Saturday, April 23, 2016

Same Song, Different Verse Again

A promising start to the baseball season is quickly souring. Odd to think that as April is ending, the UT Arlington Mavericks have a better record against opponents from the Big 12 than the Sun Belt Conference, and it isn't even close.

In my previous post, I detailed how the Mavs had lost numerous games to either one bad inning on the mound or an offense that garnered hits but not runs. Yesterday's loss to Troy in the start of a three-game series followed the same pattern that I detailed. In fact they had both.

The Trojans scored three runs on a three-RBI, inside-the-park home run. The go-ahead RBI came on a two-out hit. Once again, one pitch is the difference here.

UTA actually outhit Troy 11-8, but lost 5-2. They left 11 men on base, of which five were in scoring position when the last out was recorded. Again, one hit can make the difference here.

I ended the last post with something that surely applies in this game too.

"That's the difference between good teams and great teams. UTA is a good team. They aren't a great team because they aren't making the plays when they need to make them. They can beat anyone on any given day, and many times, that includes themselves."

The Mavs took the lead twice, once in the second inning, once in the third. Each time, they allowed another run in the home half. The shutdown inning just wasn't apparent. Maybe the team can rebound in the final two games. I still believe they can beat anyone, but this team has some soul-searching to do.

Earlier in the week, UTA lost a game that probably stings me the most. In a mid-week match-up versus Dallas Baptist, the Mavericks proved they are no longer even in competition for the second-best team in Dallas-Fort Worth as they lost 13-2. They scored the first run, staking an early 1-0 lead, and scored the last run, but it was all those other runs scored in between that did them in.

With the loss, UTA has now lost three in a row, five out of six, eight out of ten and 15 out of 21 to those guys.

It wasn't that long ago that UTA was in competition for the best area team. Them and TCU were neck-and-neck for a good bit there. Then TCU elevated their program. They consistently make the NCAA Tournament and have even appeared in the College World Series, something UTA has never done. Some could say the building of Lupton Stadium and the addition of TCU into the Big 12 are the two reasons the Horned Frogs has turned into a perennially-ranked team in the national polls and that is not replicable at UTA. I'd contend the Sun Belt, as far as baseball is concerned, is barely behind the Big 12 and that the addition of clubhouse, practice facility and stadium upgrades  at Clay Gould Ballpark should put them right there too.

But it is the other DFW team that has me shaking my head. I get that baseball is a different animal than any other NCAA sport. DBU would have a hard time getting the success they are in baseball in any other sport. They also play at the Division II level in all other sports, meaning they need to share less of the athletics pie. But at one point, UTA led the series 24-17. It is now 33-37. Other than a brief four-game winning streak and two solo victories, it has been all DBU since 2007. Since 2002, UTA has won one season series against the Pats. Not good.

DBU has made the NCAA tournament as an independent, getting an at-large and won a regional. Again, like TCU, DBU has done something UTA has never. They built a stadium capable of hosting a Super Regional, so they have good facilities too. But there are three clear tiers in DFW college baseball. 1. TCU 2. DBU 3. UTA.

If UTA had 3-4 wins here and there in 2014 and this year, they could be/have been an at-large and start getting in the same conversation the other two have been in the last decade or so.

I still want to see consistency. Hard to do in baseball, I know. But they've done it before. To reach those heights, they are gonna have to do it again, and that hasn't happened the last four years with the inconsistent play.

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