College Baseball

UT Arlington baseball team coming close to being good

UTA’s Joel Kuhnel has a 3-2 record and a 1.97 ERA as the first of the Mavericks’ weekend starting pitchers.
UTA’s Joel Kuhnel has a 3-2 record and a 1.97 ERA as the first of the Mavericks’ weekend starting pitchers.

After being swept by South Alabama last weekend, UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas had some time to reflect while waiting for the flight back home.

His team had just played three tight games against a team that still hasn’t lost a Sun Belt game, but couldn’t come up with the big hit to steal a win on the road. Yet, he couldn’t find any nitpicks with his team.

We didn’t play that bad. We really didn’t. We just didn’t win.

UTA coach Darrin Thomas, on losing three straight to South Alabama over the weekend

“We didn’t play that bad. We really didn’t. We just didn’t win,” he said. “I’ve been happy with the way we’ve been swinging the bats. We swung it good all weekend, but we hit it right into the wind a lot of times.”

But following a big win over Baylor on Tuesday, UTA (11-11, 2-4 Sun Belt) gets a brief respite from Sun Belt play when Incarnate Word comes to town for a three-game series at Clay Gould Ballpark, starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Thomas finds it funny how quickly things change in a week, noting how close his team came to being 11-5, but ending up 10-11 just seven days later.

“We’ve played so much baseball lately, we’re going to give them [Wednesday] off,” Thomas said. “We’ve played so much lately it’s almost like we don’t even know who we’re playing. And it seems like every night we play, we’re playing someone pretty good.”

.291 UTA’s team batting average that has produced only a 11-11 overall record

He has a lineup that’s hitting .291 and moving runners around, but they’ve had a bad habit of falling behind early in games.

Even though they’re getting good pitching from Joel Kuhnel (3-2, 1.97) and Kadon Simmons (4-1, 2.18) on Fridays and Saturdays, they haven’t capitalized early in those games.

They’re still searching for a Sunday starter, and Brad Vassar (1-0, 1.57) gets his first start of the season this weekend. He’s done his job as the go-to early reliever in Sunday games, allowing just three earned runs over his last 21  2/3 innings of work.

Because this series isn’t played on the normal weekend timeline, Kuhnel, Simmons and Vassar will go Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The Cardinals (5-16, 1-5 Southland Conference) have been punchless at the plate, hitting just .215 with only one home run.

Immediate impact

Even though he didn’t start the season in the lineup, there’s no keeping Noah Vaughan out of it now.

Vaughan, a freshman from The Woodlands College Park High School, has been locked in at the plate. He’s recorded three multi-hit games in his last four and leads the team in slugging (.605) by more than 100 points.

That it doesn’t surprise Thomas is the encouraging part.

I wanted to bring him along slowly and then finally, enough’s enough. He needs to be in there.

UTA coach Darrin Thomas on freshman Noah Vaughan

“I knew he was talented and I didn’t want to bombard him early in the year under pressure situations. I wanted to bring him along slowly and then finally, enough’s enough. He needs to be in there,” Thomas said.

With UTA’s primary slugger, Colton Turner, hobbled by a nagging hamstring issue, Vaughan’s emergence has been just what the Mavericks needed to keep innings going.

“Whenever you’re rolling in this game, you just got to stick with what you’re doing and build off of it,” Vaughan said.

He’s moved up to the second spot in the order, and he’s raised his average from .280 to .349 over the last week.

UTA vs. Incarnate Word

6:30 p.m. Thursday

6:30 p.m. Friday

2 p.m. Saturday

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