Respect. You could say that’s what the UT-Arlington baseball program is looking for.
The Mavericks were picked to finish seventh in the Sun Belt this season. Not a lot of respect there. They are off to an 8-6 record before opening up conference play against Arkansas State on Friday at Clay Gould Ballpark.
“It seems like every year we are towards the bottom, never really up there picked high.” said catcher/infielder Brady Cox. “I know we use that a lot to motivate us because we know we’re better than that.”
UTA does have some nice wins early on this season, beating a couple of Big 12 teams in Oklahoma State (ranked 7th at the time) and Baylor.
“I like how we’re matching up so far,” said outfielder Quintin Rohrbaugh, who has a 12-game hitting streak going. “I’m sure once we get into conference everybody will settle down and start playing UTA baseball. We’ve come a long way since our first couple of games and I think we are getting hot at the right time.”
So what’s the big difference this season compared to last season where the Mavericks finished under .500 in both overall record and conference play?
“We have a lot of team guys where everybody wants to do whatever it takes to win, where as last year was a little more “me” guys,” said Rohrbaugh.
The offense has been on a roll early in the season with the team batting average over .300, so no worries about the Mavericks putting runs up on the board. What about the pitching you ask? The key to the staff is junior Joel Kuhnel, who is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 14 strikeouts in just over 18 innings of work. He’s earned the spot as UTA’s regular Friday starter. “My biggest thing is just help the team win in any way, working with the younger guys, helping them get developed and getting prepared,” said Kuhnel.
Life in the Sun Belt won’t be easy. But UTA seems ready for the challenge, and it starts this weekend.
By C. James