Baseball team advances to NCAA tourney
Many considered the 2012 UT Arlington baseball team a major underdog. In preseason polls, Southland Conference sports information directors and coaches picked the Mavericks to finish eighth.
So coach Darin Thomas and his players went out and posted one of the best seasons in school history.
UT Arlington won the Southland Conference Tournament and advanced to its fifth NCAA regional berth and first since 2006. The Mavericks went 36–25, won seven of 11 SLC series, and dominated the conference tournament, going 4–0 and outscoring their opponents by 19 runs.
“We battled through a lot of things and have a lot of good young players,” Thomas says. “We had an unbelievable year for the schedule we played.”
That schedule included regular-season wins over Baylor, Texas A&M, TCU, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Mavericks finished the year with eight victories against teams ranked in the top 25 but stalled out in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Dallas Baptist and Baylor.
Junior right fielder Preston Beck, who batted .335 and led the conference with a .602 slugging percentage, was named to the All-SLC first team. His 71 RBIs set a single-season school record, and his 14 home runs tied for fifth best in a season. The Texas Rangers selected Beck in the fifth round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft in June.
“It’s a huge honor to get drafted by a team like the Texas Rangers that you’ve grown up rooting for and whose games you’ve gone to over the years,” says the 21-year-old Dallas native. “It feels good to be part of this organization and to be honored as one of the best players in the country.”
Beck is the 38th UT Arlington baseball player either drafted or signed by a Major League organization over the last nine seasons.
“He’s up there with some of the best,” Thomas says. “He’s got one of the top outfield arms in the draft and a legitimate power left-handed bat.”
Sophomore shortstop Ryan Walker and senior pitcher Lance Day earned second-team All-Conference honors. Walker led the team in batting (.360), runs (56), hits (90), and stolen bases (14). Day, whose 12 wins were among the most in the nation, posted a 3.18 earned-run average in 121.2 innings.
In addition to Day, UT Arlington loses nine other seniors, including career saves leader Adam Boydston, as well as infielder Michael Guerra and outfielder Jordan Vaughn, both honorable mention All-SLC selections. But Walker, outfielder Matt Shortall, and infielder Travis Sibley form a solid corps that has Thomas excited about next season, his sixth as head coach.
“Our program took a huge step forward this year,” he says, “and we’ve got a good group of guys coming back.”