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Texas Tech Finding Its Identity

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(Graphics By Don Olea)

In 2012, Josh Abbott Band released their third studio album and sang about Lubbock in “My Texas” with Pat Green. That’s fitting for a group of Texas Tech alums.

Ironically, that was the last time their alma mater’s softball team was ranked and made it to the NCAA Tournament.

“Since we got here, we built it from the ground up,” fifth-year head coach Adrian Gregory said. “Our seniors have been in the mix of that through some of the grinding parts, so now you better celebrate it. That’s what we’ve done differently this year, we celebrate every single thing that we’ve done and we won’t stop doing that.”

The Big 12 coaches voted Texas Tech to finish fifth (of seven) in the preseason conference rankings. On Feb. 19, Softball America ranked Texas Tech at No. 19, and the current No. 12 ranking is highest the Red Raiders have been ranked since March 8, 2011 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25.

Entering the Jeannine McHaney Memorial Classic at Rocky Johnson Field on Friday, the Red Raiders are 19-1 with wins over programs like Wisconsin, Auburn, Arizona State and Oregon, which have all been ranked at some point this season.

The 8-0 one-hit, run-rule win over ASU in Palm Springs, Ca., was the exclamation point on their non-conference schedule.

“Our kids had something to prove,” Gregory said. “They are playing with a chip on their shoulder and they are having such a good time.”

Senior Jessica Hartwell became the third All-American in program history last season when she hit .400 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs. This season, she is hitting .414 and slugging .741 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.

Eight of her teammates have hit home runs and five others have double-digit RBIs.

Offense is nice, but the not-so-secret part of Texas Tech’s success so far is sophomore Erin Edmoundson. At 11-1, 1.68 in 66.2 innings, the lefty enters no-hitter territory each time she takes the mound.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” Trying to save no-hitters,” Gregory said, smiling. “That’s just on another level. That’s exciting that we’re talking about saving no-hitters. Go us.”

On March 5, Edmoundson one-hit Texas-El Paso without her best stuff and then ended the game with her first-career home run, a grand slam.

“I just like how she attacks hitters,” Gregory said. “She’s just so competitive out there. I’ve said that day in and day out. She’s just such a competitor and we’re throwing her a lot of innings. And some days she’s sharper than others, but every day she’s going to give you a fight and she’s going to go out there and attack hitters.”

The Red Raiders have struggled almost as much “as the weather out in Lubbock.”

They’ve made it to five NCAA Tournaments and have had 10 winning seasons since 1996, but the players believe they’ve finally figured out their identity as a team and there’s nowhere to go but up.

“I think in the past years we haven’t been where we want to be,” Edmoundson said. “I think this year we’re finally getting there, just ranking-wise and even just (how we’re playing) as a team.”

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Divide And Conquer: One Family, Two Regionals

Aubrey Leach is a senior at Tennessee and her sister, Kelcy, is a sophomore at Texas Tech.