Sam Houston faces the first of two critical weekend series beginning Friday as the No. 21 Bearkats travel to UT-Arlington.

On a quest for their first Southland Conference regular season baseball championship since 1989, SHSU faces the third place Mavericks on their home field this weekend, then plays host to second place Southeastern Louisiana next week in Huntsville. The two series could decide the conference race.

Saturday and Sunday's games will be broadcast live on .

UT Arlington (27-19, 14-10) and Sam Houston (31-12, 19-5) meet Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Clay Gould Ballpark, with games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

The Mavericks are 11-4 in their last 15 conference games to climb to third place. UTA remains 54th in the latest NCAA Baseball RPI rankings.

Sam Houston is 31-13 overall and first in the SLC at 19-5. The Bearkats are 45th in the last RPI rankings. Sam Houston leads the all-time series with UTA 50-44.

The Bearkats are coming off a disappointing 10-0 shutout at the hands of No. 9 Texas A&M last Tuesday.

Sam Houston has won each of its eight Southland Conference weekend series this year, posting three-game sweeps three times.

Kevin Miller (.349), Jake Arrington (.333) and Luke Plucheck (.327) are the Kats' top threats at the plate.

Caleb Smith (6-3), Justin Jackson (7-3) and Michael Oros (6-1) will be the starting pitchers for SHSU.

Right fielder Preston Beck and RHP Lance Day have been catalysts in UTA's 27-19 start and rank among the nation's and SLC's leaders. Beck entered this weekend leading the conference in RBI (50), home runs (9) and tied for first in total bases (98). Day leads the SLC in victories (9-1) and innings (84.0).

Walker continues to be the catalyst at the top of the UTA order this season. The sophomore is second in the SLC in hits (69), second in runs (41) and fourth in average (.361). Walker has at least two hits in 23 of the 46 games UTA has played this season.