupted for three runs in the first before securing a 14-0 victory over the Wildcats on a windy afternoon inside Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
“You always expect a close,” Birdsell said of receiving run support in all eight of his starts. “But, you’re super appreciative when they give you that run support. They’ve done it every time. I’m grateful for my offense and have full faith in them.”
The victory meant the Red Raiders (26-8, 6-2) clinched the series against Kansas State (15-15, 1-7) with one more left at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. It’s the third straight Big 12 series nabbed, including Texas at home and at Kansas.
The triumph can be credited to Birdsell, who set the tone on the mound early, striking out two of the first four batters he faced in the top of the first — capping it off by getting K-State’s Nick Goodwin to watch as the ball passed home plate for the final out of the frame.
The offense did the rest, as it’s done every time Birdsell has been penciled to toe the mound.
After the first two batters recorded an out, Jace Jung started off the clutch hitting by hitting a double to centerfield before Ty Coleman reached first following a fielding error by Goodwin to put runners on the corners.
“Just be aggressive at the plate, get your pitch and put a good swing on it,” Jung said of his mentality after going 0-for-4 on Friday night. “O-fers are going to happen, it’s part of baseball.”
Kurt Wilson, who’s had some significant swings earlier in the year, added another as he ripped a ball over the left-field fence to put Red Raiders up 3-0 after one complete.
Wilson, who started as a right-handed pitcher, has developed into a key contributor for the offense. In his first four years, he combined for 45 RBI in his first four years before driving in a team-best four runs Saturday toward 43 to keep him in first or second place in the conference.
“Kurt got us off to a good start there,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said when asked of the offense scoring with Birdsell on the mound. “Jace comes up with a good at bat, first time — no big surprise there. And then you get an error and Kurt runs one out of the ballpark.
“That’s always helpful.”
The Red Raiders have averaged 12.5 runs in games Birdsell has started, going into Saturday’s action, including a 28-run output in a road victory over Kansas last weekend.
After pushing across three in the first, Texas Tech added five more in the second — starting with a solo home run by Hudson White before Wilson doubled to left-centerfield to close out the crooked inning.
Wilson finished 3-for-2 at the plate, while White went 1-for-2 and netted an RBI along with Zac Vooletich, Owen Washburn, Jung and Coleman.
Birdsell ensured that offense would not go to waste, putting up six innings of no-run ball, which included 12 strikeouts, issuing three walks and allowing one hit in a 97-pitch performance. His effort dropped his ERA from 2.31 to 1.98.
At one point, the Willis, Texas, native struck out six straight batters — two away from fanning eight hitters at Rice back in back on March 12.
He ended his streak of six straight strikeouts by walking Brady Day with one out in the top of the fifth. He issued another base on balls to Cash Rugley before getting into some trouble for the first time during his start.
The Red Raider defense was more than happy to help out.
Birdsell induced a groundball to Wilson at shortstop before the 6-4-3 double play — the 10th of the season for Texas Tech to end the threat and hold the 8-0 advantage.
“They bailed me out, definitely,” Birdsell said of his defense, which after turning two double plays Saturday has 11 this season. “I was really appreciative of it. Just glad they could do that for me. Help me get out of that rough inning.”
The Red Raiders’ offense added six more runs before claiming their 17th win at home and the program’s first shutout of the season thanks to reliever Colin Clark putting in three innings of no-run ball together en route to his first save of the year.
It also marked the first time Texas Tech shut out an opponent since downing Kansas 5-0 back on May 22, 2021.
“It’s phenomenal to have him on the mound,” Jung said of Birdsell. “We can put up runs, we know that. And when we get on the field, we know we’ve got 96, 97 (miles per hour) coming at your face. It’s really nice.”
The Red Raiders and Wildcats conclude the three-game set at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Chase Hampton is slated to start for Texas Tech, while Kansas State has not announced its starter for the series finale.
NO. 4 TEXAS TECH 14, KANSAS STATE 0
Kansas State 000 000 000 — 0 3 2
Texas Tech 350 002 04x — 14 10 0
Blake Corsentino, Christian Ruebeck (3), Ben Weber (6), Dillon Pearson (8), Landry Jurecka (8) and Justin Mitchell. Brandon Birdsell, Colin Clark (7) and Cole Stilwell. W — Birdsell (5-1). L — Corsentino (2-3). 2B — Kansas State, None; Texas Tech, Cole Stilwell 1 (7), Jace Jung 1 (14), Kurt Wilson 1 (7), Parker Kelly 1 (8). HR — Kansas State, None; Texas Tech, Kurt Wilson 1 (7), Hudson White 1 (4). Records: Kansas State 15-15, 1-7; Texas Tech 26-8, 6-2.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech baseball drops Kansas State as Birdsell strikes out 12