There’s just no way around it. This is a rebuilding year for UT Arlington baseball.
The struggling Mavericks are running out of time to right the ship, but at least they’re back home after two weekends on the road. They’ll host Troy for a three-game series this weekend at Clay Gould Ballpark.
Despite winning three midweek games against top-level teams this year, the Mavericks don’t have the depth to play at the level they have over the last three seasons when they won two conference championships.
They’ve lost 11 of their last 14 games and dropped three straight Sun Belt weekends to tumble into eighth place in the conference. Without the offensive firepower that carried them to the Sun Belt title game last year, this year’s team ranks dead last in slugging percentage at .326 and they haven’t been able to nab early leads.
“We just don’t have the horses this year,” coach Darin Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s about us.”
With only one power threat in the lineup, the Mavericks don’t have any room for error. If they fall behind early, it’s an uphill struggle for an already punchless lineup. When trailing after three innings, the Mavericks are 1-14.
It’s been a tough three weeks for a team that surprised good teams out of the gate. The Mavericks opened the season 12-9 and earned wins over Top 25 teams Texas, UC Santa Barbara and TCU with good returns from a group of freshmen and junior college transfers. But an inconsistent 3-11 stretch has shown that lack of depth is catching up to them.
“Our margin of error is as slim as it’s been in the last five years,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ program was picked apart by last year’s draft, which saw six of his players taken in the first 27 rounds. Four of those players were underclassmen who could have played a role on this year’s team.
It’s forced Thomas to find an entire pitching rotation and five everyday starters in the lineup with a brand new group of players. And as talented as some may be, nothing helps a player improve more than experience.
“We lost everything from last year,” Thomas said. “Now we’ve got to rely on the two-out hit, and that makes it tough on us.”
With five weekends to go, the Mavericks are still technically in position to make the conference tournament. They have three more home series and two on the road.
Long flight back
The Mavericks finished last weekend at Georgia Southern with an 8-3 win on Sunday, but things went downhill from there. They missed their flight and had to stay an extra night in Atlanta.
The next morning, they were diverted to Minneapolis before rerouting back to Dallas. They didn’t get in until 10:30 p.m. Monday.
“I left my house at 7 a.m. Thursday and didn’t get home until 11:30 p.m. Monday night,” Thomas said.
UTA vs. Troy
Clay Gould Ballpark
6 p.m. Friday: RHP Chad Nack (2-3, 4.97) vs. RHP Grant Bennett (7-1, 1.94)
2 p.m. Saturday: RHP Daniel James (2-2, 3.54) vs. RHP Lucas Brown (3-1, 1.81)
1 p.m. Sunday: RHP Joel Kuhnel (2-1, 3.20) vs. LHP Austin Crook (3-0, 4.73)
Records: UTA 15-20, 9-6 SBC; Troy 20-18, 9-6 SBC