It’s not every day a player can say they hit three home runs in a game. The last time it happened for the Mavericks was March 8, 1998, when Matt Mize completed the feat against Southeastern Louisiana University.
Twenty-three years later, senior catcher Andrew Miller put his name in the UTA history books with a three home run game of his own in a 8-1 win against the University of Kansas on Wednesday night at Clay Gould Ballpark.
He is the fourth player in program history to have three or more home runs in a game.
Miller said he felt that his batting practice prior to the game wasn’t the best, but his confidence grew with each home run he hit.
“I’ve never done that before, so that was kind of cool,” he said. “It was a special night.”
Head coach Darin Thomas was more than pleased with Miller’s performance and noted these kinds of nights don’t happen very often.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone hit three,” he said. “Those middle-of-the-order guys we need that out of, so it was good to see that.”
Prior to Wednesday night’s match against the Jayhawks, Miller had a batting average of .234 and three home runs on the season. He finished the night going 3-4 from the plate with three home runs and six runs batted in.
“It’s been a ride of a year. Feels like some of the balls aren’t bouncing our way as a team, so it was good to get those out of the way,” Miller said.
Coming off a 9-1 loss against TCU on Tuesday night, the Mavericks faced their second consecutive Big 12 team and looked to bounce back.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, sophomore pitcher Cade Winquest got out of a sticky situation after Kansas freshman catcher Anthony Tulimero flew out to end the inning.
The Jayhawks started the bottom half of the first getting two quick outs, but a single from senior outfielder Connor Aube and a walk from senior infielder Dylan Paul gave Miller his first opportunity at the plate.
With a 2-0 count, Miller launched a ball over the left field wall to collect his first home run of the night and give the Mavericks a 3-0 lead.
After a quiet start to the game, Kansas scored its lone run in the top of the third inning and brought the game within two runs.
UTA responded in the bottom of the third, driving in two more runs off Miller’s second home run of the night to give the Mavericks a 5-1 lead.
A key moment for Winquest came in the top of the fourth inning with the bases loaded once again. He was able to get himself out the jam with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Winquest faced another challenge with multiple men on base, but finished the inning with a flyout and a strikeout.
Winquest’s night came to a close with five innings pitched, allowing one run on five hits and recording five strikeouts. He earned his first win of the season with the performance.
“[Winquest] did a great job of getting us through five innings because he got out of jams,” Thomas said. “I thought he had as good of stuff as he’s had all night at the end of his outing.”
After closing the door on the Jayhawk’s scoring opportunities, the UTA offense created their own, adding more runs in the bottom half of the fifth.
Miller continued his tear on the Jayhawk’s pitching after hitting his third home run. The final hit of the evening from Miller was contested near the wall, as Miller was racing around the bases. He was rounding third base when he realized that the umpires had called a home run.
Thomas said that was one of the hardest balls Miller hit on the night, but it was to hit to dead center, the deepest part of the ballpark.
“It got over the yellow line. That’s all that matters,” Thomas said.
Senior pitcher Wyatt Divis completed the sixth inning, with the Jayhawks stranding two baserunners. Kansas ended the game with 12 players left on base.
Junior pitcher Tanner King entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning and struck out the side. He continued his onslaught in the eighth inning, striking out the side once again and extended his streak of scoreless innings to 9.1.
“[King] is capable of it, I know that,” Thomas said. “He’s tough on righties but was also tough on lefties today too, so it was good to see.”
UTA added more insurance runs in the eighth, with a run scored off a fielder's choice from junior outfielder Phillip Childs, scoring senior infielder Josh Minjarez. Aube added one more run with an RBI single, scoring sophomore outfielder JD Wadleigh.
Junior pitcher Michael Wong came in to shut down the Jayhawks in the top of the ninth inning.
Miller said he believes this will be a confidence booster, not only for himself but for the team, heading into the remainder of the regular season.
The baseball team will be on the road for a weekend series against McNeese State University, starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Joe Miller Ballpark in Lake Charles, Louisiana.