(Updated with late Louisiana Tech-Old Dominion game)
UTSA’s Daniel Garza, shown in a May 6 home game, pitched eight innings in relief Saturday as the Roadrunners clinched a spot in the CUSA tournament championship game – file photo.
UTSA is headed for the Conference USA tournament championship game – and probably the NCAA tournament as well.
The Roadrunners stayed unbeaten in the conference tournament with an 11-2 beatdown of top-seeded Southern Miss on Saturday afternoon.
UTSA will play Louisiana Tech in the tournament title game Sunday at 1 p.m. in Hattiesburg, Miss. Louisiana Tech beat Old Dominion 8-7 in Saturday’s late game to advance.
The Roadrunners have 11 victories this season over nationally ranked teams – including two this week against 14th ranked Southern Miss.
UTSA was projected to need two victories in the conference tournament to have a good shot at an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Roadrunners not only have three wins this week, they are one win away from winning the CUSA tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark was asked in a postgame interview on ESPN+ if UTSA had done enough to earn an NCAA tournament berth. He answered unequivocally.
“Yes, sure. No doubt,” Hallmark said. “Look who we’re beating. That’s an unbelievable team. We come into their place and beat them twice. Look at everybody else we beat. We beat Stanford, TCU. We beat everybody they put in front of us. So yes, no doubt.”
UTSA took an early lead on Garrett Poston’s two-run homer in the second inning. They added two runs in the third and took control with a six-run outburst in the top of the eighth.
For the second time in the tournament, the Roadrunners got a big relief performance from a pitcher who has experience as a starter. Daniel Garza entered the game in the second inning and held Southern Miss scoreless until the seventh.
Garza, a starter or longer-innings pitcher most of the season, went in with a runner on base and no outs in the second. He got Southern Miss to hit into double plays in the second and third innings. He finished the game, allowing two runs in eight innings and throwing 113 pitches.
Garrett Poston, shown earlier in the season, hit a two-run homer Saturday to give UTSA a 2-0 lead. – file photo
UTSA got the early 2-0 advantage when Poston hit a home run with Josh Killeen on base in the second inning. It was the second blast of the season for the sophomore from League City.
UTSA added on two runs in the top of the third. Jonathan Tapia led off with a walk and Leyton Barry singled to second. An error left runners on second and third with no outs. Shane Sirdashney’s sacrifice fly brought in Tapia to make it 3-0. Killeen’s one out bunt scored Leyton from third to make it 4-0.
Southern Miss scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 4-2. UTSA answered forcefully. Ian Bailey walked and Poston, King, Tapia, Barry, Sirdashney and Flores strung together hits in the top of the eighth as the Roadrunners scored six runs to pull away.
UTSA, the top hitting team in CUSA for the season, finished the game with 15 hits.
“It’s high,” Hallmark said of the Roadrunners’ confidence at the plate. “But we’re a pretty good hitting team. We led the league in average and some other stuff. Top three in pretty much everything. They’ve been confident all year. They’re good baseball players.”
Southern Miss 43-16
– UTSA had pitchers turn in eight or more innings in relief in two of its three games in the tournament. Luke Malone went nine innings and 107 pitches on Thursday and Garza went eight innings and 113 pitches on Saturday.
“Both of them have guts and they’re pretty good pitchers too,” Hallmark said. “We love their guts.”
– UTSA got production from the bottom of the order. Poston batted eighth and had two hits including his home run. King batted ninth and had two hits and two RBI.
– Flores stayed hot at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. He batted .684 (13-for-19) in five games against Southern Miss this season:
May 13 – 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB
May 14 – 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
May 15 – 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, HR
May 27 – 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
May 28 – 3-4, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 BB
Total – 13-19, 8 RBI, 5 R, 5 BB, 3 HR
Game 1: Old Dominion 18, Middle Tennessee 7 (7 innings)
Game 2: Louisiana Tech 4, Charlotte 0
Game 3: Southern Miss 4, UAB 3
Game 4: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic, postponed until Thursday, 9 a.m.
Game 4: UTSA 6, Florida Atlantic 4
Game 5: Charlotte 22, Middle Tennessee 0
Game 6: Louisiana Tech 7, Old Dominion 2
Game 7: Florida Atlantic 11, UAB 1 (7 innings)
Game 8: Southern Miss vs. UTSA, postponed until Friday, 10 a.m.
Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6
Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4
Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0
Game 11: Old Dominion 9, Louisiana Tech 6, 13 innings
Game 12: UTSA 11, Southern Miss 2 (Southern Miss eliminated)
Game 13: Louisiana Tech 8, Old Dominion 7 (Old Dominion eliminated)
Game 15: Championship – UTSA vs. Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m.