UT Arlington baseball coach Darin Thomas didn’t see this start coming.
With seven players returning to the lineup and two of his three rotational pieces, Thomas never imagined his team would come out flat, get swept at home and begin the season 0-4.
But that’s the situation he and the Mavericks finds themselves in as they prepare for a weekend series on the road against McNeese State in Lake Charles, La.
“We just didn’t play very good at all the first two games, and then we ran into two good teams the next two games,” he said.
To put the Mavericks’ offensive struggles into perspective, they have more losses (4) than they do extra-base hits (3). Part of that can be attributed to the quality of pitching they have faced, but Thomas acknowledged that his team is trying too hard to get on track.
When the Mavericks start pressing at the plate, they lose sight of the patient approach they need.
“Human nature tells you to look at the results, but we can’t be a results-oriented team right now,” Thomas said.
For a team loaded with experience, the last thing Thomas wants is for the team to lose sight of what made it successful last season — a strong pitching staff and the ability to drive home runners in scoring position.
UTA ace Brad Vachon was rocked on Opening Day, but bounced back with a strong 5 1/3-inning, two-run showing at Baylor on Tuesday. Thomas will start Vachon again Sunday to see if he can regain his command.
But no matter how good of a weekend the Mavericks get from their rotation, they will need to start belting the baseball better than their current .267 slugging percentage.
That won’t come easily against McNeese State’s rotation of power pitchers, who helped the Cowboys beat Missouri and Southern Miss last weekend. The front is headed by Michael Clemens, a junior from The Woodlands, who throws in the mid-90s and overpowers hitters.
UTA is only four games into a season, so nobody in Arlington is ready to panic. But this year’s schedule doesn’t let up for the next three weeks, nor will things get any easier once conference season begins.
After two strong showings where his team came up just short against Oklahoma State and Baylor, Thomas remains confident that his team will hit. He hopes it happens this weekend.