May 25, 2014
MOBILE, Alabama - UT Arlington's drive to the NCAA Baseball Tournament ended a game short, as the No. 2 Mavericks fell 6-5 to top-seeded Louisiana in Sunday afternoon's finals of the 2014 Sun Belt Baseball Championship at Stanky Field.
UT Arlington held an early three-run lead and hit three home runs against the Rajin' Cajuns, who lead the nation in wins and are ranked as high as second in several major polls. The Mavericks finish the season 33-26 after having their 10-game winning streak snapped in the championship game. UTA went 17-3 in its final 20 games.
UT Arlington entered the day in position to win its third different conference championship in the last three years. The Mavericks went 19-11 in their first Sun Belt season after starting 1-5, and placed second to Louisiana. The Cajuns (53-7) went 3-1 against UTA this season.
"I'm very proud of our team," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "We played our tails off all weekend. We came up a little short today. It's disappointing but not a disappointing effort.
"We've had our back against the wall for about the last month. We were just trying to readjust our goals, get into the tournament and then get the highest seed we could. We wanted to get into the finals and play as best as we could. I'm very proud of the guys."
The Mavericks made noise in the first with back-to-back one-out singles from Darien McLemore and Ryan Bottger, putting runners at the corners. Matt Shortall's sac fly to right easily scored McLemore for a quick 1-0 lead.
UTA suffered a blow when John Michael Twichell was lost for the game his first time up after a foul ball ricocheted off his bat and hit him in the face. Justin Copeland replaced Twichell in right field.
The bottom of the UTA order put on a power display in the second, as Levi Scott and Eric Tate launched back-to-back towering home runs to left field for a 3-0 lead. ULL starter Greg Milhorn was pulled after the second blast.
UTA starter Jess Amedee breezed through the first and appeared on his way to getting through the second before running into command problems. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases, and Thomas turned to Jacob Moreland.
Moreland walked the first batter he faced to force in the Cajuns' first run. Ryan Leonards singled off the glove of diving shortstop Travis Sibley to score two more, tying the game 3-3.
Louisiana opened the third with two hits, including a triple by Jace Conrad, to take the lead and chase Moreland. ULL's Greg Davis greeted reliever Chase Weaver with a deep sac fly to center to score Conrad for a 5-3 advantage.
The Mavericks loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but were unable to score. Copeland's line drive to center and Greg McCall's fly to left ended the threat.
Ryan Bottger drilled the Mavericks' third homer of the day in the seventh, a line shot to right-center than scored McLemore to tie it up 5-5.
The Cajuns jumped back on top 6-5 in the bottom of the inning on Blake Trahan's solo homer to left. That ended the afternoon for Weaver, who only gave up that lone run in 4.1 innings out of the bullpen.
With one last chance, the Mavericks had the tying run on in the ninth. McLemore walked with one out, bringing up Bottger as the go-ahead run. ULL centerfielder Seth Harrison moved to the mound and coaxed a fly ball to center. Shortall ended the game with a fly to left.
"We knew it was going to be a battle from the very beginning," Shortall said. "They are one the top offenses in the country. We knew we were going to have to come in and bang with them. Our pitching staff really held them down for a while.
"They kind of got away from us a little bit, but we hung with them the whole time. Then it became a one-run ballgame. A one-run ballgame with an Omaha-caliber team like UL Lafayette is big for us. That's what we needed to do today, and we just came up a little short."
2014 All-Tournament Team
Ross Moore, UL Monroe
David Hall, Troy
Austin O'Neal, Texas State
Austin Williams, Texas State
Zach Maggio, Arkansas State
Chandler Hawkins, Arkansas State
Travis Sibley, UT Arlington
Zach Thompson, UT Arlington
Darien McLemore, UT Arlington
Matt Shortall, UT Arlington
Jace Conrad, UL Lafayette
Matt Plitt, UL Lafayette
Caleb Adams, UL Lafayette
Most Outstanding Player
Blake Trahan, UL Lafayette