The UT Arlington baseball team managed to win its first Sun Belt weekend since March 15 with a comeback win Sunday, but there’s still a long way to go until the Mavericks are safely in the conference tournament mix.
“We’re in a dogfight to get into the playoffs,” coach Darin Thomas said. “We’ve started putting some things together, and now we have to go try and win another series.”
Things are looking up for the Mavericks, who travel to Louisiana-Lafayette for a weekend series in their first meeting since the Ragin’ Cajuns ended UTA’s season in last year’s Sun Belt title game.
While this year’s team isn’t the top-five team it was last season, the Ragin’ Cajuns have won 10 of their last 12 games. Led by the All-American shortstop Blake Trahan, Louisiana-Lafayette has one of the most dynamic offenses in the conference.
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They have a .283 batting average and a .426 slugging percentage as a team, and only Georgia State has scored more runs than the 246 they’ve scored in 40 games.
It’ll be a tall task for UTA’s pitching staff, but Thomas hopes Brad Vassar can hop right back into his Saturday role and find success against the lefty-heavy Louisiana-Lafayette lineup.
Vassar has had a rocky couple of starts lately. He didn’t escape the first inning on April 11 and then couldn’t get out of the second inning in a 7-1 loss to TCU last week.
The already thin UTA bullpen took another hit when Kyle Laberge, who started the season as a promising left-handed arm, won’t make the trip because of academic issues.
“It’s disappointing because we rely on these guys to take care of their business,” Thomas said. “That hurts us because now we’re without a key guy.”
It’s been a challenging season for the Mavericks, and the conference isn’t doing them any favors. Just three games separate third place from eighth, where UTA sits.
Fortunately, they’ve shown signs of breaking out of their offensive slump. The Mavericks have scored eight runs in three of their last four conference games with much of that coming from the cleanup spot.
Jackson Morris and Cody Farrell combined to go 9 for 14 with a homer and nine RBIs last weekend. If they can stay hot down the stretch, it’ll be a big relief for a team that has an uphill climb.
Thomas noted that “11-18 got two teams into the playoffs last year. That’s not the case this year. We’ve probably got to win 14 or 15 to get in.”
UTA is 8-10 in the Sun Belt and have won big games over Top 25 teams this year. But a brutal 3-11 stretch set them back. With four weekends left, the Mavericks need to find a way to win a few more weekends.
UTA at La.-Lafayette
Moore Field, Lafayette, La.
6 p.m. Friday: RHP Chad Nack (3-3, 4.99) vs. LHP Gunner Leger (4-2, 3.63)
2 p.m. Saturday: LHP Brad Vassar (2-5, 4.07) vs. RHP Evan Guillory (3-0, 4.22)
1 p.m. Sunday: RHP Joel Kuhnel (2-1, 3.31) vs. RHP Wyatt Marks (40, 3.29)
Records: UTA 17-22, 8-10 Sun Belt; ULL 25-15, 10-7