Bullpen-rich UTSA holds off Western Kentucky to clinch a C-USA home series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Right now, Pat Hallmark has more aces than a card shark in poker.

Just when you think he’s in trouble in a baseball game, the coach of the UTSA Roadrunners looks down to the bullpen and motions for another pitcher to get loose.

Most of the time, the move serves to frustrate the opposing team.

Hallmark was up to his old tricks again Saturday. His starter didn’t make it through the third inning, so he called on freshman Ruger Riojas.

Riojas, Daniel Shafer and Simon Miller combined for 6 and 1/3 innings of relief on a hot and muggy afternoon, helping the Roadrunners hold off the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 5-4.

As a result, UTSA (22-6, 7-1) won its first two in a three-game home series to maintain its hold on first place in Conference USA.

Western Kentucky (16-12, 2-6) battled hard and held a 2-1 lead through the middle of the fourth inning.

But after UTSA scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, an outburst highlighted by Josh Killeen’s two-out, two-run single, the Roadrunners never trailed again.

Though the Roadrunners have scored C-USA series victories against FAU, Rice and Western Kentucky, their ride hasn’t been without its bumps.

For instance, coming into the weekend, a once red-hot offense cooled off a bit and UTSA lost three of five overall, all on the road, including non-conference losses at UT-Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The offense remains in something of a funk, having struck for only four hits in a 3-2 victory Friday night and six more on Saturday.

Thanks to the pitching, though, UTSA has a chance to go for the sweep tomorrow.

“We’re kind of a little displaced with the offense at the moment,” Killeen said. “Hitting comes and goes. It kind of comes in waves. So it’s good to take the series already.”

Riojas (3-0) pitched three innings, yielding single runs in the fourth and in the sixth, to earn the victory.

More importantly to the big picture, he remained undefeated in his first season of college baseball out of Wimberley High School.

“He’s a great pitcher for us,” Killeen said. “We saw it in the fall. He has a really good fastball that kind of takes off out of his hand. Mixes with a pretty good breaker that he hits for strikes.

We like that. And he also can throw his change up pretty well, too. It’s also hard. It’s not a floating changeup. But, he’s got a lot of confidence. We knew that from the start.”

Riojas just looks comfortable on the mound. Even though he entered in the top of the third with bases loaded in a 1-1 game, the 5-foot-11 righthander escaped unscathed by getting a ground ball to end the inning.

“Just wanted to do my job,” he said, “throw strikes and hit my spots as best I could each and every pitch.”

Western Kentucky touched him for four hits as he worked into the sixth inning, including a solo home run by Ty Batusich leading off the fourth.

But he didn’t walk anyone, which has become a trademark. Riojas has walked only five while striking out 22 in 21 innings this season.

His earned run average has increased over his past few outings against Rice and WKU, respectively, but it’s still a more than respectable 3.00 for the season.

“Honestly, I think it’s going really good (for me),” Riojas said, “trusting my stuff, trusting my defense. Just letting my body work as it should … I love it. Just happy to be out there.”

Teammates say Riojas has played quite a bit of baseball in his career, which accounts for his poise in tough situations.

“It’s a lot different than high school,” he said. “I played at a small 4A in the area. There wasn’t as much competition as there is here. Every hitter you face here is good. Staying on top of that I think (is important).”

It also helps that when he gets in trouble, as he did in the sixth when he yielded a two-out single and then hit a batter, he had Shafer to come in behind him.

Though Bret Blomquist greeted Shafer with an RBI double down the line, that was the extent of the damage. With runners at second and third, Andrew Delaney popped up in the infield to end the threat, leaving UTSA with a 5-3 lead going into the late innings.

Shafer retired three straight in the seventh and three of four in the eighth, keeping WKU off the board in each inning.

In the ninth, Shafer was about the close out the game, but a throwing error by first baseman Sammy Diaz on a potential double play ball loaded the bases and kept the door open for the Hilltoppers.

Aidan Gilroy responded with a fly ball that brought in a run for the final 5-4 margin. But with dangerous Drew Reckart coming to the plate, Hallmark didn’t want to take any chances. He called for Miller, who is enjoying one of the best seasons statistically in the nation.

Miller struck out Reckart on three pitches for his fifth save of the season and his second in two days. On the last pitch, WKU’s runs batted in leader was caught looking, as a Miller slider bit down to catch the inside corner.

“Sometimes his slider likes to break hard, and then sometimes it kind of sits,” Killeen said. “It’s hard to hit if you don’t know which slider is coming. That was pretty impressive by him, that last (at bat).”

