Each time UT Arlington baseball coach Darin Thomas starts feeling frustrated, he takes a gander at the scores across the state, including area rivals TCU and Dallas Baptist.It doesn’t make losing any easier, but it’s comforting to know that he’s not the only coach wondering if it’s harder than ever to string together a long winning streak in 2013. The level of college baseball in Texas, and specifically in North Texas, rose to its zenith last season when UTA, TCU and DBU all earned trips to the postseason. When you include strong programs to the south (Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Rice) and the north (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Arkansas), it puts DFW in the middle of a baseball hotbed.A hot stove is what it has felt like for area teams when they have met in recent years. The Mavericks (10-9) and Horned Frogs (8-11) meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark, the first of three games between the teams this season. The schools have scheduled three meetings indefinitely in the future, including two at either school every other season. Both coaches would love to make an annual tradition of playing one of the three games at Rangers Ballpark but those details still need to be worked out.In the meantime, Thomas and TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle can commiserate on how tough it has become to win. The Mavs have lost five of their last seven and the Frogs lost two-of-three to Kansas in their opening Big 12 series. TCU and UTA have split two games the last two seasons.“Every Tuesday is tough for us,” Thomas said. “Matter of fact, every game anymore is tough. It is hard to win in Division I baseball and anybody who thinks it is, is fooling themselves. It’s a grind and a gut check every time you go out and play. I don’t care who you are playing.”Schlossnagle knows that better than anyone. His offense has struggled out of the gate and the team is hitting a combined .245. TCU was shutout for the third time Sunday. The Frogs were shutout three times in 2012, with the third one coming May 18.“I sound like a broken record but until the guys who are supposed to drive in runs, starting driving in runs, every game is going to be a grind,” Schlossnagle said. “The good news is on most days we’re going to be able to pitch with most teams we play to keep us in the game, but at some point you’ve got to score.”With Big 12 league play in full swing on most weekends now, TCU’s ability to string together a long win streak to flip its record to a more TCU-esque appearance is going to be tough. Then add in tough mid-week games against teams such as UTA and DBU and you can sense the gut check Thomas is talking about. The talent level and coaching at North Texas high schools is better than ever and has helped improve the quality of the area’s college teams.“It’s ridiculous how good everybody is and how capable they are of beating anybody on any day,” Thomas said. “It’s just hard to win. That makes it fun in a way, but in another way it’s just gut-wrenching. There’s a lot of good coaching staffs. You’ll never ever look across the field and think, ‘Man, I’m going to out-coach these guys tonight.’ It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to out-recruit them either. They’re out there busting their tail recruiting.”Although UTA won at Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and beat TCU and Baylor at home in 2012, Thomas knows playing that caliber of teams in a three-game series is a taller order. For the foreseeable future he’ll have three midweek meetings with TCU.“I understand that if we had to play some of these schools in a three-game series it might be different,” he said. “But on a Tuesday, if you got a guy who pitches well, you score a few runs and play well you have a chance.”The sentiment is the same from Schlossnagle, whose Frogs are playing in Rangers Ballpark for the tenth time and first time since 2001. TCU plays a three-game series at Oklahoma beginning Friday.“Oklahoma is definitely not the dose of medicine we need right now,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re in the Big 12 and there are no soft games on that schedule. We’re definitely capable, we’re just inconsistent, and until that gets better every game is going to be a dogfight.”Including Tuesday nights.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs