UT Arlington plodded through its worst season since 2007, but still found a way into the postseason for the fourth year in a row.
The Mavericks aren’t quite the No. 2-seed on a collision course with the No. 1 team in the nation like they were last season, but it’s new life nonetheless.
As the No. 7 seed, UTA drew the host team and opens the double-elimination tournament in the prime time nightcap against Troy at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Riddle-Pace Field.
“We haven’t had the year we wanted and we had to readjust our goals a little bit,” coach Darin Thomas said. “But I’m proud of the way we battled down the stretch and found our way into the tournament.”
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The Trojans have won 10 straight league games at their home park, and finished the Sun Belt season on a 13-2 run. They feature three of the Sun Belt’s top hitters and have the most formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation in the league.
It’ll fall on Chad Nack, the rock of UTA’s rotation, to keep Logan Hill (.348), Trevin Hall (.342) and David Hall (.341) from sending the Mavericks into the loser’s bracket.
Nack isn’t a bona fide ace, but he’s sure looked like one with a 1.74 ERA in May.
If there’s one team UTA seems to play well against, it’s Troy. The Mavericks outscored Troy 31-18 in winning two of three in April in Arlington, and own a 5-2 record against them since last season.
The Mavericks will just need to deal with Lucas Brown (6-2, 2.34) on Wednesday.
Brown started Troy’s only win over UTA this year.
UTA clinched a berth on Thursday night after beating Texas State, but the Mavericks didn’t carry that over into the rest of the weekend by losing their final two games.
Focusing solely on last weekend wouldn’t do the Mavericks any justice for the run they made to earn a playoff berth. After sitting nine games back of .500 and in ninth place following a 4-12 April, the Mavericks won six of their next seven conference games to save the season.
They’ve found their stroke at the plate, as evidenced by a .318 average in the month of May. Senior Travis Sibley, who will start his fourth conference tournament in four years, has led the way by hitting .487 this month.
Sibley wraps up a four-year career where he hit .312 as a Maverick.
“I’m proud of what he’s accomplished. He’s a four-year starter and he never misses a game,” Thomas said. “He’s had a really nice career.”
Whatever happens from here on out is a bonus for a team that finished the regular season seven games under .500.
2015 Sun Belt Tournament
Riddle-Pace Field, Troy Alabama
No. 7 UTA at No. 2 Troy, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday