May 21, 2009
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - The Lamar Cardinals did what only one team had done against UT Arlington this season, comeback and win after trailing going into the eighth inning. UT Arlington's 3-0 lead was erased with Lamar (37-20) scoring a pair of runs in the seventh and eighth innings to defeat the Mavericks 4-3 on Wednesday night in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas.
UT Arlington (29-25), who entered the postseason 22-1 when holding a lead after seven innings, falls into the loser's bracket to play eighth-seeded Stephen F. Austin (23-31) at noon on Thursday after the Lumberjacks dropped a 9-2 decision against top-seeded Texas State in the second game of the tournament.
"This loss is disappointing," UT Arlington head coach Darin Thomas said. "I thought we fought well and got a great start from Ryan Robinson. We just didn't take advantage of some opportunities and score a few more when we had a chance."
It was all Mavericks in the early going as they knocked out Lamar starting pitcher and SLC Freshman of the Year Eric Harrington after only 2 1/3 innings on the mound. UT Arlington plated runs in the second, third and fifth innings to take a 3-0 lead.
Chad Comer drove in the Mavs first run with an RBI single through the right side in the second and Mitch Putman made the score 2-0 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third. Despite scoring two runs in the first three innings, UT Arlington stranded six base runners including three in scoring position during the opening three frames. The Mavs tacked on their third run on an RBI single to left field by Andrew Kainer in the fifth inning.
Harrington exited in the second inning after throwing only 45 pitches. It was his shortest outing of the season, and the second early exit against the Mavs after UT Arlington posted 11 hits and nine runs off the freshman righty in Beaumont on May 8 in five innings of work.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, had strong starting pitching from senior lefty Ryan Robinson, who pitched 6 1/3 innings while allowing seven hits and two runs with three strikeouts.
Robinson left the game after giving up back-to-back singles and recording one out on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. Lamar scored two runs, both credited to Robinson, off UT Arlington reliever Rett Varner in the seventh inning as the Mavs still held a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning.
The Mavericks only loss this season when leading after seven innings came against McNeese State (4/11) in game three of their series when the Cowboys avoided the series sweep with a run in the ninth to tie and with the game-winning run in the 10th inning.
Lamar started the eighth inning with a double down the left-field line, a walk and a single to right field with nobody out. A bases loaded walk to Jeremiah Sammy on a full-count pitch tied the score, and two batters later catcher Ryan Saldivar scored the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Lamar relief pitcher Brian Needham was the winning pitcher as he threw 5 2/3 innings in relief while allowing four hits and one run with three strikeouts. Needham pitched from the third to eighth inning before handing off to Ricky Testa who picked up his first save of the season by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
Sophomore Michael Choice scored the Mavericks final two runs and led all players going 3-for-4 at the plate. Clean-up hitter Matt Otteman went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt as he continues to lead the Southland Conference with a .432 batting average. Seven Mavericks had a base hit in the game.
"We have 21 seniors on our team, and none of them want this to be their last game," Choice said. "If I was a senior in their situation, I would want to just go out and make sure that I played as hard as I can to make sure we didn't lose and did the best I could for the team no matter what it was."
Sophomore pitcher Rett Varner drops to 2-3 on the season after pitching 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, two runs and two walks with a pair of strikeouts.
The Mavericks will play an elimination game Thursday at noon against Stephen F. Austin at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi. It will be the first-ever postseason meeting for the Mavericks against the Lumberjacks. UT Arlington will look for its first win against SFA this season after the Jacks swept the SLC three-game series in Nacogdoches and defeated the Mavericks in a non-conference game in Edinburg, Texas earlier this season.
UT Arlington falls to 21-23 all-time in Southland Conference Tournament action... The Mavericks drop to 3-5 all-time against Lamar in the SLC Tournament... It is the third straight loss for UT Arlington in SLC Tournament play, after dropping back-to-back games in last season's tournament in Huntsville, Texas... A win on Friday will give UTA its 19th season with at least 30 wins in 41 seasons of baseball... UTA led the SLC this season with a .971 fielding percentage and remained impressive defensively without committing an error on Thursday... The Mavericks' .971 fielding percentage ranks second all-time in single-season history at UTA (.972 in 1993 and 2005)... The middle of the Mavericks batting order, Michael Choice, Matt Otteman and Andrew Kainer went a combined 5-for-9, as all three hitters continue to bat over .400 this season... Entering this season, only three batters in UTA single-season history have hit over .400 in a single-season... After going 3-for-4 on Wednesday, Michael Choice is now batting .500 (8-for-16) against Lamar this season in four games played... Choice became the third player in UTA history to collect 90 hits in a single-season.... Choice ranks second on the team with 90 base hits, trailing Matt Otteman, who became the second player in UTA history to tally 90 hits as he currently has 92 hits this season... Ryan Roberts became the first Maverick to post 90 hits as he holds the record with 97 hits (2003)... Choice's two runs scored puts him in a tie for fifth on the UTA all-time single-season runs scored list with 62 runs with James Raines (62 hits, 1985)... The UTA pitching staff has struck out 392 batters this season, ranking second all-time in UTA single-season history, only trailing the Mavericks 1999 pitching staff that struck out 398 batters.