March 30, 2011
By Art Garcia for UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Tex. - It was a tough one for the Mavericks to swallow.
UT Arlington battled No. 5 Texas A&M pitch for pitch, at-bat for at-bat through nine innings only to watch it come apart in the 10th. The Mavericks dropped to 14-11 overall with the 7-4 loss in 10 innings Wednesday night at Clay Gould Ballpark.
"We played well," UTA coach Darin Thomas said. "I just think they're really good and it comes down to one or two things. We had a walk, we make an error and it leads to three runs, unfortunately. When you get to the seventh inning on, you pretty much have to play mistake-free baseball and they come in with pretty good arms."
UTA held the surging Aggies (20-5) scoreless for a five-inning stretch from the fifth through the ninth, and appeared to be in shape to get to the bottom of the 10th tied. A hard-luck pickoff attempt by Mavericks catcher Chad Comer opened the floodgates and A&M broke through with a three-run wave.
The Aggies had two runners on with one out when Comer tried to pick off A&M's Kenny Jackson at first. The throw hit Jackson in the back and rolled into foul territory. Aggies pinch runner Scott Arthur scored from second to break the tie. A couple more A&M hits and runs followed, giving the visitors a 7-4 edge.
The Mavericks did have their chances to put some pressure on A&M earlier in the game, especially with the bases loaded and no one out in the fourth. First baseman Jordan Vaughn hit into a double play, which did score Comer to tie the score 4-4, but also helped the Aggies escape the rally.
"We've got to get the ball in the outfield there," Thomas said. "And then we don't get a bunt down (in the seventh) and we end up striking out. That just can't happen. We've got to do a better job of situational hitting.
"You're only going to get so many chances. They have a 1.50 ERA, so they're not going to give you anything. You're going to have to earn it. We didn't execute very well."
The issues in the 10th for UTA didn't erase the superb job the bullpen did for much of the evening. Thomas turned to his deep and talented staff early to hold the A&M bats at bay.
For the most part, UTA's relievers were successful. With the game being moved to Wednesday from Tuesday because of weather, Thomas was conscious of not burning anyone in relief with a Southland Conference series at Nicholls starting Friday.
"We had to keep that in the back of our mind and not use anyone too much," Thomas said. "I thought they did a good job. We gave up some hits when we were ahead in the count. That's the only thing I thought we could have done better. And we had five walks and a hit batter - six free bases."
Of the eight pitchers Thomas used, righty Kasey Merck had the longest stint going four full innings while not allowing a run on three hits. He also had three of the Mavericks' eight strikeouts.
The Mavericks struck quickly in the bottom of the first with a long-awaited display of power at Clay Gould Ballpark. Designated hitter Michael Guerra reached on an error with one out setting up Preston Beck. The right fielder skied one to right, a two-run shot for UTA's first homer at home this season.
"It's actually my first home run here for my career," said Beck, a sophomore. "It felt real good."
Michael Oberto breezed through the first before finding trouble in the second. A&M's Matt Juengel and Jacob House homered on successive pitches to tie the score at 2-2 before Oberto worked his way out of the inning. He was hit hard on a couple of more outs and was done for the night after 44 pitches.
NOTES: Sophomore track athlete Romain Martin threw out first pitch. Martin finished third in the heptathlon at the NCAA Championships earlier this month to earn All-American honors.
- Third baseman Brian Nephew extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a single in the fourth.
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