UTA hopes early tests pay off as Sun Belt baseball opens

Posted Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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UTA at Texas State

Bobcat Ballpark, San Marcos

Game 1: RHP Jess Amedee (1-2, 5.32) vs. RHP Lucas Humpal (1-0, 4.01), 6:30 p.m., Friday

Game 2: RHP Brad Vachon (1-4, 4.66) vs. RHP Taylor Black (1-2, 3.51), 2 p.m. Saturday

Game 3: RHP Zach Thompson (1-2, 5.66) vs. Austen Williams (2-0, 2.39), 1 p.m. Sunday

Records: UTA 5-11, Texas State 10-6

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It’s no secret that UT Arlington’s nonconference schedule didn’t go so well.

Despite returning seven starters from last season and playing 12 of their first 16 games in Arlington, the Mavericks (5-11) enter conference play this weekend against Texas State looking to hit the reset button.

Coach Darin Thomas intentionally scheduled the power teams in the area — Texas A&M, Oklahoma, TCU, etc. — to prepare UTA for its first Sun Belt Conference run, but the Mavericks haven’t started this badly since opening 5-10 in 2008.

Compounding the Mavericks’ frustration is the fact that they are seemingly a few timely hits away from a different story.

“It’s different if you’re getting your tail kicked and you’re losing 6-1 without ever being in it,” Thomas said. “It’s more frustrating to be so close in a lot of these games and just not finishing them.”

The Mavericks are getting on base with the best teams in the Sun Belt, but getting those runs home has been difficult. Of the 255 base runners to reach base, only 81 have come around to score. For perspective, 13-2 Louisiana-Lafayette has scored 95 runs with 233 base runners.

UTA is hitting just .242 with runners in scoring position, leaving 164 runners stranded. Simply put, the Mavericks aren’t taking advantage of scoring opportunities.

Texas State is a team that pounds the strike zone, striking out 140 with only 43 walks. Only South Alabama strikes out less often than UTA, so something has to give this weekend.

The road series at Texas State might be a refreshing sight for the home-struggling Mavericks, even though UTA is 14-25 all time in San Marcos.

“Baseball is such a game of momentum and we just haven’t been able to carry it over from one win to the next,” Thomas said.

It hasn’t helped that UTA hasn’t been able to go with their preseason rotation since opening weekend. Thomas’ typical Friday starter, Brad Vachon, whose schedule was derailed by a terrible first start and multiple Sunday rainouts, starts Saturday in hopes of getting back to Friday starts by next weekend.

Without him setting the pace for the weekends, the Mavericks have struggled. In Jess Amedee’s Friday start last weekend, Utah scored five runs by the fifth inning to get UTA into an early hole. Amedee gets another start Friday.

Thomas said although the first month didn’t go well, he’d pit his tough nonconference schedule against that of any other team in the Sun Belt.

“It’ll pay off for us in the end,” he said.

With two months of conference games ahead of them, the close-but-no-cigar losses could reap big dividends for UTA.

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