UIW coach tells his players to ‘keep your heads up, stay ready’

Incarnate Word baseball coach Patrick Hallmark talks to the umpire before Thursday's game against Sam Houston State. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word baseball coach Patrick Hallmark talks to the umpire before Thursday’s game against Sam Houston State. – photo by Joe Alexander

Three weeks ago, the University of the Incarnate Word baseball team seemed well on its way to qualifying for the Southland Conference postseason tournament.

UIW, playing inspired ball under first-year coach Patrick Hallmark, was 27-19 overall and 12-9 in the SLC after winning two of three on the road at the University of New Orleans.

The Cardinals’ performance in the Big Easy gave them four SLC series victories in five tries, an impressive stretch for a program making its debut as a full-fledged member of the conference and NCAA Division I.

Since then, the Cardinals have hit the skids.

They have lost seven of nine games overall and seven of eight in conference, falling to the brink of elimination from tournament consideration heading into the last day of the regular season.

After Sam Houston State throttled UIW 16-1 Friday afternoon, the Cardinals (29-25, 13-16) are faced with what is most likely a must-win situation in its regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at Sullivan Field.

Incarnate Word players gather before Friday's game against Sam Houston State. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word players gather before Friday’s game against Sam Houston State. – photo by Joe Alexander

A loss to Sam Houston doesn’t necessarily eliminate them as one of the tournament’s eight qualifiers. But a victory sure would help them get there.

Can they do it?

Well, UIW hasn’t inspired much optimism in the past eight days, losing all three last week at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and then dropping the first two in a three-game series against Sam Houston.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Hallmark expressed confidence that his players would bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the year.

“I think they’ll respond in a positive way,” the former long-time Rice University assistant said. “The guys we’re running out there regularly, are all made of the right stuff — which means, mental toughness.

“We talk about not feeling sorry for yourself, not letting things that you can’t control bother you or affect you, or intimidate you, or, whatever.

“You can put in any phrase you want. The guys we’re running out there, our main core group of guys, that’s what they’re made of. We like ‘em a lot.”

After four straight losing seasons under a previous staff, UIW elected to change coaches last summer.

The school brought in Hallmark, an assistant in 2017 at Missouri who had worked for 11 previous seasons under Wayne Graham at Rice.

Incarnate Word's Ryan Gonzalez slides safely into third against Sam Houston State on Friday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word’s Ryan Gonzalez slides safely into third against Sam Houston State on Friday. – photo by Joe Alexander

UIW started fast, knocking off 30th-ranked Notre Dame at the Irish Baseball Classic and playing tough at No. 8 Texas A&M.

But in the past few weeks, it’s been a struggle, especically in identifying quality depth in the pitching staff.

In Thursday’s opener against Sam Houston, UIW blew a two-run lead in the ninth and lost 5-4 in 10 innings.

On Friday, Sam Houston’s leadoff hitter blasted a long home run on the first pitch of the game en route to 16 hits for the visiting team.

After a game that lasted three hours and 28 minutes under a hot afternoon sun, Hallmark summoned his players to the outfield grass for a talk.

The coach said he challenged them to get mentally and physically ready to play in the finale against the Bearkats, who have dominated the SLC over the past few seasons.

“I just talked about tomorrow’s game and keeping our heads up,” Hallmark said. “One of the good things about baseball is, you get to play a lot. So, you can get this one out of your system and come out here tomorrow ready to play.

“That’s what I told ‘em, (to) get a good meal, take care of their bodies … Hydrate, and walk out here with your heads up. Because, we’ve played more good baseball (this year) than we have bad baseball. Today we played bad baseball.”

Hallmark said he doesn’t want to get into long discussions with fans who like to tell him that the season will be a success, regardless of whether the team makes it to the tournament.

“Honestly, I don’t let my mind go there,” he said.

Hallmark said he’s much too preoccupied with how to beat the Bearkats than to get into a discussion about whether UIW has had a good enough year to suit him.

Incarnate Word head baseball coach Patrick Hallmark. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word head baseball coach Patrick Hallmark. – photo by Joe Alexander

“I truly am embracing tomorrow’s game,” the coach said. “That’s what we preach to our players. We got to embrace, literally, the first pitch. Because, it’s one pitch at a time.

“So, I don’t know, really, how to answer your question. I think there are things (about the season) we’ll be proud of. I haven’t been here (as coach) before (this year).

“So, I guess what people are saying, is, maybe we’re a little better than we have been. But I see a lot of room for improvement.”

As far as the coach is concerned, there’d be no better time to show it than Saturday against Sam Houston State.

