Feb. 4, 2014
By Taylor Wright | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – UT Arlington baseball held its 2014 media day Tuesday afternoon. Seniors Matt Shortall and Brad Vachon joined UTA coach Darin Thomas in a press conference to discuss the upcoming season.
UTA went 31-27 last year, earning a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular season title. The Mavs will compete as a member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014, its third league in as many years.
UT Arlington is returning 18 letterwinners, while welcoming 18 newcomers to the 2014 squad. The Mavericks will look for repeat standout performances from across the lineup, including Shortall and Vachon.
The Mavericks open their 2014 slate by hosting the UTA Invitational at Clay Gould Ballpark on Friday, Feb. 14. UTA will face Stephen F. Austin, Incarnate Word and Oklahoma State during the weekend tournament.
UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas
On the upcoming season: ''We open up a week from Friday and we're real excited to get going. We're going to try to build on last year with seven returning position players and seven returning starting pitchers so we'll have a pretty good mix of new and old. I'm ready to see what our new guys can do and we're excited to get going.''
On playing in the Sun Belt: ''The Sun Belt had four teams go to an NCAA Regional last year and it had the sixth best RPI conference in the country. It's a tough conference and we respect the other teams. I believe this will be the toughest conference we've been in, no disrespect to the Southland and the WAC because I thought they were very good baseball conferences. It's a goal to win a third championship in-a-row but I think we need to take it series by series because there's a lot of things that go into winning. It's a long season and we play a lot of good people but that is definitely something in the back of our mind.''
Senior outfielder Matt Shortall
On playing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: ''Last season was the first time playing there and I thought it was amazing to see how many people came out to the game. It seemed like there were ten thousand fans there to us. It's great to be out on that field and have that experience because that's been a goal of all of ours since we were little kids.''
On this year's team: ''I think we have a great lineup coming in and a great pitching staff. The whole fall and early this spring has been really competitive. I think we're just really excited for the most part, not nervous or feeling any pressure, to get out there and get going.''
Senior right-handed pitcher Brad Vachon
On leading the team as a senior: ''I hope to just lead by example. If we're working hard and everyone else is trying to take our spot, we're making each other better. Its friendly competition but they're trying to get out on the field too. Hopefully we just lead by that example.''
On his pitching game last season: ''Hopefully I can maintain what I did last season in terms of strikeouts and opposing batting average this year. I need to minimize walks and I think that'll improve those numbers even more. I'm more of a control guy since I don't have some of the overpowering stuff we'll see from some other bigger arms. I plan on mixing up my pitches and throwing a lot more strikes which will make all of my stats better.''