April 2, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas - Rett Varner struck out a career-high 12 batters and threw his first career complete game while leading UT Arlington to a 4-3 victory over Nicholls Friday night at Clay Gould Ballpark.
The victory secured the Mavericks (14-13, 7-4 SLC) third straight conference series as Nicholls (13-13, 4-7 SLC) dropped its fifth in a row against UT Arlington.
"It was a good game against the best arm that we have seen," UT Arlington head coach Darin Thomas said. "We have seen some good ones but I give that guy a lot of credit. We struggled early but found a way to win. I have to give Rett (Varner) a lot of credit throwing a complete game and I give our hitters a lot of credit to step forward and get three hits in the ninth."
The Mavericks won the game on a walk-off single through the right side by junior shortstop Jesse Payne in the ninth inning with no outs. Catcher Chad Comer led off the inning with a double to center field and then advanced to third base on a single through the left side by Brian Nephew to give the Mavericks runners at the corners for Payne.
Payne delivered the Mavs' third walk-off victory of the season with his game-winner through the right side.
"The pitch I hit was a slider," Payne said. "I just got my foot down and put a good swing on it. It's a huge win for us and Rett just threw great. It is great to get that game-two win and now we have a chance for the sweep."
Varner is the second Maverick pitcher this series to toss a complete-game following in the footsteps of senior Jason Mitchell who blanked the Colonels 4-0 on Thursday night. Varner (3-3) allowed five hits and three runs (one earned) while not issuing a walk with his career best 12 strikeouts.
"Rett just did a great job," Thomas said. "We talked to him about throwing more fastballs. He has the best fastball in the conference. He didn't walk anybody and when you get a pitching performance like that you would hate to waste it and not win. I'm proud of our guys. That is a big win."
Nicholls starter Clint Dempster (3-3) was the losing pitcher logging eight innings with 11 strikeouts while giving up four runs (three earned) on five base hits with three walks.
After Nicholls grabbed a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the second inning, UT Arlington scored a pair of runs on a two-run single through the right side by right fielder Preston Beck.
Junior All-American Michael Choice led off the inning with a walk and Steffan Guest reached base a batter later on a fielding error by Nicholls' third baseman Beau Faulk as both players scored on Beck's RBI single.
Nicholls tied the game in the fifth inning with another unearned run as Faulk led off the inning and reached base on a throwing error by Payne.
The Colonels took a 3-2 lead the next inning with a lead-off homer over the left-field wall by shortstop Chase Jaramillo. Varner had allowed only one base hit entering the sixth inning.
Choice tied the game in the eighth inning with a single up the middle with one out to score left fielder Taylor Mabra. Dempster would hold the Mavs at three runs as he got himself out of a jam with a line-drive double play to end the inning.
Varner left runners at the corners in the ninth inning as he collected his 12th strikeout of the game with a called strike three on catcher Kevin Schlegel after throwing his 110th pitch of the game (80 strikes).
"I felt really good the entire day," Varner said. "Even though we made some mistakes early in the game it showed our team's character how they played well the rest of the game and battled back and found a way to win.
"A lot of my success tonight I have to credit to Coach Sirianni because he worked a lot with me one-on-one over this past week and he spent a lot of time helping me iron out a lot of things."
Varner's previous outing last Saturday against Northwestern State saw him go just 4.0 innings allowing 11 hits and seven runs as he left the game without striking out a batter.
The Mavericks then capitalized in the ninth inning on three straight hits by Comer, Nephew and Payne to match the team's amount of hits entering the inning. Comer's double in the ninth saved his career-high hit streak that improved to 15 games, which is the longest active streak in the Southland Conference.
Choice, who leads the Mavericks batting .389 with 11 homers and 30 RBI, reached base safely in three of his four plate appearances which gives him 39 straight games reaching base safely dating back to last season.
Six Mavericks recorded a base hit but no UTA player finished with multi-hits. Varner struck out every Nicholls' starter except designated hitter Adam Miley who went 3-for-4 to lead all players. Nicholls' 6-through-9-hole batters combined went 0-for-13 with five strikeouts.
UT Arlington has now won five of its last six weekend series, including three straight in Southland Conference play.
The Mavericks will look for the series sweep over the Colonels on Saturday, April 3, with first-pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. at Clay Gould Ballpark.