Baseball: First-place Roadrunners to host the always-dangerous Charlotte 49ers

Mason Lytle. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Mason Lytle (No. 3) leads the American Athletic Conference in hitting at .405 entering a series against Charlotte tonight at Roadrunner Field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

In a development that should be welcomed by fans of the UTSA Roadrunners, slugging outfielder Cam Fisher is playing professional baseball this spring.

As the 131st pick in the draft last summer, he is now toiling in the Houston Astros’ organization, preparing to suit up in the coming days for the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in the High-A South Atlantic League.

Last year, Fisher put on a power show for the ages with the Charlotte 49ers, slamming 30 home runs, all while leading his collegiate team to the Conference USA postseason title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

His performance comes to mind today as the 49ers prepare to open a three-game series in San Antonio at Roadrunner Field.

Last year, Coach Robert Woodard’s team emerged as one of only a few to gain the upper hand on UTSA in head-to-head matchups. Charlotte won two of three against UTSA, splitting two in the regular season and then claiming an 11-2 victory on May 25 in Houston at the C-USA tournament.

It was a crushing season-ending loss for the Roadrunners, who had won 38 games and finished second in conference, only to bow out of the double-elimination tournament at 0-2.

The 49ers, who also had lost on opening day, used it as a springboard to win five straight in four days en route to claiming the C-USA postseason crown and the NCAA automatic bid.

A year later, the two teams meet again. The Roadrunners will host the 49ers in an American Athletic Conference series opener that starts at 6 tonight. Tomorrow, they’ll play at 2 p.m., followed by a Sunday matinee that will get underway at noon.

I didn’t get a chance to chat with any of the Roadrunners this week, but I doubt that the last game of last season is at the top of anyone’s mind right now.

In fact, Matt King and Caleb Hill are probably going to be the only two position players on the field for UTSA tonight who also started in the field against Charlotte last May in Houston, at Reckling Park.

But most interesting, to me, is the contrast in what is happening with the two ball clubs right now, balanced against their recent history.

From the historical perspective, Charlotte has the edge, with two NCAA tournament appearances (2021 and 2023) in the past four seasons. UTSA, meanwhile, hasn’t had an NCAA trip in 11 years.

Under Coach Pat Hallmark, the Roadrunners have won 38 games in each of the past two seasons, only to come up short of the national tournament each time.

Now, here we are, with the 49ers incoming.

In the here and now, the Roadrunners are rolling, having won six games in a row and seven of eight, including a two-of-three series victory at home over powerhouse East Carolina and a three-game road sweep last week at Tulane.

UTSA (17-12, 5-1) shares the lead in the American with Wichita State, while Charlotte (13-16, 3-3) is showing signs of progress but hasn’t quite put it all together just yet. Even though the 49ers won two of three at home last week against the South Florida Bulls, their record over the past months indicates some unresolved issues.

For Charlotte, a six-game losing streak replete with problems in scoring runs ended only on March 24 with a 13-1 road win at Florida Atlantic.

At the same time, even without a Cam Fisher, an Austin Knight, a Jack Dragum or any of the other departed standouts that made the 49ers so dangerous last season, I have a feeling that they will show up at Roadrunner Field tonight ready to play and do damage.

My forecast? I don’t know who will win the series, but I do have a feeling that a highly-competitive three days of college baseball is looming.

Coming up

Tonight: Charlotte at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday: Charlotte at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday: Charlotte at UTSA, noon


Charlotte 13-16, 3-3
UTSA 17-12, 5-1

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