Having lost eight of its last 10 games, UT Arlington’s baseball team is mired in its worst slump of the season.
The young Mavericks will search for consistency when they finish their seven-game road trip with this weekend’s Sun Belt Conference series at Georgia Southern.
“We’re just finding ways to lose games instead of finding a way to win games,” coach Darin Thomas said.
The Mavericks hoped last week’s win over TCU would help jump-start the team, but an inconsistent lineup led to another Sun Belt loss last weekend at Louisiana-Monroe.
Things looked encouraging after a 10-6 series-opening win over the Warhawks, but the Mavericks blew leads in both games of a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
“It’s taking some of our guys some time to adjust,” Thomas said. “It’s tough to come in from high school or junior college and produce at this level. You just have to let them figure it out.”
Things don’t get easier in Friday’s series opener with Georgia Southern when UTA will face the Sun Belt’s top pitcher in Evan Challenger. Challenger has surrendered only five earned runs and 25 hits in 421/3 innings this season. Opponents are hitting only .175 against him.
Georgia Southern is led by Aaron Mizell, who leads the conference with nine home runs. But the Eagles strike out more than any other team in the Sun Belt. They’ve struck out 97 more times than UTA, but both teams enter the weekend hitting .265.
While he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, freshman Brad Vassar has been effective for UTA.
The McKinney product has only given up two earned runs in his last 23 innings. Even though he’s notched only 16 strikeouts in 37 innings, his 2.19 ERA is the sixth-best in the Sun Belt.
The top four spots in UTA’s lineup have been productive this season, but there’s a precipitous drop-off after that.
Matt McLean (.359), Travis Sibley (.341), Levi Scott (.327) and Jackson Morris (.303) comprise the core of the lineup, but the bottom half of the order have seen their share of struggles. Only one Maverick outside of that quartet — Eric Tate (.268) — sits above .240.
“We’ve got to get some production down there,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can get some guys going a little bit and drive some runs in down there.”
Not building on wins
Despite winning games over nationally ranked teams like Texas and TCU, UTA currently sits outside of the Sun Belt tournament window.
After beginning conference play with back-to-back series wins, the Mavs have dropped five of their last six Sun Belt games.
at Georgia Southern
5 p.m. Friday: RHP Chad Nack (2-2, 4.84) vs. LHP Evan Challenger (3-0, 1.06)
1 p.m. Saturday: LHP Brad Vassar (2-2, 2.19) vs. RHP Tripp Sheppard (3-2, 3.03)
11 a.m. Sunday: RHP Joel Kuhnel (1-1, 3.16) vs. LHP Connor Simmons (1-2, 2.38)
Records: UTA 14-17, 5-7 Sun Belt; GSU 19-15, 9-6 SBC