Glad to finally have an entry for baseball that doesn't mentioned a missed opportunity. UT Arlington's baseball team swept the last-place Appalachian State Mountaineers, and did it by the basic formula I mentioned in the last post.
Kadon Simmons looked rough early in game one, giving up a homer and a two-RBI hit in the first inning, but finished the first and would retire 17 in a row. He got one out in the ninth before running into trouble. In comes Jacob Moreland, who put the go-ahead run at second before getting a ground out to end it. With the win, Simmons moved to 9-4 on the year.
Joel Kuhnel did his part in game two, going six strong innings and exited with a 3-1 lead. Jacob Moreland started the seventh and did well before giving up four singles in the ninth tie the game. The Mavs offense, held scoreless in eight of the nine regulation innings, scored five in the extra frame. That relieves the pressure on Moreland, who closes the game for the win.
Game three had something UTA hadn't played for much this year, a three-game sweep. UTA tried twice before, losing to Arkansas State 4-0 on March 13 and Georgia State 8-7 on April 3. The offense scored in four different innings against App, including a four-spot in the fifth. Bases were empty with two outs. Christian Hollie swings at strike three that could have ended it, but gets on first due to a wild pitch. Brady Cox then got a walk, Quintin Rohrbaugh then doubled scoring Hollie, and Colton Turner hit a three-run homer to clear the bags.
Starter Jake Wilcox then let the first three batters in the sixth reach before giving way to Dylan Schnieder. In all, the three runners would score, tightening the game. Schnieder would then settle in and go to the ninth. After a single and an out, Daniel James relieved and then gave up a wild pitch, ground out and a walk. Coach Darin Thomas then goes back to Moreland, who gets a groundout on the first batter to get the sweep.
THAT game is what I have wanted to see all year long. The fifth inning is what we have needed consistently from this offense. There's no question they can hit, but there have been too many times of an extremely high amount of hits not resulting in runs.
The pitching was timely. They gave up too many runs, sure. But other than the ninth of game two, they never gave up a damaging run. Like the offense getting the timely hits, they made the pitches when they had to in order to be successful.
Now yea, I get that App is the last-place team in the conference. I also know their offense and pitching is near the bottom of the SBC. But, let's remember, App had a .500 conference record in Boone AND UTA lost two of three at home to Louisiana-Monroe, a team not much better. As it stands now, the Warhawks are a ninth-place team and a game out of making the conference tournament, so it wasn't out of the realm of possibility to drop a game to App.
Friday wasn't just a good day on the diamond for UTA, but every team at that point ahead of them in the standings they could catch lost, save one. Texas State, two games up at the start of the weekend, lost to Arkansas State. Little Rock lost to ULM, putting a team UTA owns the tiebreaker over only two games up on the Mavs. Louisiana visited South Alabama and lost, and even though the Mavs aren't likely to catch second place, the math was still possible at that point. Only Troy won, leaving another team UTA has the tiebreaker over a single game up.
Texas State would go on to lose again, putting the Mavs in a tie for sixth place. Unfortunately, no other games would go the Mavs way. It appeared that someone forgot to tell the Georgia State Panthers they were battling for a spot in the conference tournament as the Troy Trojans swept the series. Little Rock would win the last two, as would Louisiana, the latter allowing UTA no better than third if everything goes their way. Texas State would win the finale, leaving them in a tie with UTA, and of course, setting the stage for the last weekend of the season. UTA's sweep of Appalachian also moved them into a fifth-place tie with Georgia Southern, who had a non-conference weekend.
Current conference standings, games behind
1) South Alabama 20-7, -
2) Louisiana-Lafayette 18-9, 2
3) Little Rock 16-11, 4
4) Troy 15-12, 5
5) Georgia Southern 14-13, 6
5) Texas State 14-13, 6
5) UTA 14-13, 6
8) Arkansas State 11-18, 9
9) Louisiana-Monroe 10-17, 10
10) Georgia State 9-18, 11
11) Appalachian State 9-21, 12.5
Texas State @ UTA
Ga St @ Geo Sou
ULM @ ULL
USA @ Troy
Ark St @ LR
As it stands now, UTA can finish no worse than seventh as they sit three games above Arkansas State with the tiebreaker. They also control their own destiny with Texas State coming up. A series win would put them at no worse than sixth. From there, UTA will need help, and it runs the gamut of probable, to possible, to unlikely.
UTA is a game back of Troy, but won the season series. With Troy playing the first-place team, who hasn't locked up the regular season championship, there is a good possibility UTA will get the help in this one. UTA just needs to win one more game than the Trojans and UTA will finish in a tie and own the tiebreaker.
In the possible category, Arkansas State has all but earned the final seed into the tournament. However, without locking it up completely, they have something to play for as well. Arkansas State is 72-44 all-time versus their in-state rival, and 20-7 since 2011. But this is Little Rock's best team in terms of talent in quite a while In nearly all scenario's, UTA will need the Red Wolves to sweep. A tall task indeed, but possible.
With UTA being in a tie with Georgia Southern, there is a possibility of passing the Eagles, but highly unlikely. Georgia State looked like they couldn't hit or pitch their way out of a paper bag this weekend in getting swept at home by Troy, and that was with something to play for. Georgia State would need to win one more game than the Bobcats do this weekend against Southern.
UTA sweeps Texas State, USA takes at least one game from Troy, Arkansas State wins their series and Georgia State wins one against the Peach-State rival. UTA gets the third seed.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: UTA is on a hot streak, winning its last five conference games. Texas State is going the opposite direction, losing three of their last four SBC games. Last time UTA hosted Texas State with something to play for, 2014 with second place on the line, they also sweep the 'cats. Troy is likely to lose one game to the SBC leader trying to clinch. Arkansas State doesn't want to lose its perch in the Ozark state while Little Rock is just 6-6 in home SBC games. Georgia State can't possibly lose six SBC games in a row, right?
WHAT'S IN THE WAY: UTA has one three-game sweep over Texas State since the 1995 season. Texas State leads the all-time series by a two-to-three margin. Coach Thomas is 12-20 lifetime against the Bobcats. Rivalry games can bring any outcome.
UTA takes Texas State 2-1, USA beats Troy 2-1, Little Rock over Arkansas State 2-1, Georgia Southern with the series win 2-1. UTA earns the fifth seed.
WHY IT'S LIKELY: Hard for me to imagine UTA sweeping Texas State. The one sweep since 1995 was that one in 2014, and even in that, Texas State swept UTA in San Marcos earlier in the year. South Alabama is just the better team, with 37 wins overall to Troy's 30. Little Rock and Southern play at home.
WHAT'S IN THE WAY: Just UTA in this one. If they play like they can, then they get it easy. If they make a bad pitch, or scatter twenty hits on the way to two runs, then it can be a long game.
UTA gets swept. Ends the season in seventh place.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: It's Texas State. The Bobcats have six sweeps to that one for UTA since 1995. Coach Ty Harrington has UTA's number.
WHAT'S IN THE WAY: UTA's pride can't let them go out like that to end the year.