Texas State and UT Arlington are new to the Western Athletic Conference, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking a backseat to the baseball championship race.With both teams tied for second place in the conference only one game behind CSU Bakersfield, they’ll renew their longstanding rivalry in UTA’s final series of the regular season at Clay Gould Ballpark, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch on Friday.And with final exams out of the way, both teams can turn their full attention to the task at hand — winning the weekend.“We played really well after finals last year,” coach Darin Thomas said. “That doesn’t mean it’ll happen every year, but our guys want to go win a conference championship.”The Mavericks will need their offense to step up. They’re scoring only 3.7 runs per game during their current homestand, putting pressure on an already depleted pitching staff. While Friday starter Brad Vachon has been solid all year, the other UTA arms have left much to be desired.Vachon is the only strikeout pitcher on the team. He has struck out 60 hitters in 82 2/3 innings. Chase Weaver is second on the team with 29. On top of that, UTA’s Achilles’ heel is the lack of a pure closer. It has been a committee approach all season with mixed results.“We’ve been shorthanded all year on the mound,” Thomas said. “But we knew that coming into the spring when [Kasey] Merck needed surgery and [Daniel] Milliman was coming off an injury in the fall.”The fact that UTA is a game out of first place speaks volumes considering the team hasn’t had its complete lineup since March. Injuries to Derek Miller (face), Jake Pinchback (foot) and Justin Copeland (back) came on separate weekends, but Thomas said they’re all back in time for the stretch run.“We’re finally healthy for the first time since La Tech,” Thomas said.Sunday’s Senior Day celebration will acknowledge Pinchback, Cody Dyvig, Brandon Lawrence, Brent Bollinger and Kennedy Winn for their contributions to the program.
UTA vs. Texas State
at Clay Gould Ballpark
Records: UTA, 25-23, 13-8 WAC; Texas State, 24-24, 13-8
Game 1: Brad Vachon (6-3, 2.83) vs. Lucas Humpal (3-2, 3.02), 6:30 p.m. Friday
Game 2: Zach Thompson (5-4, 5.79) vs. Taylor Black (3-5, 4.08), 2 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: TBA vs. Mitchell Pitts (3-3, 4.98), 1 p.m. Sunday