Due to travel delays resulting from a winter storm, members of the North Dakota State baseball team showed up in Lubbock in three groups, the last arriving shortly before game time.
The Bison didn’t let that show in their game.
North Dakota State beat No. 19 Texas Tech 8-1 Friday night in the series opener, with pitchers Cade Feeney and Skyler Riedinger allowing four hits, matching the Red Raiders’ season-low, and the defense behind them playing errorless.
“We had guys that were probably facing it and were tired, especially waking up at 3 a.m. the last couple of days,” Bison coach Tyler Oaks said, “but they did a really good job.”
Tech (20-10) was originally scheduled to host North Dakota State (8-20) in single games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The series was rescheduled for one game on Friday afternoon and a doubleheader on Saturday. Early Friday, the opening was pushed back five hours to 7 p.m. Saturday’s doubleheader is still at 2 p.m
The Bison’s flight on Wednesday was canceled and they traveled by bus 234 miles southeast of Fargo, North Dakota, to Minneapolis on Thursday morning. They are then divided into a group of 15 and a group of 18.
“The 15 came in last night (Thursday), probably around 7 or 8 o’clock,” Oakes said. “And then the group of 18 arrived on two different flights from Minneapolis and Dallas to Lubbock. One group boarded probably around 1pm and the other group boarded just before game time.
“The guys that came in here last night, we had four or five position players, six or seven pitchers and two coaches. And we had two coaches back with the other two groups.”
One of the game day arrivals was Feeney (3-3), who went six innings and allowed three hits, one of which was a homer by Austin Green in the second. Riedinger pitched the final three innings for the save.
In his last three starts, Feeney has gone 19 innings and held opponents to 11 hits and three runs, one unearned.
“I think those guys commanded the fastball,” Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “Feeney commands the changeup and the slider he knew going into it. . . He’s been very good on the year. It’s no big surprise that he went out and went six innings. You’re just trying to keep it where it’s a game and get to the bullpen, and we don’t have to do that.”
Shortstop Druw Sackett went 4 for 6 with three doubles and three hits. North Dakota State opened the game with a four-run ninth, which Sackett capped with a two-run double.
“I was with the guys that got in yesterday,” Sackett said of the ride, “I was so lucky. It was tough to see all the other guys stay and not be able to make it this far (Thursday), but they showed a lot coming here and preparing to play and do their job.”
The Bison have lost 13 games this season by three runs or fewer, including seven of those against Arizona State, Arizona, Texas, Texas State and Nebraska.
“Our guys have faced a lot of adversity all year,” Oakes said. “I’m proud of the way they played and competed. That’s kind of the level of expectation.
“People look at our record and don’t think we’re good, and I think we’re a good competitive team that can play with anybody around, and it’s cool to get in that type of environment and give these guys that type of experiences when they play like that.”
In addition to strong pitching, North Dakota State pitched error-free, including a heads-up play in the fifth inning. With one out and Hudson White on first, Owen Washburn hit a pop-fly single that landed in shallow left between left fielder Terrell Huggins, shortstop Sackett and third baseman Jack Steele.
As White raced toward uncovered third base, Huggins drove the ball almost back to the infield and threw it to Feeney, who came around and tagged out White, who was sliding.
Tadlock said the Red Raiders aren’t just about throwing.
“They also played great defense,” Tadlock said. “The left fielder made two really good plays. The third baseman made some good plays. It goes hand in hand. You have to play defense behind them.”
Kevin Bazzell, who started Tech’s first 33 games this season at third base, made his first start at catcher. Regular catcher Hudson White played third.
Bazzell has been a catcher in the past, and Tadlock noted that Tech opponents had 51 stolen bases in 63 attempts before Friday. White has started 17 games behind the plate this season and freshman Dylan Maxey has started 12.
“We just thought the stolen base attempts were very high,” Tadlock said. “We caught Bazzell on Wednesday intrasquad and we really felt like we wanted to get him back in there. I don’t know if we’ll stick with it or not. I thought he caught it very well. He threw a man who ran away….
“We have three of them. I think he’s the best pitcher of the three and have thought so for a while. But you have to have a combination of things.” …
Friday was Tech’s fifth home loss to a non-conference opponent in five seasons, the others coming against Oregon and UT-Rio Grande Valley in 2019, Abilene Christian last year and Iowa last month.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE 8, TEXAS TECH 1
ND State 002 110 004 — 8 13 0
Texas Tech 010 0000 000 — 1 4 2
Feeney, Riedinger (7) and Bush; Girton, Fast (5), Coombes (6), Bridges (8), Devine (9), Crowley (9) and Bazzell. W—Feeney (3-3). L—Girton (2-1). St.—Readinger (3). 2B—North Dakota State, Hamilton (3), Sackett 3 (11), Dunlap 2 (7), Bush (7). HR—Texas Tech, Green (7). Records: South Dakota State 8-20, Texas Tech 20-10.