OMAHA, NE- Dylan Dusek started Texas Tech’s Sunday evening College World Series opener against Florida and only lasted two innings.
In most normal scenarios, you would be right to assume that this was terrible news for the Red Raiders, especially against the defending national champion Gators, who boast an offense that can bury you quickly if you’re not on your game.
But that wasn’t the case at all. Dusek, in his abbreviated outing, was largely effective. He gave up one hit and one run along the way, and the run only came home when Deacon Liput scored on a balk. Which is to say that things went according to plan for Texas Tech.
Over the last month-plus, head coach Tim Tadlock and his staff have used Dusek, a senior, in this way. They start him, expect him to give them just a handful of innings, and then turn things over to the bullpen, usually beginning with Ryan Shetter.
It’s a unique arrangement, but the proof of concept is out there.
On May 17th against Oklahoma State, Dusek started and threw two innings, giving up just one unearned run in a 9-4 win. In the regional opener against New Mexico State, he threw two shutout innings in an eventual 9-2 win, and in the super regional opener against Duke, he threw 1.2 innings, giving up just one unearned run in what turned out to be a 6-4 win.
With a 6-3 win over Florida on Sunday, Texas Tech has now gone four-for-four in collecting wins when Dusek gives them these types of short starts.
For it to work so well, though, Shetter has to hold up his end of the bargain, and he’s done so.
Against Oklahoma State, he threw six innings, giving up three hits and three runs with two walks and six strikeouts. In the NMSU game, it was five innings of three-hit, one-run baseball with a walk and five strikeouts, and against Duke, he threw 4.2 innings, giving up four hits and two runs with no walks and three strikeouts.
Dusek starts the game, but throws the number of innings you would usually see out of a reliever, and Shetter comes on in relief and throws starter’s innings. And it just works.
“First of all, they can both really pitch,” Tadlock said. “They can both execute pitches. They’re both very selfless in what they do. There’s a lot of guys that, in Ryan’s shoes, would rather start. There’s a lot of guys probably when you pull them in the second inning, they probably would rather not come out. But they know what we’re doing. We’re doing it for the good of the team and that’s kind of our plan going in. And it’s been kind of neat to watch.”
Sunday’s game was eerily similar to those previous three examples. Dusek didn’t dominate in the two innings, and he got touched up for a run, but he got the Red Raiders off to a solid start.
He gave up a triple in the first inning to Jonathan India, but eluded damage thanks in large part to a magnificent diving catch by Grant Little in left field. He stranded two baserunners in the second inning, and then was lifted in the third after walking Liput to begin the frame. Quietly, it was a nice outing that got Texas Tech off to a good start, which can be a concern in a CWS opener.
Overall, Dusek has been a really nice story for the Red Raiders. In 33 innings on the year, he has a 2.13 ERA with 31 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks. After a Freshman All-American season in 2014, Dusek had struggled with injuries and carving out a regular role for himself leading up to 2018, so his successes this season have undoubtedly been a welcome sight. Because he’s in his fifth year in the program, he’s also been a part of three Omaha teams, in 2014, 2016, and 2018, and there’s no replacement for that type of experience.
Shetter, for his part, did dominate at times on Sunday.
He threw 4.1 innings, giving up just three hits and one run with one walk and seven strikeouts. When he was challenged, he deftly found ways to work out of trouble. When he came on in the third, he inherited a runner, uncorked a wild pitch to move him to second, issued a walk, and then balked to allow Dusek’s runner to score. But then he struck out J.J. Schwarz and Wil Dalton, the two best power bats in the UF lineup, to end the frame.
The fourth inning went 1-2-3, the fifth featured strikeouts of Jonah Girand and Liput, and the sixth had strikeouts of Schwarz and Austin Langworthy. In the bottom of the seventh, he punched out Nick Horvath as his last act before being lifted.
Florida designated hitter Nelson Maldonado, who had one of the three hits against Shetter, a single in the fifth inning, put it succinctly.
“He was able to attack the strike zone,” Maldonado said. “He kept the ball down. He worked ahead. He sunk the ball just like any other pitcher should do, and he got outs.”
The pair, all told, ended up throwing 6.1 innings, giving up four hits and two runs with three walks and eight strikeouts. You’ll take that type of effort against anyone, but you’re elated with that type of effort in the CWS against Florida, especially since it allowed the offense to methodically work against Brady Singer and get to him in the middle innings for five runs.
And when you’re that effective, you get a fun nickname. In this case, the Texas Tech baseball Twitterverse has taken to calling the pairing “Dushetter.”
With wins against an Oklahoma State team that was fighting to win the Big 12 regular season title, a victory to kick off a home regional, a win to start a super regional, and then a decisive win over the defending national champions to begin their stay in Omaha, they’ve earned the moniker.