Top 10 Stories of 2022: Owen Washburn Thrives as a Freshman at Texas Tech

By: Maddox Durst
PBR Wisconsin Staff

At the end of the year, our staff reflects back on some of the best moments that came from the past 365 days. As the final month comes to a close, we wanted to highlight the 10 most interesting headlines from around the state, finishing with our number one storyline that will be released on New Year’s Day. 

OF Owen Washburn (Webster; Texas Tech), the 2021 PBR Wisconsin Player of the Year and 2-time state champion at Webster High School, took his talents to Texas Tech this past spring, and continued to thrive on the baseball diamond. 

Before he could take the field for Texas Tech though, Washburn had to adjust defensively. Known as an infielder and pitcher throughout his prep career, the Red Raiders transitioned him to an outfielder, which took some adjusting in the beginning. 

“In high school and travel ball I was an infielder. I transitioned into an outfielder, and it was a little bit of a struggle at first,” Washburn said. “But, once the season went on, I felt more comfortable in the position and was able to help the team.”

In his new position as the Red Raider’s right fielder, Washburn’s success started in game one. Texas Tech traveled to newly built Globe Life Field, current home of the Texas Rangers, to play against Michigan in the State Farm Showdown on February 18th. 

“It was unbelievable before the game,” Washburn said as he took in the stadium. “I wasn't 100% sure if I was playing in this game. My strength coach walked up to me and said ‘Wash, you’re hitting in the 2-hole today.’ That’s when the nerves started to kick in.”

Washburn had the top half of the inning to play defense and settle into the match a bit, but then it was his turn to step up to the plate. 

“In my first at bat, I got down 0-2 right away which wasn’t the best, but got the hit on a single to left field and got the nerves out of the way,” Washburn said. “And then the walk off at the end, it was like a movie-ending which could not have gone better.” 

The lefty finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two walks, and won the game for Texas Tech, as he drove a single past the Michigan right fielder, scoring two Red Raiders. That base hit gave them a 7-6 victory to begin the season, and Washburn never looked back from there. 

Washburn locked in his position as their right fielder, and started in 59 of their 61 games. He was one of two freshmen with a consistent starting role for the Red Raiders. With that responsibility, Washburn continued to keep his body healthy over the course of a longer season than what he had previously played in.

“Getting into a good routine was something I had to learn,” Washburn said. “It was a lot different than playing 1 or 2 games a week in high school and travel ball, whereas we had week day games and weekend series pretty consistently.”

His first collegiate home run came a couple of weeks later against Merrimack. Washburn finished with seven on the season. Just over a month later, the Big 12 Conference recognized him as the Newcomer of the Week after he hit .400 in a weekend series against then #3 ranked Oklahoma State. 

To add onto his accolades throughout the season, Washburn was voted by Big 12 coaches as an Honorable Mention All-Conference outfielder, and a member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.

“It was great, it was an honor for sure,” Washburn said. “It was something I strived to get towards and not something that I necessarily expected right away.”

The true freshman hit .277, had an on-base percentage of .369 on the season, finished with a .988 fielding percentage, and helped Texas Tech tie for second in the Big 12 and make it to a regional. Their overall record was 39-22, and the group won two games in their regional, but were eventually eliminated by a quality Notre Dame squad, leaving Washburn with some aspirations for next season.

“I want to keep hitting better, and continue to contribute for the team,” Washburn said as he looked toward his sophomore season at Texas Tech. “We made it to regionals last season, but didn’t have much success in the postseason. So, making it to Omaha is definitely on the list.”

Washburn and the Red Raiders begin regular season play in mid-February against Gonzaga.