BASEBALL BEGINS PRACTICE
Jan. 18, 2005
ARLINGTON, Texas - With classes beginning at The University of Texas at Arlington, the baseball team will hold its first workout today in preparations for the 2005 season that begins on Feb. 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Texas-Pan American Tournament in Edinburg.
"We are looking forward to getting started," said fourth-year head coach Jeff Curtis. "We have a short time to get prepared for the start of the season and we hope that the weather will cooperate."
The team will take to the field for its first official practice at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. The practice will conclude with a short 4-inning intrasquad scrimmage at Clay Gould Ballpark.
For the second straight season, the Mavericks will have to replace the Southland Conference Player of the Year, Hunter Pence, who won the award in 2004 before being drafted in the second round by Houston Astros in June. Ryan Roberts won the award in 2003 before being selected in the 18th round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2005 team will rely on its pitching as it returns all three conference starters from a season ago. Michael Gardner returns as the team's ace after going 11-3 with a 2.49 ERA. He was named to the all-SLC and Rawlings/ABCA all-South Central Region first teams, as well as an honorable mention All-American by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. This season, the junior is a third team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and is one of 58 players on the Brooks Wallace Watch List for the college Player of the Year.
Right-handers Jake Baxter and Grant Varnell return for their senior seasons after turning in solid junior campaigns. Baxter finished his first season at UTA with a 4-5 record and 5.16 ERA. He was second on the team in innings pitched (89) and strikeouts (73), while putting together a stretch of 27 innings without allowing an earned run. Varnell finished his junior season with a 4-5 record and a 4.91 ERA. He was tied for the team lead with 15 starts and one complete game.
After losing its top four hitters from 2004, the offense will rely on a mix of returning players and newcomers to carry the load this season. Senior's Aaron Batlle and Ryan Nelson will carry the majority of the load after earning honorable mention all-SLC honors in 2004. Sophomore Brett Lewis, one of the top defensive catchers in the SLC, found his offense in his freshman campaign and enters 2005 on a 12-game hit streak. Senior Scott Williams returns to the lineup after missing last season with an injury. Williams hit .331 with eight doubles and four home runs in 2003.
The Mavs open up their home season on Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. against Dallas Baptist at Clay Gould Ballpark.