Aiden Baumann delivers the winning hit, and the UTSA Roadrunners celebrate a 2-1 victory and a doubleheader sweep of UT Arlington. – Video by UTSA athletics
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
On a cold and blustery February afternoon in San Antonio, pinch hitter Aiden Baumann’s two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning scored the winning run Saturday in a 2-1 victory for the UTSA Roadrunners over the UT Arlington Mavericks.
With the win, UTSA swept a doubleheader on the second day of the season. UT Arlington won the season opener Friday night, holding on in the ninth inning to take a 10-9 decision.
In response, the Roadrunners bounced back to claim victory in the first game of the double dip Saturday, winning 7-2 in seven innings. After a short break to catch their breath, the two teams played again, this time in a nine-inning contest.
Zach Royse pumps his fist after striking out the final batter he faced. UTSA beat UT Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader. – Photo by Joe Alexander
Baumann, a part-time player in his first appearance of the season and in only the 10th appearance of his career, delivered with a hit to right field that ended the day’s proceedings, giving UTSA a 2-1 edge in the season-opening series.
The two teams will play the finale of the four-game set on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Roadrunner Field.
UTSA coach Pat Hallmark praised his players’ mental toughness in setting aside Friday night’s disappointment and responding with solid play, on a day with difficult weather conditions, to claim their first two wins of the season.
“It was a better day,” Hallmark said. “We just played tougher … You know, this game is not easy. Failure is part of it. Being able to fail and turn around and make the next play. All those little things.”
Someone asked Hallmark in the postgame about his team’s resilience.
“I said we were resilient today, but it’s (only) three games (into the season),” he said. “We need to be resilient 30 games into it. I hope we’re still as resilient (then) as we were today, and I think we will be. It’s a good sign.”
The first game of the day was highlighted by a few standout defensive plays, including one that featured second baseman Isaiah Walker leaping to catch a line drive and flipping the ball to second base to double off a runner, effectively taking away a couple of runs while ending the inning.
Third baseman Matt King also hit the highlight reel on a foul pop up that came down just outside the field of play. King dashed toward the falling spheroid on its descent, collided with a waist-high wall and made the catch while falling into an area where fans usually sit.
UTSA’s Ty Tilson takes a rip during an at bat in Game 2 .of Saturday’s doubleheader. – Photo by Joe Alexander
Starting pitcher Ruger Riojas earned the victory in allowing two runs in 5 and 2/3 innings of work. The sophomore from Wimberley struck out six while walking none.
In the second game, which started a little after 3 p.m., players, coaches and fans were fortunate that temperature rose into the high 40s on a sunny afternoon. But the wind whipped in from the northeast for the entire game, blowing so hard that it kept the flags fluttering constantly.
As for fans seated around the ball park in the shade, some huddled under blankets.
Others moved into sunny areas as the shadows extended. By the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, the rightfield berm became a popular gathering spot. Fans stood with hands plunged into coat pockets, watching as both teams moved ominously toward what looked like it might be a 1-1 tie going into extra innings.
The Roadrunners, however, had other ideas. With lefthander Austin Wallace entering the game in the ninth for Arlington, UTSA’s Mark Henning opened the inning with a line shot that got past third baseman Tate Bethel and down the line.
Arlington leftfielder Ryan Ellis tracked it down and fired into second base, but by that time, Henning had a full head of steam, and he dove into second base head first — well ahead of the throw — for a double.
At that point, Wallace retired James Taussig and Ty Tilson on fly ball outs, with fans gasping on each play.
Taussig’s line drive to right field might have been one of the hardest hit balls all afternoon. It was a rocket. But it went straight to rightfielder Tyson Pointer for the first out. Tilson followed by stroking a ball into right center that looked like it had a chance to fall, only to have centerfielder Garrison Berkley come sprinting toward it to make a sliding catch for out No. 2.
Catcher Broc Parmer worked nine innings behind the plate in the second game of a doubleheader. – Photo by Joe Alexander
From there, Hallmark elected to send Baumann, a right-handed batter, to the plate to pinch hit for the left-side hitting Dalton Porter.
Baumann came through with only his third hit in a UTSA uniform to win the game. Fittingly, when he sliced it down the rightfield line, some drama ensued. Pointer ran hard and dove for it. Just as the ball hit into his glove, it popped out onto the grass.
As Henning rounded third, raced for the plate and touched home for the winning run, one gaggle of Arlington fans seemed transfixed on the nearly spectacular catch that wasn’t made. With the ball on the turf, they fell silent. Meanwhile, UTSA fans celebrated, and Roadrunners players dashed out of the dugout and onto the field to mob Baumann.
Baumann said it was almost like a blessing that the wind was blowing in so hard.
“If the wind’s not blowing like that, the ball is probably caught,” he said. “When the wind’s blowing in like that, there’s always a chance.”
Baumann said the walkoff game winner was his second in the last calendar year. The first came last summer when he was playing summer ball in Jefferson City, Mo. His hit on Sunday had a different feel.
“This feels great,” said Baumann, who once played for the New Braunfels High School Unicorns. “We’re really close as a team. I know we’ve got a lot of new guys. But we’ve been around each other since the fall, working hard together. This means a lot for this team.”
Zach Royse and Braylon Owens pitched well to hold Arlington down. Royse worked six innings and allowed only a run in the fifth inning. In the meantime, he kept Arlington batters off balance, allowing only three hits while striking out six and walking three. Owens, meanwhile, yielded two hits in three scoreless innings to earn the win in relief. He struck out three and walked one.
Braylon Owens pitched three scoreless innings of relief to earn the win in a 2-1 victory over UT Arlington. – Photo by Joe Alexander
UTSA’s defense late in the game was solid, particularly first baseman James Taussig, who deftly dug out a couple of balls on throws from the infield.
UT Arlington 1-2
UT Arlington at UTSA, Sunday at 1 p.m.
UTSA at Tarleton State, Tuesday at 4 p.m.