Sam Houston claims SLC title with 5-4, 10-inning win at UIW

Sam Houston State's Jordan Cannon (25) and Mac Odom (1) are congratulated by teammates after scoring in the top of the ninth inning to tie it 4-4 against Incarnate Word on Thursday night. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sam Houston State’s Jordan Cannon (25) and Mac Odom (1) are congratulated by teammates after scoring in the top of the ninth inning to tie it 4-4 against Incarnate Word on Thursday night. – photo by Joe Alexander

Trailing by two runs with two outs in the ninth inning, Sam Houston State refused to fold.

The Bearkats rallied to beat the Incarnate Word Cardinals 5-4 in 10 innings to claim the Southland Conference’s regular-season title outright.

One out away from losing the opener of a three-game series at UIW’s Sullivan Field, the Bearkats came to life when Jack Rogers singled for two RBI and a tie score at 4-4 in the top of the ninth.

Hunter Hearn added the game winner with a solo shot to lead off the 10th.

Reliever Dakota Mills closed in the bottom of the inning for his ninth save of the season, which sent UIW tumbling to its fifth loss in a row.

Ridge Rogers, Kyle Bergeron, Ryan Flores and Eddy Gonzalez all had two hits for the Cardinals, who remain in the race for a spot in next week’s SLC tournament.

UIW starting pitcher Bernie Martinez allowed four runs on seven hits in 8 and 2/3 innings.

He walked four and struck out seven.

Records

Sam Houston State 36-18, 22-6
Incarnate Word 29-24, 13-15

Incarnate Word starting pitcher Bernie Martinez struck out seven batters and pitch 8 2/3 innings against Sam Houston State. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word starting pitcher Bernie Martinez struck out seven batters and pitched 8 2/3 innings against Sam Houston State. – photo by Joe Alexander

Coming up

Sam Houston at UIW, 2 p.m. Friday
Sam Houston at UIW, 1 p.m. Saturday

Incarnate Word outfielder Ridge Rivers is congratulated by teammates after making a catch against the wall against Sam Houston State. - photo by Joe Alexander

Incarnate Word outfielder Ridge Rogers is congratulated by teammates after making a catch against the wall against Sam Houston State. – photo by Joe Alexander

UIW hosts Sam Houston State, hopes to clinch tournament berth

The University of Incarnate Word baseball team hopes to clinch its first trip to the Southland Conference tournament this week when it hosts Sam Houston State in a three-game series.

All games will be held at Sullivan Field.

Game 1 is set for tonight at 6:30, followed by a second game on Friday at 2 p.m. The regular-season finale for both teams is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

Sam Houston State is coming off a season of historic success.

Last spring, the Bearkats won the NCAA Lubbock Regional and advanced to face Florida State in the NCAA Super Regional at Tallahassee.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi wins, completes sweep against UIW

The Jackson Owens-fueled Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders turned back the Incarnate Word Cardinals 8-3 Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game sweep.

Owens beat UIW at the plate and on the mound.

He hit a double and a triple and drove in three runs for the Islanders, and he also pitched the last 2 and 2/3 innings, earning credit for the win.

The series was played in Corpus Christi at Chapman Field.

Records

Incarnate Word 29-23, 13-14
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 27-26, 11-16

Series notes

The Cardinals held the lead in all three games but failed to win any of them.

As a result, they fell into a tie for seventh with New Orleans leading into the final days of the SLC race.

Eight teams qualify for the SLC tournament.

UIW and New Orleans are tied for seventh at 13-14, followed by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Nicholls, both 11-16.

Each team has three games remaining.

Looking ahead

Hoping to secure its first SLC tournament berth, UIW plays at home Thursday, Friday and Saturday against first-place Sam Houston State.

UIW is hosting a team that is coming off historic success.

Last year, the Bearkats won the NCAA Lubbock Regional and advanced to the tournament’s Super Regional round.

At that point, Florida State knocked out Sam Houston State in two straight for a berth in the College World Series.

Recently, the Bearkats (35-17, 21-6) bounced back from a four-game losing streak to win two in a row against Houston Baptist.

Sam Houston State clinched at least a share of the SLC’s regular-season title with a 9-6 victory over Houston Baptist on Sunday.

Tournament time

The SLC tournament is scheduled May 23-26 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.

Ayala pitches Texas A&M-Corpus Christi over UIW

Freshman A.G. Ayala pitched the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders to a 4-3 victory Saturday over Incarnate Word at Chapman Field.

Ayala held visiting UIW to two runs on four hits in seven innings as A&M-Corpus Christi won its second game in a row in the Southland Conference series.

The Islanders will try for their first SLC series sweep of the season Sunday at 1 p.m.

