The UT Arlington baseball team opened the season in February with a resounding sweep of Louisiana Tech, getting off to a hot start and outscoring the Bulldogs 21-9 at home.Too bad those games against a Western Athletic Conference foe didn’t count as conference play because things have changed since then.The scuffling Mavericks head to Ruston, La., this weekend to play a conference series against a surging Bulldogs team that has won six of its last eight games, all at J.C. Love Field.“With baseball, you never know how it’s going to be,” coach Darin Thomas said. “They could come out motivated to beat us at home or they can press a little bit and let us get out of there with a couple of wins.”Since that opening weekend, UTA has gone 9-12 and only 4-8 since its win over then-No. 10 Oklahoma on March 5. Nothing is coming easy for the Mavericks, who just can’t seem to get on a roll this season. They haven’t had a winning or losing streak of more than three all season. This series should be a litmus test for Thomas’ pitching staff, which will finally get an element of continuity this weekend when he keeps the same rotation as last weekend. That hasn’t happened all season.“I thought [Chase Weaver] and [Zach Thompson] pitched really well last weekend,” Thomas said. “It’s tough to only name three starters, so we just go with guys we think can get us to [John] Beck at the end of the game.”Beck, the Mavericks’ opening day starter, is now the UTA closer.Brad Vachon, who leads the Mavericks with a 2.56 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 38 innings, gets the first crack at a Bulldogs lineup that doesn’t exactly strike fear into an opposing team.Louisiana Tech is only hitting .248 and only two everyday starters are hitting over .300. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming around. They’re scoring 6.8 runs per game over the last eight games and holding teams to just 3.8 a game.An unwelcome sightAfter the Mavericks were shut out by Texas A&M on Tuesday, they have to face the best pitcher in the WAC.Phil Maton has been lights-out for the Bulldogs this season with a 4-1 record, 1.14 ERA and 46 strikeouts, all conference bests. His .175 opposing batting average is also unmatched.“He’s the top guy in the conference,” Thomas said. “And they play better when they have him on the mound. They seem to win every time he starts.”Maton is a 6-foot-3 right-hander with a strong three-pitch mix. He has a sharp slider and uses his changeup to keep left-handed hitters off balance.“We’ll compete and try to run out of pitches early on. That’s all we can really do,” Thomas said.He held the Mavericks to one run in five innings in the season opener.
UTA at Louisiana Tech
J.C. Love Field, Ruston, La.
Game 1: UTA RHP Brad Vachon (2-2, 2.56) vs. RHP Phil Maton (4-1, 1.14), 6 p.m. Friday
Game 2: UTA LHP Chase Weaver (2-0, 3.24) vs. RHP Trevor Peterson (2-2, 3.60),
3 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: UTA RHP Zach Thompson (2-2, 6.00) vs. RHP Richie Navari (1-4, 5.01),
1 p.m. Sunday