May 6, 2010
By Josh Bowe for utamavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - Mark Picca doesn't have the most glamorous of roles on the team for UT Arlington. He's set up for having bad stats and a lot of "L's" on the right side of his pitching record.
Few pitchers in the Southland Conference, or even the nation, could be successful in the role the junior left-handed starter Picca has for the Mavericks. He is the midweek starter. And for what it's worth, his team and coaches think he's doing a pretty good job.
"He knows that before he goes out there that he has the toughest job on the field every night," junior centerfielder Michael Choice said.
UTA has one of the toughest non-conference schedules in all of baseball. In college baseball, you typically pitch your best starters over the weekend when conference games are played. Midweek games are for the out of conference games, which are the games Picca has been assigned to start.
His list of the high quality teams he's faced sounds more like a team's NCAA Tournament run than a regular season schedule: Oklahoma, TCU (twice), Oral Roberts, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. It's almost a baseball miracle that Picca sits at 2-5 with a 6.08 ERA.
"It's been a little bit of a challenge," Picca said. "A little bit of an uphill battle. Hopefully I go out there every Tuesday and go out there and throw strikes."
So when Picca was finally relieved of facing Big 12 teams on Tuesday night (his previous three starts were against Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State) Picca was able to handle Dallas Baptist and pick up his first win since March 16 against Oklahoma-Christian.
As happy as Picca was with the start, junior catcher Chad Comer could barely contain his smile as he talked about Picca's performance.
"I think more than anything that was nice to see Picca shove it for five, six innings," Comer said. "Hitting his spots - that's the big thing."
Picca threw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes as he pounded the strike zone early and often against the DBU hitters. Something he hasn't been able to do as frequently against Big 12 teams.
"Strike one is a huge, huge pitch for every pitcher," Picca said. "It's been true for me for my success in the year. Every time that I get first pitches for strike one I seem to pitch well."
Maverick coach Darin Thomas understands the record isn't always going to be pretty when you play such a tough non-conference schedule. So he's just happy to see Picca stay levelheaded and pick up wins whenever he possibly can.
"He's faced some very, very tough people," Thomas said. "He's hung in there and given us five, six, seven innings every time. He's done a good job."
Thomas is also looking for more starting pitching when the Southland Conference Tournament roles around at the end of the month. If Picca continues to show he has what it takes like he did Tuesday night, he might find himself starting against a Southland team for the first time this season.
"We're looking for a fourth starter for the tournament," Thomas said. "I thought he pitched very well tonight. Didn't walk anybody, can't ask for more."
Picca will more than likely accept whatever role Thomas ends up having during the tournament. Even Picca knows that for the toughest job on the team he's come out unscathed - somewhat.
"I will go out there and hopefully give them as many innings as I can throw," Picca said. "It's been so far so...not too bad."
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