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By Paul Watley and Kendall Nelms | @WatP7 and @KendallNelms
ARLINGTON, Texas – UT Arlington will look to mix a unique blend of returning and incoming pitchers on the mound this season as it replaces nearly 70 percent of its innings pitched from the 2014 campaign.
The Mavericks will return seven pitchers from the 2014 squad that went 33-26 with an appearance in the Sun Belt Conference Championship title game. While UTA will receive a boost from the returning players, it will also look to replace six pitchers from the 2014 squad with an infusion of new talent made up of nine newcomers, seven of whom are freshman. The newcomers will have big shoes to fill as two of the Maverick pitchers from last season were taken in the 2014 MLB Draft in Zach Thompson and Jess Amedee, who combined for 25 starts during the 2014 season.
"With pitching, I've done this for 25 years in college and that light comes on at different times for different guys, especially on the mound and it just takes some guys a little longer to figure it out because there is a lot more in Division I baseball that it takes to be a successful pitcher than it does in high school or even in junior college," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "We have some good arms and some good new people, but they haven't been out there."
In addition to the new faces on the mound for UTA, the Mavericks will also be adjusting to a new pitching coach in Jon Wente. Wente came to Arlington after serving as the head coach at Central Arizona College from 2005-14. Wente picked up six consecutive Region I championships and four consecutive conference championships while serving at the helm for the Vaqueros.
"We just need to go out there compete and throw strikes," Wente said. "It starts with that, and hopefully we can grow up real quick and become more experienced guys who will be able to compete at the end of the year when we need them to."
The Mavericks will look towards returners Zach Hobbs, Justin Schnedler, TJ Whidby, Colin Tornberg and Chad Nack who are all entering into their final seasons as Mavericks, as well as junior Jacob Moreland and sophomore Javier Pontifis. The returning players from the 2014 squad mainly held relief roles with only two players having registered a start last season. Schnedler recorded five starts with a 5.27 ERA with 27 strikeouts while Zach Hobbs made one start with a 4-2 record while fanning 16 batters.
Moreland, Nack and Hobbs led the Mavericks efforts from the bullpen last season, with a combined 81 appearances for the trio. Nack was a force on the mound, notching four saves and a 1.26 ERA in 35.2 innings pitched. Moreland went 2-2 in 39.2 innings pitched while recording a 2.78 strikeout to walk ratio, the highest of this year's returners. Schnedler and Tornberg were the most effective strikeout pitchers last season, both averaging 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched while Whidby made 18 appearances on the mound with a 2.75 ERA and nine strikeouts. The youngest returning pitcher, Pontifis, made two appearances during his freshman season and will look to make his mark in UTA baseball in the upcoming season.
"This year we have to know that you can't slack off the day before the first game or anything like that, but you just have to prepare for all 56 games," Nack said. "You can't take one day off or it just goes downhill from there."
The Mavericks will open up the 2015 season this Friday when they square off with Missouri State in the SFA Tipton Ford Baseball Classic in Nacogdoches. UT Arlington will make its appearance at Clay Gould Ballpark on Friday, Feb. 20 against Southeastern Louisiana with first pitch slated for 3 p.m.
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