May 26, 2012
SAN MARCOS, Texas – UT Arlington is headed to an NCAA regional after being crowned Southland Conference Tournament champions with Saturday's 13-4 victory over Southeastern Louisiana at Bobcat Stadium.
The Mavericks (36-23) will learn their regional site with Monday's announcement of the 64-team bracket. UTA is making its fifth all-time trip to the NCAAs, with the most recent coming in 2006. The Mavericks also went in 2001, 1992 and 1990.
"I'm proud of the guys, I'm proud of the coaching staff, I'm just happy for everyone involved," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "We've been through a lot this year with injuries and different guys have stepped up at different times. We really finished strong."
The Mavericks have won seven in a row since getting swept at McNeese State late in the regular season. UTA got back to the NCAA playoffs by going a perfect 4-0 during the four-day SLC Tournament, with the last two victories coming against top-seeded Sam Houston and No. 2 Southeastern.
Senior starter Lance Day picked up two of those wins, including the title-clincher after pitching on Wednesday. Day worked 5.2 innings and gave up three runs against the Lions, who were playing their second game Saturday. SLU had to beat Stephen F. Austin earlier in the day for the right to play UTA.
Zach Thompson relieved Day in the sixth and went the rest of the way, giving up just an unearned run in the ninth. The freshman allowed just three hits over 3.1 innings.
"I can't say enough about how Lance and Zach pitched," Thomas said. "It's an offensive park and to hold them to four runs was great. We swung the bat well and got production from throughout the lineup."
Beck's four-run shot initiated a dog pile at home plate as the Mavericks emptied from the dugout thinking the game had ended via run rule. UTA was up 13-3 at time time. SLU players had also begun to leave the diamond before the officials summoned everyone back to finish the game.
"I didn't think it was going out, but then I hear it hit the shed back there," Beck said, referring to a storage building beyond the wall in right-center. "Then, when I was rounding second I see the bullpen running down to the plate. I was really confused, but then someone said 'we won.' All of sudden we had to go back out there and beat them."
The Mavericks got their chance to dog pile again not long after.
UTA scored the first runs of the game in the third. Walker led off with a single and advanced to second on an error by the center fielder. Beck followed with a walk before Michael Guerra singled Walker home. Morrow knocked in Beck with another hit, staking Day to a 2-0 lead.
The Lions tried to get those runs back in the fourth, getting two runners in scoring position with one out. Day buckled down with a strikeout and ground out to escape the jam.
The Mavericks added three runs in the fourth on four hits. Sibley singled, Walker tripled, Beck doubled and Morrow singled to start the inning.
SLU cut a 6-0 UTA lead in half in the sixth inning. The Mavericks responded with a run in the bottom of the inning on Jordan Vaughn to score Morrow. Walker scored his third run of the game on another hit by Guerra. Beck came home shortly after on
The Mavericks threatened in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with two outs on a single and two walks. Matt Shortall, though, grounded out to end the inning.
Greg McCall, Guerra, Beck, Sibley and Day were named to the SLC All-Tournament team. Sibley was also named Tournament MVP.
"This was something special," said Sibley, a freshman. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs, getting swept at McNeese. Just for all the seniors, it's really special for them and something the young guys can build on in the years to come."
UTA head coach Darin Thomas
“There are some really good teams in this conference. We’ve been a little bit up and down but we’ve been playing well lately. I was proud of our effort all weekend long. We pitched well, played good defense and swung the bats better than we have in a while.”
On needing to win conference to get into the NCAA tournament
“We only had 35 wins. We had eight top-25 wins. Our RPI wasn’t quite good enough, and a lot of that was our own doing. We had a couple of bad weekends on the road. But, I’m proud of our guys and our coaching staff. We’ve been through a lot this year and we’ll go represent the conference well.”
UTA third baseman Travis Sibley
On being named MVP
“It’s nice to experience this moment with my teammates because we’ve worked so hard for this moment. Seeing the 11 or 12 seniors get it, it all goes to them. They’re real inspiring on work ethic and going out and getting things done.”
On only having to play one game today
“It was huge because we were sitting in the hotel watching the first few innings in the cool and they burned an extra arm. We had Lance (Day) ready to go, and I can’t say enough about him. He comes out every day and gives you six and shuts it down.”
UTA right fielder Preston Beck
On the team coming to life offensively today
“Everyone has been at their best this weekend. Everyone seemed to be on a roll and didn’t seem to be slowing down.”
On not having a run-rule in effect
“I didn’t think it was going out but then I hear it hit the shed back there. Then, when I was rounding second I see the bullpen running down to the plate. I was really confused but then someone said ‘we won.’ All of sudden we had to go back out there and beat them.”