UTRGV looks to build off best start in 27 years

EDINBURG — The UTRGV baseball team is back to defend home-field and build on the program’s best start in 27 years with a three-game series this weekend against Seattle University.

The Vaqueros (25-14, 11-4) have put together the best start since 1992 — when they finished with a 26-12 record — and currently sit tied in second place in the Western Athletic Conference with New Mexico State. If UTRGV can take two of three from SU at home, it’ll be the fifth straight series the Vaqueros have won in WAC play.

Former Mercedes Tigers standout and current UTRGV catcher, Oliver Closner IV, has four RBIs in his last two games and said the Vaqueros are just taking care of business at it comes.

“We got Seattle, then we got to head to New Mexico State to take care of those guys. We’re just going to keep taking them as they come,” Closner IV said after the series against California Baptist.

A large part of UTRGV’s success has been the group getting the job done on the mound. The rotation of Trevelle Hill, Conner Dotson and Jerred Quartier have combined to lead the Vaqueros to a conference-best 2.82 ERA throughout 15 games and just 10 strikeouts behind Sacramento State for the WAC lead with 116 Ks.

Tonight’s pitching matchup between Hill and SU’s Jarrod Billig offers up a must-see showdown between two of the hottest pitchers in WAC play. Hill (6-2, 2.53 ERA), a senior, holds the second-lowest ERA in five conference series and will look to keep that number down in the series opener.

Billig has already picked up wins over Sacramento State and California Baptist, and although SU is just 9-30 and 4-11 in WAC games, the Vaqueros aren’t looking to take the Redhawks lightly.

Dotson (2-1, 4.11 ERA) and Quartier (2-1, 2.56 ERA) will take over pitching duties on Saturday and Sunday as they hunt for their third win of the year.

If UTRGV can hold it down at the plate and on the field, things set up nicely for McAllen Rowe alum Ryan Jackson to step in out of the bullpen and close things out.

Jackson, who has been a part of the UTRGV baseball program for four years with a season away from the team in between, hopes this weekend’s series can put the Vaqueros to claim a spot in the WAC Tournament for the first time in his career.

“We just need to be balanced out. As long as we stay hot with our bats, and our pitchers back up our position players, position players back up our pitchers and we’ll be fine,” Jackson said. “We have two more series at home, so we should be fine with those games, so we should get into the postseason for the first time in my career.”

First pitch of the Vaqueros’ three-game home series against Seattle U is set for 7 tonight at UTRGV Baseball Stadium. Game 2 is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, with the series finale slated for noon on Sunday.