Grace Prep ex hopes to follow up Vachon’s gem for UT Arlington baseball

Posted Thursday, May. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information UTA vs. New Mexico State 3 p.m., QuikTrip Park, Grand Prairie RHP Zach Thompson (6-4, 5.24) vs. LHP Ryan Beck (7-4, 5.05)

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As Brad Vachon befuddled a Dallas Baptist lineup to give UT Arlington a 2-0 tournament-opening win Wednesday night, Zach Thompson stood at the front of UTA’s dugout with a notebook in hand to mark his pitch count.

It’s standard practice to have an off-day pitcher keep track of these kinds of things, but UTA’s No. 2 starter discovered much more than he expected.

“I have to go out there and do the exact same thing,” he said. “I have to keep the ball down in the zone, have all my pitches going and, as long as I can locate, I should be good.”

Thompson takes the mound against New Mexico State at 3 p.m. Friday as UTA tries to put itself in the driver’s seat by winning the second of three pool-play games for a chance at the Western Athletic Conference championship game on Sunday.

But if history is any indication, that’s much easier said than done. Thompson was rocked by the potent Aggies lineup the first time they met this season when they belted 11 hits and seven runs to run him from the game in the fourth inning en route to an 11-1 victory.

As if he needed any more reason to look for payback, the 6-foot-6 right-hander said watching the home-run happy Patriots get frustrated by Vachon’s command inspired him to focus on what he needs to do.

“I left it up last time I faced them and they got the worst of me,” he said. “Now they’re going to get the best of me.”

Because New Mexico State lost to Texas State 9-4 on Thursday afternoon, the Aggies will play with their season on the line. A second loss will eliminate them.

A big start from the Grace Prep product would go a long way in making coach Darin Thomas’ job easier.

Because Vachon was so dominant on Wednesday, the Mavericks’ bullpen wasn’t stretched out much at all. Without a third starter and the possibility of a championship game Sunday, each hitter that Thompson sends down Friday will keep UTA’s bullpen options rested and ready.

Thompson hasn’t been a strikeout pitcher this season, only striking out 29 hitters in 771/3 innings, but he keeps the ball in the strike zone and lets his defense do the job behind him.

If he’s able to get the Mavericks into the seventh inning with a lead, Thomas can turn to his intimidating bullpen to close it out. In the 27 games in which the Mavericks had a lead after six innings, they’ve only lost once.

“We'll have our whole bullpen ready,” Thomas said. “It’s a short leash with everyone this time of the year, especially when you have a day off.”

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