May 16, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas - Michael Choice broke the Southland Conference single-season walks record and senior Steffan Guest had a career day in his final home game while leading UT Arlington to an 11-8 victory over Lamar on Sunday at Clay Gould Ballpark.
The Mavericks (26-26, 18-12 SLC) avoided the series sweep with 17 base hits and a three-run eighth inning which helped hold off the Cardinals (30-22, 15-15 SLC), who erased an 8-0 deficit to tie the game at 8-8 in the seventh inning. Sunday also marked the Mavericks final home game of the season.
"It was a great win for us today," UT Arlington third-year head coach Darin Thomas said. "We bounced back today and I'm really proud of our team. That is 18 conference wins for us with one weekend to go."
Junior Garrett Laird (2-0) was the winning pitcher as he threw the final 1.2 innings, retiring five of the six batters he faced. Cardinals' reliever Garrett Steward (1-4) took the loss as he handed the lead back to the Mavericks in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"It was a huge win for us after the last four conference games have been rough for us," Guest said. "I feel like today we fought the whole time and even though they tied it, we never gave up and had a lot of people step up."
UT Arlington jumped out quickly to an 8-0 lead with four runs in the first and four runs in the second. Preston Beck (4-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI) doubled in the Mavs' first run and then Guest launched a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run homer to cap a four-run first inning.
"It was awesome," Guest said of his home run on senior day. "It was a great feeling. It was my last day at home and to have a day like that was just great."
Choice reached base in the first inning on four straight intentional balls, which gave him his record-setting 69th walk of the season - breaking the Southland Conference walks record that was previously held by Lamar's Kerry Christensen (68) in 1982. The intentional walk to Choice was his 19th of the season and 24th of his career - both of which are school records.
"I have never thought about how many walks I would get this year," Choice said when asked about the record. "It is kind of cool to know that I have broken the record, but I have never thought about it."
Four Mavericks drove in runs in the second inning as Jordan Vaughn (2-for-5) doubled down the left-field line to bring in second baseman Cody Dyvig, who reached base on a single to center field. Choice drove in lead-off batter Jesse Payne (3-for-4, 2 runs) with an infield single and Beck followed with his second RBI in as many innings with a run-scoring single through the right side.
Catcher Chad Comer plated the fourth run of the second inning with a sacrifice fly to center field to give the Mavs an 8-0 lead.
UT Arlington continued reaching base with base hits but scoring base runners was a different story leaving seven runners on base without scoring a run from the third to seventh inning.
Lamar, meanwhile, was chipping away with two runs in the fifth and scoring a run in the sixth inning to cut the Mavs' lead to five runs, 8-3.
Mavs' starting pitcher Logan Bawcom (6.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO) ran into trouble opening the seventh inning throwing eight straight balls to first baseman Wade Mathis and designated hitter Ryan Meade to give the Cardinals a pair of base runners.
UT Arlington head coach Darin Thomas removed Bawcom and brought in left-handed reliever Mark Picca, who struck out a pair of batters around a single through the right side by pinch hitter Cameron Campbell to give Lamar the bases loaded with two outs.
Picca then hit center fielder Anthony Moore with a pitch to score Lamar's first run of the inning before nine-hole batter Quentin Luquette hit a grand slam off the center-field batters' eye to tie the score at eight.
Picca avoided any further damage with a groundout to first base to end the inning, despite consecutive base hits following the grand slam.
"We could have hung our heads and folded the tent when they tied the game in the seventh," Thomas said. "But we held them and went back out there and scored and Garrett picked us up in relief to win the game."
In the Mavericks' half of the eighth, Beck started the rally with a double to left field with one out. Guest then hit his 20th double of the season to left field to score Beck for the eventual game-winning run.
The Mavericks ended up scoring two additional runs in the inning with Jake Pinchback's (2-for-5) second double of the game plating Guest and then Pinchback scored a pitch later on an RBI single through the right side by third baseman Brian Nephew.
"Steffan had an unbelievable last home game," Thomas said. "He homered, singled and doubled - what an amazing way to go out at home."
Guest finished the game 3-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored. Beck extended his career-high hit streak to 13-games going 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored. Beck is batting .520 (26-for-50) with 13 RBI during his 13-game hit streak.
"It was huge for both of those guys to come out here today and have a big day," Choice said about Guest and Beck's performance. "Preston has stepped up a lot in pressure situations and he is making it look like he isn't a freshman out there. He is making it look like he has been doing this for awhile. Steffan had a great day today and is really swinging the bat well for us."
Choice, who went 1-for-3 with two runs scored, an RBI, a walk and a hit by pitch, has now reached base safely in 64 consecutive games dating back to last season (4/28/09).
Choice leads the Southland Conference in batting (.401), home runs (16), total bases (129), slugging percentage (.750), walks (69) and on-base percentage (.578) while ranking second in the conference in runs scored (61) and RBI (57).
The Mavericks close the regular season with four straight road games this week, starting with their final midweek game of the season Tuesday, May 18, at Texas A&M for a 6:35 p.m. first-pitch at Olsen Field in College Station.