Photo by Gerald Castillo
Texas State takes aim at Sun Belt regular season title
With one series left on the schedule, Texas State is in prime position to secure its first conference championship since joining the Sun Belt in 2013.
The last league title the Bobcats earned was in 2011, when the maroon and gold went 41-23 overall and 24-9 in the Southland Conference. The team took both the regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the Austin regional of the NCAA tournament.
The 2011 squad's season ended after going 1-2 in the regional, its last loss coming at the hands of No. 5 Texas, 4-3.
This season, Texas State has gone 34-17 overall and 18-9 in the Sun Belt, the best record in the league. The Bobcats now need just one win against UT Arlington (30-22, 16-10) this weekend to claim a share of the conference title and two to win it outright.
“Obviously, there’s a lot riding on (the series),” head coach Ty Harrington said. “So, I expect it to be incredibly competitive. I expect it to be very intense. And so, I think the crowd will react that way, both teams will react that way. I think you’ll find two baseball teams playing incredibly hard this weekend.”
The Mavericks won’t be easy to compete with. UTA sits just one spot behind Texas State in the West division of the standings and could hypothetically leapfrog to the top with a sweep.
The visitors are middle-of-the-pack at the plate, batting .272, sixth in the Sun Belt, but are tough to fool with the fewest number of strikeouts (360). Their strength comes from the mound, where they boast the No. 3 ERA in the league at 4.66. The team is led by sophomore right hander David Moffat (10-4), the No. 6 pitcher in ERA at 3.67.
UTA has performed well in big games, too, defeating No. 17 Baylor, 4-3 in 13 innings, on April 9 and No. 19 TCU, 6-3, on April 16.
“I’ve known (Mavericks head coach Darin Thomas) for a really long time and he’s a great friend and a great coach,” Harrington said. “And he felt like this was one of their better teams that they’ve had. And they’ve shown it by some of the wins they’ve had this year.”
The Bobcats are statistically better in both categories, though. They rank fourth in batting average at .277 and second in pitching with a 4.48 ERA, fueled by senior right Connor Reich (8-1) with an eighth-best 3.76 ERA.
Texas State is also a defensive juggernaut, leading the league in fielding percentage (.978) and fewest errors (42).
“I feel like we’ve been doing a lot of things well,” redshirt junior outfielder Will Hollis said. “Something that doesn’t get looked at a lot is our defense. We’ve been really good defensively all year. We’ve swung the bat when we needed to, we’ve pitched when we needed to. I think, all-around, we’ve just had a really, really good year.”
It’ll still take strong play for the hosts to come out on top. Harrington noted that the Bobcats are not at 100 percent healthwise. Few teams at this point of the season are. It could lead to players filling roles they aren’t accustomed to.
“That part of it is a challenge for us right now,” Harrington said. “We’re going to have to play at a really, really high level this weekend and moving forward to have momentum and to win and to chase the goals that we’re trying to chase.”
The first pitch of the series is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. inside Bobcat Ballpark, with the final two games slated for Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. A win makes history and gives Texas State confidence heading into the postseason.
Hollis said the team is ready for the opportunity.
“It would be amazing (to win the Sun Belt regular season championship),” Hollis said. “When I decided to come to Texas State, I think the reason I came was because I knew I wanted to win. I knew we could win and here we are. We’re close to it and I think it’d be really, really good for this program.”