After two strong weeks and its first sweep of the season, the UT Arlington baseball team is starting to forget its dreadful start to the season.A chance to jump into the upper half of the Sun Belt Conference awaits the Mavericks, but they’ll have to dispatch surging Louisiana Monroe this weekend at Clay Gould Ballpark. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Friday.After starting the year 5-14 and 1-5 in conference play, the suddenly red-hot Mavericks have won seven of their past 10 games to jump from worst to fifth in the Sun Belt. It’s all powered by the resurgence of the once sputtering lineup. The Mavericks scored six or more runs in nine of the last 10 games behind the emergence of Ryan Bottger, a Rose State JC transfer hitting .439 with two homers and 13 RBIs during the stretch.“He’s always been an offensive player, but we’ve been really impressed with him out in left field,” coach Darin Thomas said. “It’s tough learning a new position and he’s done it well.”Bottger, along with pitcher Daniel Milliman, were named Sun Belt players of the week after last weekend’s road sweep of South Alabama. Just days after holding Baylor to one run in four innings last week, Milliman threw six shutout innings on Sunday to cap the best pitching weekend of the year.Milliman, a former Fort Worth Southwest standout, fought back from surgery on his meniscus in the fall to give the Mavericks the stable rotation piece they haven’t had all season. In six appearances this year, Milliman is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.“He was a guy we were always counting on to be there for us,” Thomas said. “The surgery set us back a little bit, but he’s really pitching well right now.”The Mavericks will need to stay hot at the plate against a Louisiana Monroe team that swept Arkansas-Little Rock last weekend. The Warhawks pitching staff is the worst in the Sun Belt with a 6.02 ERA, but that is inflated by a two-game stretch in March when they gave up 39 runs in two games. Their .228 team batting average is also last in the Sun Belt.Special experienceBefore Tuesday’s game against TCU, the Mavericks hosted 50 Special Olympic athletes from the greater Fort Worth area to a series of hitting drills and an unforgettable experience.“It’s really a great time for them,” Matt Shortall said in a press release, “and it’s fun for our guys to see how great this game is and how much joy it can bring to somebody’s life just by teaching them to hit a baseball.” The athletes will be participating in the Special Olympic Spring Games, April 11-12 at UTA’s Maverick Stadium.
Louisiana Monroe at UTA
Clay Gould Ballpark
Friday: RHP Brad Vachon (2-5, 4.79) vs. Chris Hunt (1-1, 3.86), 6:30 p.m.
Saturday: RHP Zach Thompson (1-3, 5.25) vs. Chad Miller (2-0, 4.95), 2 p.m.
Sunday: RHP Daniel Milliman (3-0, 1.37) vs. Alex Hermeling (1-3, 4.85), 1 p.m.