With five games over the next five days, the UT Arlington baseball team gets an opportunity to string some wins together before conference play begins next weekend.Starting with this weekend’s UTA Hilton Invitational, the Mavericks will host Utah, Missouri State and Abilene Christian over the next four days at Clay Gould Ballpark. They’ll then face Oklahoma at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Tuesday.For coach Darin Thomas, it’s a chance to see how a disappointing 3-8 start affects his team that entered the season with high expectations. UTA is off to its worst start since opening the 2010 season 4-8.“We’ve just got to execute a little better,” he said. “I think we’re hitting the ball pretty well. But any time you get behind in a game, it’s tough.”Getting off to a strong start has been the Mavericks’ problem this season. Their Friday starters have struggled to set a tone for the first three weekends, getting pounded for 20 runs in the 12 innings they’ve lasted.Primary Friday starter Brad Vachon hasn’t been on his normal Friday schedule since he was pounded for seven earned runs in two innings on opening day. He’s pitched in two midweek games and was scheduled to pitch on the last two Sundays, but both games were rained out.The burden then fell on Zach Thompson, who struggled to produce a quality start in both of his Friday starts. Thomas is giving Jess Amedee the start Friday against Utah, hoping he can start this weekend with a strong outing.“He’s earned it,” Thomas said. “He’s pitched great for us against some pretty good teams.”Amedee is coming off a quality start against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend in which he allowed two runs into the seventh inning. The further into tonight’s game he gets, the lighter the load will be on the UTA bullpen. With five games in a row, every little bit helps.Greg McCall has been swinging the hottest bat in the Mavericks lineup. He’s belted three homers over the past week — including one at Globe Life Park — and is starting to emerge as a steady voice in the dugout. “We’ve got a few things to build on and this is all getting us ready for conference play,” he said.Thomas said his team could use a few more players like McCall to step into leadership roles, but said he understands that some players simply don’t have that personality. Even though his team is 1-5 at home this season, Thomas remained steadfast that his team will emerge from its season-long slumber and piece together a win streak. With conference play one weekend away, the opportunity sits right in front of UTA.
UTA Hilton Invitational
Clay Gould Ballpark
• Game 1 vs. Utah, 3 p.m. Friday: RHP Jess Amedee (1-1, 4.66) vs. RHP Mitch Watrous (0-2, 4.32)
• Game 2 vs. Missouri State, 3 p.m. Saturday: RHP Zach Thompson (0-2, 5.74) vs. LHP Matt Hall (1-1, 6.00)
• Game 3 vs. Abilene Christian, 3 p.m. Sunday