Trailing by two runs, the Cardinals scored once off reliever Will Floyd in the eighth inning to trim the lead to 4-3.

But Cody LeCompte entered the game and got the last six outs for the save.

Tyler Miller was the hard-luck losing pitcher, throwing all eight innings for the Cardinals.

He gave up only two earned runs on seven hits and struck out nine.

Records

Incarnate Word 29-22, 13-13
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 26-26, 10-16

Series notes

With the loss, UIW will enter Sunday’s game in seventh place, one game ahead of eighth-place New Orleans, in the SLC race.

Eight teams qualify for the SLC postseason tournament.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is tied for 10th place, one game out of ninth and two games out of the eighth.

Both UIW and A&M-Corpus Christi have four SLC games remaining.

Team in transition

For the past four years, UIW has been ineligible for postseason play in the SLC because of its status as a team in transition to NCAA Division I.

This year, the Cardinals have moved past the transition, and would be eligible if they can just win some games down the stretch.

To complete the season schedule, they are scheduled to play three games at home next week with first-place Sam Houston State.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi edges UIW, 5-4, in 11 innings

Jackson Owens blooped a two-out hit down the right field line to drive in the winning run, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders defeated visiting Incarnate Word 5-4 in 11 innings Friday night in Southland Conference baseball.

With runners at second and third and UIW pitcher Luke Taggart trying to send the game to the 12th, Owens popped a ball into short right right.

When nobody from UIW could catch it before it hit the ground, Thomas Jeffries crossed home plate for the walk-off victory, keeping the Islanders’ SLC postseason hopes alive.

With the loss, UIW dropped into seventh place in the SLC standings, two games in the loss column out of eighth. A&M-Corpus Christi moved into a tie for 10th.

Eight teams qualify for the SLC tournament. UIW plays again in Corpus Christi on Saturday at 4 p.m. and on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Cardinals complete their regular-season conference schedule with three games at home next week against the first-place Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Records

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi — 25-26, 9-16
Incarnate Word — 29-21, 13-12

Hayden Cantrelle stroked five hits Friday night, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns defeated Texas State 7-4 in the Sun Belt Conference at San Marcos.

The teams play again Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Bobcats’ final home series this season.

Louisiana scored one run in the second inning and three in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.

In response, Texas State scored three times in the bottom of the fifth to pull within 4-3.

But the Bobcats could never gain the lead and ended up falling to 1-6 in their last seven games.

Texas State’s Nicholas Fraze (5-4) took the loss after exiting in the sixth inning trailing 5-3. He gave up 11 hits in five and 1/3.

Louisiana’s Colton Schmidt (7-0) pitched into the seventh inning for the victory.

Records

Louisiana — 29-21, 15-10
Texas State — 23-25-1, 11-14

Area Division I baseball teams play for momentum in stretch run

With two weeks left before conference tournament play commences, local and area NCAA Division I baseball teams will need to start winning to create momentum for championship runs. Here’s the breakdown:

Summary: In Conference USA, if you take your eye off the ball, you can get smacked in the nose. UTSA can’t afford to let that happen this week. The fifth-place Roadrunners (26-20, 12-11) are in good position to make the eight-team C-USA tournament. But if they have any postseason championship aspirations, they need win a road series this weekend against the last-place Old Dominion Monarchs (14-31, 6-17) and then follow suit next week against Charlotte (27-20, 13-11) at home.

Leaders

Batting: Bryan Arias (.340, 41 runs, 6 HR), Ben Brookover (.322, 7 HR, 46 RBI), Trent Bowles (.316, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 13 SB).

Pitching: Steven Dressler (5-2, 2.90), Chance Kirby (4-4, 2.94), Karan Patel (2-3, 4.47), Derek Craft (3-4, 1.79).

Summary: Incarnate Word (29-20, 13-11) is bouncing back in baseball at just the right time. Eligible to play in the Southland Conference tournament after a four-year wait in transition from NCAA Division II, the Cardinals are tied for fifth with a top-eight finish necessary to extend the season. UIW plays at Texas A&M Corpus Christi (24-26, 8-16) this weekend before hosting powerful Sam Houston State (33-16, 19-5) next week. Sam Houston is the SLC’s No. 1 program.

Leaders

Batting: Eddy Gonzales (.381), Ridge Rogers (.355), Kyle Bergeron (.343, 6 HR, 46 RBI).

Pitching: Cody Allen (2-3, 2.47, 5 saves), Luke Taggart (4-3, 3.87), Tyler Miller (3-3, 3.99).

