MAVERICKS CARRY BIG STICK INTO SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
May 19, 2008
ARLINGTON, Texas - - UT Arlington's turnaround this season can be mostly attributed to an arm injury that healed quickly, a surprising breakout season by a freshman and a solid veteran who improved his game just in time for his senior season.
David McLeod, the guy with the arm injury, tops the list as UTA's most valuable offensive weapons as the Mavericks head into the Southland Conference Tournament on Wednesday. First pitch against Texas State is set for 9 a.m., and McLeod will enter the game as the league's Batting Champion.
A solid weekend to close the season against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last Thursday, Friday and Saturday pushed McLeod's batting average to .391, which is tops in the conference. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even sure he was going to play. McLeod had surgery last year on his right elbow. He asked Mavericks coach Darin Thomas if he could give 2008 a try shortly before spring practice.
Not only did McLeod play, he became the toughest player to strike out in the county - he fanned just three times all year.
"He has done more than we ever expected he would do," Thomas said. "We knew he has the talent to be a great hitter, but we weren't sure what to expect because of the injury. He deserves everything good that comes his way."
Finishing as the league's third-best hitter is freshman Michael Choice. UTA recruited Choice out of nearby Mansfield Timberview High School, and coach said they could tell right away during fall practice that Choice had a chance to be spectacular at some point in his career.
It happened right away as Choice finished the regular season hitting .376.
Combine that with a career-year for Danny Slinkman - who finished with a .375 batting average - the Mavericks have a formidable one-two-three in the middle of their order against conference foes. UTA is hitting .296 as a team.
The Mavericks will look to its offense and regular starters Andy Sauter, Ryan Robinson and Nathan Long, as well as dependable long reliever Ryan Martin as they try to repeat the accomplishments of 2006. UTA entered the 2006 tournament as the No. 6 seed and won the whole thing to advance to the regional tournament.
If UTA wins on Wednesday morning, it will play a 4 p.m. game on Thursday.
A loss would put the Mavericks into a 9 a.m. game Thursday against the loser of the Southeastern Louisiana-Lamar game.
The Southland Conference has exclusive rights to live video and live stats coverage of the tournament, so UTA's typical Gametracker coverage will not be available. Fans are encouraged to log onto www.southland.org to follow the action.