SAN MARCOS, Texas -- UTA clinched the Sun Belt Conference Western Division, the No. 2 seed in the league tournament and set a program record with its 20th conference win during a 12-5 series-evening win at Texas State on Friday night at Bobcat Ballpark.
UTA (30-23, 20-9 Sun Belt Conference) bounced back to even the series after suffering a 7-6 loss in the opener on Thursday night to Texas State (26-29, 12-17 Sun Belt).
The Mavs used two homers from Omar Salinas - his third of the weekend - and blasts from Colton Turner and Noah Vaughan to a season-high four homers. UTA also got a strong start from Trae Patterson (7-3) to post the win and set up a rubber match in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
UTA opened the scoring with single runs in the first three innings and after the Bobcats got within a run with two in the sixth inning, UTA answered in its half of the seventh to take a three-run lead. The Cats got two back in the bottom half of the inning to get back within one. After a strong relief outing in the seventh and inning innings from the Mavs, UTA opened it up with two homers and three runs in the ninth.
With the win, the Mavs clinch the Sun Belt West Division outright and the No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Championships, slated for next week in Statesboro, Ga., on the campus of Georgia Southern. UTA will face off with the winner of a Tuesday play-in game on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. CT.
UTA now sits 1.5 games behind Coastal Carolina, and out of reach for the overall race for the regular-season title, with the Chants sitting at 21-7-1 after winning the first two games of their series with Appalachian State (8-21). After a loss at Troy (16-12) on Thursday, South Alabama (20-8) is the lone remaining team in reach of the defending national champion Chants.
It marks UTA's first division title in the Sun Belt and its first since claiming the 2013 regular-season title in the Western Athletic Conference.
UTA's 20th conference wins also marked a program best, eclipsing 19 wins from the 2014, 2010 and 2009 teams. The Mavs also extend their school-record marks in road games to 17-7 and league road games to 12-2.
ON THE MOUND
Patterson, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, earned the win in his 14th start of the year. He extended his streak of innings without an earned run to 17.1 innings until allowing a single run in the fourth, later allowing a two-run homer in the sixth.
Patterson ended his outing working 6.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, walking just one and striking out five. With the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning of a 6-4 game, UTA turned to senior righty Austin Gardner in relief of Patterson.
Gardner surrendered the inherited runner on a two-out error but retired the next two and the following three in a perfect eighth inning. Daniel James tossed a perfect ninth to end the win.
Texas State junior right-handed starter Cam Baird worked three innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking one and striking out one. Anthony Pagano worked the next 3.2 innings, before Blake Walden replaced him in the seventh.
AT THE PLATE
The Mavs set a season high with four homers in the game, getting a second straight four-hit game from Salinas, who belted two homers. Vaughan hit his seventh homer of the year and had a career high four hits and four RBI. UTA also got the homer from Turner and two-hit games from Brady Cox, Will Olson and RJ Williams. Christian Hollie, Aaron Funk and Easton Johnson each drove in runs.
HOW THEY SCORED
UTA opened the scoring in the first inning, getting a two-out single from Salinas and a run-scoring double into the left-centerfield gap from Olson.
The Mavs added on in the second inning, as Vaughan singled to rightfield on a 2-2 pitch and Williams pushed him to third base with a single into the gap in left-centerfield. Hollie followed with a sac fly to score Vaughan.
Texas State got on the board in the fourth inning, as Jaylen Hubbard led off with a single and scored on a RBI groundout from Dylan Paul.
Vaughan got the Mavs the run back with a leadoff solo homer in the sixth inning, a no-doubt blast over the centerfield fence.
The Bobcats answered with a two-run homer from Theodore Hoffman, his 16th of the year, in the sixth inning, scoring Hubbard, who reached on a fielder's choice.
Texas State kept the rally hot in the seventh inning, chasing Patterson with a pair of runs to cut the lead to 6-5. Travon Benton led off with a walk and after an out, scored on Jacob Almendarez's double into the gap. After an error moved Almendarez to third, an error allowed him to score with two outs.
In the ninth inning, UTA broke the game open with six runs. Turner hit his first homer of the year to leadoff and Cox followed him with a ringing double into the gap, one-hopping over the wall. Salinas then greeted the reliever with his second homer of the game, a blast over the left-centerfield fence for a 9-5 lead. Olson singled and Rohrbaugh walked, with Vaughan scoring the pair with a triple down the rightfield line. Johnson then hung his first career sac fly to score Vaughan from third.
The series will conclude on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT at Bobcat Ballpark.
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