Summary: It’s been a struggle lately for the Texas State Bobcats, who have lost five of their last six. But they remain in position to reach the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Texas State (23-24-1, 11-13) hosts Louisiana (28-21, 14-10) this weekend. The Bobcats will finish on the road against UT-Arlington (21-27, 11-13).

Leaders

Batting: Dalton Shuffield (.300), Jonathan Ortega (.294, 32 RBI), Derek Scheible (.234, 10 HR, 33 RBI).

Pitching: Nicholas Fraze (5-3, 2.93), Connor Reich (5-3, 3.45).

UTSA hits two homers, routs Incarnate Word, 11-1

After falling behind by a run early, the UTSA Roadrunners scored 11 in a row en route to an 11-1 victory Tuesday night over the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

Playing a non-conference game at home, UTSA pounded 15 hits in rolling to its second straight victory and its fifth in the last six outings.

The Roadrunners hit two homers, with Tony Beam connecting in the fifth and Ryan Stacy in the sixth.

Both were two-run shots. When Stacy clobbered a ball over the wall in right-center, UTSA had increased its lead to 8-1.

Eddy Gonzalez, Incarnate Word’s leading hitter, was held in check on a 1-for-4 performance.

Regardless, his batting average remained at an impressive .386.

Gonzalez doubled to lead off the second and ended up scoring UIW’s only run.

Records
UTSA 22-17
Incarnate Word 25-17

Coming up
UTSA — At Middle Tennessee, three games, Friday through Sunday (Conference USA)
Incarnate Word — At New Orleans, three games, Friday through Sunday (Southland Conference)

Stephen F. Austin builds early lead and cruises past UIW, 81-70


UIW center Devin Wyatt beats the SFA defense for a dunk in the first half.

Forward Leon Gilmore III produced 22 points and 11 rebounds Saturday afternoon as Stephen F. Austin claimed an 81-70 victory at the University of the Incarnate Word.

UIW freshman guard Augustine Ene sparked a rally that cut what had been a 20-point SFA lead near the end of the first half to six with 12:17 remaining in the game.

But SFA just had too much firepower and sent UIW reeling to its 16th straight loss.

“The guys could have folded, and it could have been a 30- or 40-point loss,” UIW coach Ken Burmeister said. “But they came back in the second half and gave us great effort.

“We made some threes and Augustine gave us some open-play ball where he was going downhill.

“He picked up the pace. (But) their size just hurts us. Gilmore and (AJ) Holyfield hurt us pretty good.”

With the loss, hard-luck UIW fell to 5-19 overall and 0-14 in the Southland Conference. SFA improved to 22-5 and 11-3.

The Cardinals have already been eliminated from contention to play in the SLC postseason tournament.

“I give Incarnate Word all the credit for battling back the way they did in the second half,” SFA coach Kyle Keller said. “We got some frustration in us on the defensive end. They just attacked us on the bounce and had some shots go in.

“Whether it’s a double-figure win or close to it, you’ll take that on the road anytime.”

Kevon Harris scored 22 and Shannon Bogues added 19 for the Lumberjacks, who have won four straight and six of seven.

For UIW, Shawn Johnson had 23 points and eight rebounds. Sam Burmeister chipped in with a season-high 18 points.

UIW notebook

Sidelined and not in uniform for UIW were center Konstantin Kulikof and guard Jorden Kite.

Kulikov was held out because of a compliance issue, a school spokesman said.

Burmeister declined comment on Kulikov’s situation. The coach said that Kite has a wrist injury.

UIW has been without starting point guard Jalin Hart for the past 12 games.

Hart, who averaged 15.9 points per game in 2016-17, is out for the season because of academics.


SFA’s Aaron Augustin takes a charge to force a turnover late in the first half of Saturday’s game at UIW.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallies past UIW, 56-51

UIWs Shawn Johnson splits the defense on a drive against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallied in the final eight minutes Saturday afternoon to claim a 56-51 victory over the slumping University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

Trailing by three with 8:32 remaining at UIW’s Convocation Center, the Islanders surged behind Joe Kilgore and Deion Rhea down the stretch to win their fourth straight.

Kilgore and Kareem South each scored 11 points apiece for A&M-Corpus Christi (8-12, 5-5 Southland Conference).

UIW (5-15, 0-10) has lost 12 straight, its longest losing streak since it moved up to NCAA Division I and joined the SLC in 2013.

Shawn Johnson and Charles Brown III each produced 14 points for the Cardinals.

Johnson also had nine rebounds and two blocks, two assists and one steal while playing all 40 minutes.

Center Konstantin Kulikov had four blocks and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

With eight games to play in the regular season, UIW hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday.

UIW forward Charles Brown III takes it strong to the basket against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. (Soobum Im / The University of the Incarnate Word)