May 14, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas - With a prevailing south wind blowing in from left field, Clay Gould Ballpark has long been considered a pitchers' park. At least that's the reputation.
Just don't tell that to UT Arlington hitters. They're feasting on pitching this season, blasting a hole through the notion that you can't hit consistently or for power in the friendly confines at Park Row and Fielder.
"We're way better in some categories than I ever would have thought," UT Arlington Darin Thomas said.
The Mavericks entered the week in the top 25 nationally in seven major team offensive categories. UTA is sixth in doubles (112), seventh in hits (560), 11th in home runs (41), 13th in slugging percentage (.435), 22nd in batting average (.299), 23rd in runs (324) and 25th in on-base percentage (.385).
"We're up there in homers, doubles and batting average," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "For our park that's saying something. If we played in hitter-friendly park, what would our numbers be?"
Those numbers aren't being racked up solely at small yards away from Arlington. UTA is hitting .311 at Clay Gould, compared to .283 on the road. Slugging percentage is .443 at home and .425 away.
Team success is built on the players, so it's no surprise that Mavericks can be found among the nation's leaders. Matt Shortall, John Michael Twichell, Ryan Bottger, Derek Miller and Greg McCall are in the top 100 in a number of key individual rankings.
Shortall is fifth in doubles (22), fifth in total bases (136), 10th in hits (81), 32nd in RBI (49), 40th in SLG% (.594) and 42nd in home runs (9). Bottger is 43rd in SLG% (.590), 46th in OBP (.465), 64th in doubles (16), 64th in total bases (105) and 72nd in batting average (.365).
Twichell is 56th in walks (34), and 97th in homers (7) and OBP (.450). Miller is 55th in hits (69), 62nd in runs (45), 76th in hit by pitch (14) and 93rd in doubles (15). McCall checks in 70th in homers (8).
There isn't an easy out in the lineup, with regulars Bottger, Shortall, Miller, Levi Scott and Eric Tate each hitting above .300 for the season. (Peter Cuomo was hitting better than .300 before being injured.) Eight starters are better than .270. Five have at least four home runs. Darien McLemore is hitting a team-best .385 in Sun Belt play.
The offensive surge is a big reason why the Mavericks have turned the season around. UTA has won 11 of 13 games, including a season-high tying four in a row, going into the last regular-season series against SBC rival Texas State. The three-game set begins Thursday (6:30 p.m.) at Clay Gould Ballpark.
The Mavericks are 27-25 overall and 16-11 in conference, which is tied for third with Texas State. UT Arlington began the league season 1-5 before winning six of its last seven SBC series.