By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The glove pops as a 95-mile per hour fastball blazes through the zone, milliseconds before the bat waves helplessly late.
On the mound, Texas Tech junior pitcher Trey Masek finishes his follow through, and then simply holds his glove up, asking for the ball back to begin work on the next hitter.
This scene has unfolded 63 times this season, and is a small sample of the work of an ace.
“It’s always good to be viewed as the team’s ace,” Masek said. “I really relish that role and I like having the guys on the team and coaches look to me in that role. At the same time, I know I’m going to get every team’s best, so it just motivates me to be the best that I can week in and week out.”
An ace is exactly what the Red Raiders have in Masek. Ending the regular season with a 5-1 record, Masek pitched well enough to win eight of his ten starts, thanks in part to a 1.52 earned run average.
But despite the on field success, Masek has an even bigger impact with the younger Red Raiders.
“We’re one of the youngest teams in the country,” Masek said. “I feel like for me to come in and have the success I’ve had this year has been really good for those guys to see. I feel like I’ve done a good job leading by example, both on and off the field.”
Senior pitcher Jerad McCrummen agrees, and sheds a little light on Masek’s impact on the team, even when he isn’t on the mound.
“Trey is loose in the clubhouse, and I think you have to have that,” McCrummen said. “He does a great job of balancing everybody out by making jokes, and then he shows that when game-time comes around, he’s serious and he goes to work.”
With 25 newcomers to the Texas Tech baseball program, the impact on younger ball players isn’t lost on the senior McCrummen.
“As upperclassmen we don’t realize how much the young guys look up to us,” McCrummen said. “When you have someone like Trey who has had the success he has had, and you see him never take a day off and work hard, it really sets an example.”
Masek set an example early in the year by being one of the best Texas Tech has seen. Setting the bar high, he was the first Red Raider in over 12 years to log at least eight innings of scoreless baseball in his first four starts. This streak included 32.1 scoreless innings, along with 18.1 innings without a walk. After missing a stretch of three starts due to an injury, Masek picked up right where he left off.
“It was a really good start, and I couldn’t have dreamed of having a better start,” Masek said. “I think just coming back and finding my groove again was important, especially at this point in the season when we are going to need some good starts on the mound, and hopefully making some noise in the Big 12 tournament.”
Masek is enjoying the best season of his career, and credits much of his success to first-year pitching coach Ray Hayward.
“I would put Coach Hayward up against any pitching coach in the country, and a godsend to the Red Raider program,” Masek said. “He’s a great pitching coach, and knows every one of his pitchers inside and out. From a personal standpoint, you can contribute a lot of my success this year to him for helping me. Whenever I get out of sync, he is right there helping me figure out what I’m doing wrong, and go back to attacking hitters and getting outs.”
While getting outs, Masek’s performance hasn’t gone unseen. A former Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, Masek was recently ranked the No. 81 prospect for the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft, by MLB.com. While lofty rankings might get to some pitchers, Masek is taking a more distant approach.
“It’s an easy thing to get distracted with,” Masek said. “One thing I have prided myself on this year is just trying to keep a level head about it, and stick my head in the sand when it comes to those ratings. Just knowing as long as I go out there, pitch well, and get wins for my team, the other stuff will take care of itself.”
After wrapping up the regular season, Masek looks to continue his momentum into the postseason, and then into the MLB Draft. And true to form, he approaches this the same way as he would when attacking any other batter.
Throw a strike, finish the job, and begin work on the next task to come.