May 1, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Michael Choice broke the UT Arlington all-time career home run record hitting his 32nd career homer - 14th of the season - in the Mavericks 9-1 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Saturday afternoon at Chapman Field. UTA has now won seven consecutive Southland Conference games.
The Mavericks (22-22, 15-8 SLC) were led by Rett Varner (6-4), who struck out 10 batters and allowed only five base hits and one run (unearned) in his second complete-game of the season.
The win was also No. 50 in Southland Conference play for UT Arlington third-year head coach Darin Thomas, making him the fastest head coach in UTA history to reach 50 wins in conference play. Thomas won his 50th conference game in only 85 tries, breaking the previous mark set by Jeff Curtis who won 50 SLC games in 86 contests.
Choice's record-breaking home run was a two-run towering home run over the scoreboard in right-center field which gave the Mavericks a 7-1 lead on the first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh inning. The previous home run record was held the last 11 years by Matt Mize (1998-99), who belted 31 homers in two seasons with the Mavericks.
"When I first hit it I was just in relief to get a hit," Choice said. "I didn't think about the fact it was the one to break the record until once I rounded first base. That is when I realized it. Off the bat it just felt good to make that solid contact."
Choice finished the game 1-for-2 with two runs, two RBI and two walks. Choice leads the country with 58 walks, needing only four walks to break the school's all-time single-season walks record (Dave Owen, 61 - 1978).
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (18-26, 8-15 SLC) left-handed pitcher Adam Hoelscher (2-1) was the losing pitcher allowing four runs and four hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched.
"It all starts with pitching in conference play," Thomas said. "We have been getting some quality starts out of all our pitchers lately. It is all about pitching, and Rett wanted to go out there and finish what he started. He did a great job today."
With the score even at one, UT Arlington scored three runs on three hits - two extra-base hits - in the fourth inning to grab a 4-1 lead. Steffan Guest (2-for-5) hit his 19th double of the season to drive in Chad Comer before Brian Nephew (2-for-5) doubled for the 10th time this season to score Guest.
Second baseman Cody Dyvig (2-for-4) drove in Nephew with his first of two base hits on the day.
The only inning Varner labored in was the third, which was due to two fielding errors. The only run that the Islanders scored in the game was on a catcher's obstruction call that allowed shortstop Cory Ege to score. Ege reached base on a fielding error by Dyvig.
The first base hit Varner allowed was in the fourth inning while all five hits for TAMCC were singles. He struck out one in the first, two in the second and fourth, one in the fifth, a pair in the seventh and one each in the eighth and ninth innings.
"Today was a big day for us to come out and get a tough road series win," Varner said. "I just tried to do my job and execute pitches. Towards the beginning of the game I struggled with my secondary pitches, but later I got my slider working better and I just built off of that."
Varner has now stuck out 10 batters in back-to-back games, also striking out 10 in his last outing against Central Arkansas (4/24) in Arlington.
The bottom of the Mavericks order provided the big blow as the 6-through-9 hole batters combined went 8-for-18 with five runs, four RBI and four doubles.
"Our six-through-nine hole batters all had two hits," Thomas said. "Those guys are all capable of hitting in other spots in our lineup, but we have had a set lineup lately and they have been producing for us and it has paid off. Mike had the big hit for us with the home run which basically sealed it. Any time you have production from the bottom of your lineup you have a good chance at winning."
Guest's infield single in the fifth scored Choice, who reached base on his second walk of the game.
Following Choice's record-breaking homer in the seventh, UTA added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning on an RBI ground out by lead-off batter Nick Orr and from an RBI single from right fielder Preston Beck.
"Matt Mize was an outstanding player," Thomas said. "He was one of the best players to ever play here. Mike breaking Matt's record says a lot, because Matt was a great player. Mike has been very productive in his three seasons here and his best days of baseball are definitely ahead of him."
The victory also marked the ninth on the road this season for the Mavericks, which is the most wins on the road for a UTA team during Thomas' three years as head coach.
UT Arlington will look for its second consecutive conference sweep on Sunday, May 2, as the Mavericks and Islanders complete their three-game series at Chapman Field at 1 p.m.