It’s been 38 years since a UTA pitcher was able to complete more than seven innings of no-hit baseball, but for the first time in program history, a Maverick pitched nine innings without allowing a hit.
The baseball team (19-22, 7-5) defeated the University of Arkansas at Little Rock 1-0 in 11 innings Saturday at Clay Gould Ballpark, with the help of junior pitchers Carlos Tavera and Tanner King and their efforts in the longest and first combined no-hitter in program history.
The no-hit performance was the first since former UTA pitcher Duane Mitchell completed the feat in 1983 against Baylor University and only the second at Clay Gould Ballpark.
Tavera became the first pitcher in program history to pitch nine innings and not allow a hit. He also collected 11 strikeouts, eclipsing double-digit strikeouts in a game for the fifth time this season.
His 89 strikeouts on the season leads the Sun Belt Conference and is among the top five in the NCAA.
Tavera kept the Trojans off the base paths. After a walk in each of the first two innings, the Trojans did not reach base until the eighth inning off Tavera’s third walk.
“Nothing really changed, I mean this whole year, I’ve only really beat myself with walks, so I’ve been really challenging myself to attack the zone and attack hitters more,” Tavera said.
In the ninth inning, he walked back to the mound and sat the Little Rock lineup down in order.
Instead of relieving the junior pitcher in the ninth inning, head coach Darin Thomas felt Tavera deserved the opportunity to try and finish what he started.
“I normally don’t do that, but he deserved that chance, and I would’ve been booed out of the stadium if I would’ve taken him out on pitch count,” Thomas said.
Not only did Tavera have the support from his coach, but the fans and his teammates cheered him on.
“Today, the crowd and dugout really got into it, to give me that adrenaline boost I needed,” Tavera said.
The dominant pitching didn’t end with Tavera, as King relieved him in the 10th inning and went on to pitch two shutout innings while striking out three more Trojans.
Coming in as a relief pitcher during a no-hitter, King said he knew he had to be on top of his game.
“I was on my best stuff and locked in from the beginning knowing I can’t let up anywhere,” King said.
Thomas said he felt the same way, knowing his pitching was an instrumental part in the victory.
“The story of the game was pitching, when you don’t give anything up, eventually you score, you got a chance to win,” Thomas said.
Offensively, UTA was not shy when it came to making contact with the ball. Only two Mavericks were struck out, as they hit into several flyouts.
“We hit some balls hard, we had nothing to show for it, their center fielder ran a bunch of balls down,” Thomas said.
Senior outfielder Connor Aube said it’s been the story of the season, a lot of hard hit balls that don’t go the Mavericks’ way.
“That’s been the whole season for us, it’s been bittersweet. You play at the Gould, you can crank the ball as hard as you want, it ain't gonna leave the yard,” Aube said. “We found a lot of leather today.”
But in the 11th inning, Aube walked it off with a sacrifice fly, scoring junior infielder Boone Montgomery en route to a 1-0 victory.
“Right off the bat, I knew it was deep enough. So it was a nice feeling, especially being 0-4 on the day and coming up in a big situation,” Aube said.
With 13 games yet to be played, Tavera believes a performance like this can help carry the Mavericks heading into the remainder of the season.
“I think we’re getting hot, we’re about to play our best baseball here. We’re really starting to put it together,” Tavera said. “That’s the first game I really think we put it together, pitching, defense and offense.”
UTA will continue their series against Little Rock with a doubleheader scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Sunday at Clay Gould Ballpark.