UT Arlington baseball team appears as strong as 2012 NCAA qualifier

02/21/2013 7:21 PM

03/14/2013 3:26 PM

It didn’t take long for the UT Arlington baseball team to get back to work.

With a weekend sweep of Louisiana Tech to open the season and a 2-1 loss to Texas that could have gone either way, the Mavericks look as strong as the team that took Baylor to the wire in last year’s NCAA Regionals.

“We played well against Texas. It was a good game, we just didn’t end up winning,” coach Darin Thomas said. “I can handle that.”

They’ll host a weekend series with Northeastern (1-2) starting at 6:30 tonight at Clay Gould Ballpark.

But while this year’s team is off to a 3-1 start, they’re taking on a different identity than last year.

“We’re a little more athletic than we were last year, so we’re running more and we’re going to keep using bunts when we need to,” Thomas said.

The Mavericks have seven stolen bases. Four games into last season, they had four.

The Huskies traveled from Boston to Fort Myers, Fla., for a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, so they’ll play a doubleheader against UTA on Saturday to get them back home on Sunday.

UTA has never faced Northeastern.

Walker stops at short

When Ryan Walker arrived as a freshman in 2011, he forced his way into the lineup by hitting .322 with 37 RBIs.

He was one of two Mavericks to play in every game that season.

But defensively, Jesse Payne was locked in as the shortstop, so Darin Thomas placed Walker at second base to let him grow into a middle infield role.

Once Payne graduated, Walker took over as the UTA shortstop and had his share of growing pains with 16 errors at the position.

He has one error in the early going this season, but Thomas believes Walker is turning into a true shortstop.

“He’s developed into one. I like some of the things he’s doing over there for us,” Thomas said.

Impressive vs. Texas

Even though UTA couldn’t capitalize on run-scoring opportunities it had against Texas on Tuesday, John Beck and Zach Thompson left an impression on college baseball analyst Kendall Rogers of the scouting service Perfect Game.

He attended to get a look at Texas’ Chad Hollingsworth, but said Thompson will be a “highly sought after pitching prospect” in the 2014 MLB Draft.

Rogers also noted that Beck’s repertoire makes him one of the top prospects in the WAC for a reason.

Thompson and Beck combined to throw five innings of one-hit baseball with a pair of strikeouts.

“[Thompson] will end up having a huge role with us. We see him as a starting pitcher down the road,” Thomas said.

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