May 21, 2010
SAN MARCOS, Texas - Rett Varner threw his first career complete-game shutout, Preston Beck drove in five of the Mavs' six runs and Jesse Payne was a hit shy of the cycle while also going deep in UT Arlington's 6-0 victory over Texas State on Friday evening at Bobcat Baseball Stadium.
The Mavericks (27-28, 19-13 Southland) are one win away from setting a new school record for conference wins in a season as they tied the mark set by last year's squad who went 19-13. Texas State (33-20, 22-10 Southland) was shutout for just the second time in conference play this season.
Varner (7-5) needed only 100 pitches (69 strikes) in his dominating performance as he scattered seven hits without walking a batter and struck out four in his third complete game and team-leading seventh win of the season.
"From the first inning on I was just trying to execute every pitch," Varner said. "I knew they were an aggressive team on the first pitch so I just tried to locate early in the count. I was just trying to locate three pitches for a strike."
Bobcats' starter Michael Russo (4-2) suffered the loss while allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings pitched.
Payne, who batted lead-off for just the fifth time this season, launched his sixth home run to lead-off the game. He went 3-for-4 with three runs scored while finishing a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Payne also hit a ground-rule double over the right-center field wall in the sixth and singled up the middle in the eighth. It was the third time this season that Payne was just one hit away from hitting for the cycle.
"When hitting lead-off my job is just to get on base for the big guys in the lineup behind me to drive me in," Payne said. "I was just trying to get a fastball early in the count to hit hard and to get on base."
The Mavs held a 1-0 lead until the sixth inning when Beck drove in two runs with a two-out, single up the middle to score left fielder Jake Pinchback and Payne.
"I felt good at the plate and saw some good pitches today," Beck said. "It was great to get the win today and now we are just a win away from setting the school record for conference wins."
Varner, who never threw three balls to a batter in the game, took advantage of three double-plays by the Mavericks defense in three consecutive innings to escape trouble with runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings and with a 4-6-3 ground-ball double play in the fifth.
"I knew this was a big game for us," Varner said. "Texas State is a good team and we want to be playing good baseball going into the conference tournament next week.
"This was a big win, and like coach Thomas said, no team in school history has ever won 20 conference games. It would be great to be a part of that."
Varner made it through five innings of work throwing only 51 pitches. He struck out two batters through eight innings and then capped off his outing with a pair of swinging strikeouts to start the ninth. Bobcat first baseman Kyle Livingstone then flew out to Beck in right field to end the game for a three-up, three-down ninth inning.
The Mavericks finished off their scoring with another clutch hit from Beck in the eighth inning, this time it was a three-run homer over the right-field wall for his second homer of the season. Beck finished with a season-high five RBI and extended his hit streak to 15 games.
Payne's three-hit performance marked his 18th multi-hit game of the season and fifth three-hit game of his junior season. Since April 24, spanning the last 16 games, Payne has batted .435 (27-for-62) with six doubles, two triples, two home runs and 12 RBI.
"The biggest change for me has been when K.J. (Hendricks) totally revamped my swing," Payne said. "I had my hands way up over my head at first and now I'm resting the bat on my shoulder and that allows me to get more bat speed. So I have to give all of the credit to K.J., he saw that in my swing and he changed it."
UT Arlington All-American center fielder Michael Choice was intentionally walked in the sixth inning to extend his reaching base safely streak to 67 game dating back to last season. Choice's intentional walk was his 20th of the season and 25th of his career.
UT Arlington will look to win its seventh conference series of the season on Saturday, May 22, with a 1:10 p.m. first pitch against the Bobcats in the regular season finale for both squads.