NATHAN LONG'S COMPLETE-GAME SHUTOUT LIFTS MAVS IN SEASON OPENER
Feb. 22, 2008
ARLINGTON, Texas - - Knowing that he would be counted on this season with the loss of last season's ace, UT Arlington junior pitcher Nathan Long says he put in some long, hard hours of work to prepare for this season.
It paid off quickly at Clay Gould Ballpark on Friday afternoon.
Long, a right-hander from Fort Worth, shut down the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans and handed first-year coach Darin Thomas a 1-0 victory - the first Division I win for Thomas as a head coach - in the UTA-Dallas Baptist Invitational. Long, the Opening Day starter and possible replacement for former ace Dillon Gee, struck out five batters and allowed just three hits. All were singles.
"It's good to get back out here after the extra work I've put in and see some results right away," Long said. "But you can't say enough about how our defense played today. They made every play, and even the ones that might have been routine were important because it was a close game. And this would have been impossible without Chad Comer."
UTA (1-0) did give Long some help against the Trojans (0-1). The Mavericks didn't make an error, and Comer threw out three runners. Comer, a red-shirt freshman from Mansfield, was making his first collegiate start. Also contributing in his first collegiate game was freshman outfielder Michael Choice.
Choice had two hits, drove in Jay Pitschka for the only Mavericks run and made a dazzling play in center in the first inning to steal a base hit.
"It was a good way to get things started," said Thomas, who accepted the UTA head coaching position last November. "We pitched well and played good defense. Nate really pitched a great game. He was one of our top starters last year in conference, but he knew that this year he would have to step up and contribute in a big way."
Nearly all of UTA's starting lineup on Opening Day was new, and most impressive is how the Mavericks performed at the bottom of the order. Comer and junior-college transfers Blake Holt and Jay Pitschka combined to go 3-for-8 while hitting in the seventh, eight and ninth places in the lineup.
Comer and Pitschka each doubled.
"We did leave some runners on base, but it was the first time out, so I'm OK with it for now," Thomas said. "We did all of the other little things that help you win games."
UTA returns to action today at 3 p.m. against Missouri State.