Heading into the final day of the Western Athletic Conference tournament, the UT Arlington baseball team no longer holds its fate in its hands.
UTA put the lead runner in scoring position in the ninth inning, but New Mexico State team snuffed out the rally and won 4-3 at QuikTrip Park on a muggy Friday afternoon, setting up a wide-open final day.
Because Dallas Baptist beat Texas State 7-5, every team in Pool B is 1-1.
No. 2 seed UTA must beat No. 3 Texas State in its third tournament game at 7 p.m. Saturday, and needs Dallas Baptist to beat NMSU in the 3 p.m. game to have a chance at advancing to the title game Sunday.
If NMSU wins, UTA’s season is over.
“It’s not a good feeling,” coach Darin Thomas said. “I’m not a fan of this format, where teams will end up playing meaningless games, especially in a one-bid conference.”
Thomas noted that Sacramento State had already been eliminated after UT San Antonio beat the Hornets in 14 innings and then beat San Jose State. The Hornets still had to play two games.
The WAC didn’t have a strong conference RPI this season, so it’s unlikely that any team besides the champion moves on to the NCAA regionals. Had UTA beaten NMSU, all the Mavericks would need Saturday was a win or a Dallas Baptist win.
Now they need both.
“We had our chances. You have to give [New Mexico State starter Ryan] Beck a lot of credit,” Thomas said. “That’s twice now this season he’s shut us down.”
Beck bore down on the Mavericks through seven shutout innings, allowing six hits and two walks.
Then Matt Shortall and Travis Sibley singled to spark an eighth-inning rally that saw UTA cut a 4-0 deficit to one. They both scored on a throwing error and John Michael Twichell’s double made it 4-3.
The Aggies brought in Evan Mott, who worked out of a ninth-inning jam by intentionally walking Shortall and ending the game with a strikeout.
Shortall went 3-for-4, but he said he’d rather give those hits up than have to root for another team.
“It’s tough to pull for other teams, but we’ll be there rooting for Dallas Baptist to get the win,” he said.
UTA starter Zach Thompson had an unusually tough day. He only gave up three hits in 32/3 innings, but he issued five walks and uncorked two wild pitches.
He walked the bases loaded in the second inning and eventually worked out of it with a strikeout and a pop-up.
But Thompson was unable to escape in the fourth inning, when he gave up two hits, two walks and threw two wild pitches. The Mavericks also committed a throwing error as New Mexico State took a 3-0 lead.
Kyle Phillips’ solo home run in the sixth inning proved to be the deciding run for New Mexico State.