UT Arlington’s baseball team doesn’t have to leave the area until the Sun Belt tournament in two weeks, but there’s still work to be done if it wants to finish the regular season above .500.After winning five of their past six weekend series, the Mavericks will get a good look at potential first-round tournament opponent Western Kentucky in what’s shaping up to be a competitive weekend at Clay Gould BallparkThe fact that UTA is one win away from sealing a bid to the conference tournament is a testament to the recovery it made after the worst start in the Darin Thomas era.With eight wins in their past 10 games, the Mavericks’ 5-14 start to the season seems so distant for one of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt. Taking two of three from all five teams below them in the standings sets them up for a measuring-stick series with the Hilltoppers, who share a 13-11 conference record with the Mavericks.Both teams hit well, but the Mavericks have been slightly better.UTA is fifth in the nation with 108 doubles, seventh in hits with 531 and 11th in home runs with 38. And UTA has scored five or more runs in each of its past 12 games.The Hilltoppers are hitting .294 and have won three straight weekend series behind David Simmons, who’s hitting .479 since April 11.WKU holds the edge in pitching, behind the strength of Justin Hageman and his 2.68 ERA, the best of any Sun Belt pitcher with at least 60 innings.Their pitching staff has been better than UTA’s this season. The Mavericks have used a patchwork rotation to get by for most of the season, relying on their ability to score runs to win games.UTA’s 4.69 team ERA is the third worst in the Sun Belt.Only three UTA pitchers have ERAs under 3.00, and one of them starts Friday. Daniel Milliman makes his second Friday start in UTA’s new-look rotation after the change led to a series win last weekend.With their good hitting, the Mavericks hope their pitchers can get deeper in games.Sitting five games ahead of ninth-place Troy, the Mavericks only need to win once or have the Trojans lose this weekend to officially lock up a conference tournament berth.They’ll travel to TCU on Tuesday before hosting Texas State to close the regular season.
UTA vs. Western Kentucky
Clay Gould Ballpark
Game 1: RHP Daniel Milliman (4-0, 2.86) vs. RHP Justin Hageman (5-1, 2.68), 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Game 2: RHP Brad Vachon (3-5, 5.93) vs. RHP Josh Bartley (5-3, 4.04), 2 p.m. Saturday.
Game 3: RHP Zach Thompson (4-4, 5.45) vs. RHP Jake Thompson (4-3, 4.29), 1 p.m. Sunday