Jan. 31, 2014
By Taylor Wright | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – UT Arlington baseball eyes its third championship in as many years with discipline and defense from a solid group of Maverick infielders.
"Early in the year, we're really going to focus on our defense to make plays and turn double plays to get us out of an inning," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "We have to play defense because if we make an error, that may be the game. We've got to be solid defensively and so far we have been."
Returning to the diamond to anchor the Mavericks are Peter Cuomo, Travis Sibley and Darien McLemore, as well as Eric Tate. They will be joined by newcomers Ryan Bottger, Jordan Gibbs, TJ Hillman, Tanner Houston, Jackson Morris and Levi Scott.
Cuomo, a senior from Austin, brings experience to the infield and will be vying for the starting position at third base with Bottger, a junior transfer from Rose State Junior College.
"Cuomo is solid defensively and we know we can count on him," Thomas said. "Bottger is a physical, switch hitter so he'll bring a good bat to the lineup."
Sibley, a junior from Frisco, will take over duties at shortstop in the absence of Ryan Walker, who was drafted in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins.
"Sibley has started at third the last two years, but we originally brought him in as a shortstop," Thomas said. "We moved him over during the fall and he's done really well."
McLemore, a sophomore from Southlake, returns at second base after starting there the majority of the 2013 season. Tate, a redshirt junior from Garland, will split time between catching and playing the infield for the Mavs this year, specifically at second base.
"McLemore has been working hard and he has a year of playing experience under his belt," Thomas said. "Tate is coming back from an injured shoulder and is mixing in more as an infielder than as a catcher."
Junior transfers Morris, from Northeast Oklahoma A&M, and Scott, from Howard Junior college, will battle for the starting position at first base. John Michael Twichell, last season's starting first baseman, has been moved to the outfield for 2014.
"Morris and Scott have moved to first base to replace Twichell, and they'll compete for that starting spot," Thomas said.
True freshman Gibbs will be the utility man for the Mavs this season, as he can play anywhere on the infield. Redshirt freshman Hillman will be splitting time between working the infield and outfield, while junior transfer Houston, from Grayson Community College, will look to contribute on the infield when needed.
The infielders along with the rest of the Mavericks open their 2014 slate by hosting the UTA Invitational at Clay Gould Ballpark on Feb. 14. UTA will face Stephen F. Austin, Incarnate Word and Oklahoma State during the weekend tournament.