Records

Western Kentucky 16-12, 2-6
UTSA 22-6, 7-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

Notable

With the series finale scheduled Sunday afternoon, the Roadrunners have the best record after 28 games (22-6) in school history, one game ahead of the 1994 team (21-7).

For perspective, Coach Jimmy Shankle’s ’94 team was 12-3 at home and 9-4 on the road in its opening 28. This year, by contrast, Hallmark’s fourth UTSA team has played a home-heavy schedule. UTSA is 17-3 at Roadrunner Field and 5-3 on the road …

Catchers normally don’t bat leadoff, but Josh Killeen isn’t paying attention to that. With Hallmark tweaking the lineup, the senior from Reagan High School is just trying to make hard contact.

He’s hit in the No. 1 hole the past two games. On Friday night, Killeen went one for three and scored a run. On Saturday, he went two for four and drove in two. In the process, he boosted his batting average to .362, which is No. 2 on the team.

“I enjoy the position,” Killeen said. “I think it’s great. I’m just sticking with my approach. Not trying to do anything more, anything less. A lot of people like to think, ‘Oh, you get to see more pitches.’ I just like to see a pitch and hammer it.” …

Simon Miller, in 12 appearances this season, has constructed a 6-0 win-loss record, with an 0.59 ERA. At the start of the week, he led the nation with an 0.64 ERA and was also tied for the national lead with the six victories. He’s had saves in UTSA’s two home games this weekend, boosting his season total to five.

JB’s video replay

Diaz reflects on a Colorado mining-town, baseball bash after homering in UTSA’s 3-2 victory

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday at Roadrunner Field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

After UTSA pitchers Luke Malone and Simon Miller combined to shut down the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3-2 Friday night at Roadrunner Field, first baseman Sammy Diaz stole the show in postgame interviews, telling tales of his participation last summer in a mountain-top, long-ball competition in a Colorado mining town.

The subject of his trip to the mountains came up after Diaz smashed a titanic solo home run that helped the Roadrunners remain in first place in Conference USA.

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz circles the bases after his fourth-inning solo home run. It was his third of the season and his second in three games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not too long after he hit a fourth-inning blast well over a 405-foot sign perched atop a two-tiered section of fencing in center field, giving UTSA the one-run lead that would stand up for the rest of the game, a Roadrunners’ fan on the concourse said he saw a news story online about the long-ball event held last August in Victor, Colo.

Diaz, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior from Palm Desert, Calif., confirmed after the game that he competed in the event and said he took second place with a ball that he hit 531 feet.

“It was at a community field in an old mining town, a super-old mining town,” Diaz said. “It was really cool. It was really good to go out there. Super nice. It was like, historic, one of the oldest cities in Colorado. They’ve got a bunch of gold mines out there. We were hitting on top of a mountain (in a field). There was no fence. I hit mine over City Hall. I hit mine into downtown.”

Located at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet on the southwest side of Pikes Peak, the town of Victor harkens back to the 1890s Gold Rush era.

Diaz, for one, has a few stories to tell about his trip.

The event got a little bit wild at one point when one of the competitors lost control of the bat, which flipped from the tee area out into an area with some parked cars. Diaz said “it went into the news reporter’s car, right into his window. I don’t know what happened with that, with the insurance or what. But, it made for a good video.”

Like a raucous competition in an old mining town, the fortunes for the UTSA baseball team have been mostly golden all season. The one-run victory over the Hilltoppers in the first game of a three-game C-USA series was no different. Malone pitched seven innings to pick up his third victory of the season against two losses.

Miller, one of the top pitchers in the nation statistically, worked a scoreless eighth and ninth for his fourth save. The Hilltoppers allowed a few opportunities to win the game get away from them, most notably their last at bat when Kirk Liebert led off with a double.

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings and got the save. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings to earn his fourth save. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Ricardo Leonett followed with a well-hit ball to center, which allowed Liebert to take third. But with one out and the potential tying run 90 feet away, Miller steadied himself and closed the door on the visiting team from Bowling Green, Ky.

First, Ty Batusich smashed a ball to the left side. UTSA shortstop Matt King made a nifty pickup on a short hop and fired to first. With two down, Andrew Delaney came to the plate but was no match for Miller, who fanned him to clinch the team’s 21st victory of the season.

It’s the most wins for a UTSA team before April 1 since the 1994 squad went 24-9 through the end of March in 1994.

“This definitely feels good,” Miller said. “We’re playing good baseball right now. As long as we continue to play it, we’ll continue to beat teams. So, it’s nice. It’s really nice.”

Coming into Friday’s series opener, UTSA had been off its game, as much as a team with a 21-6 record and a 6-1 mark in conference can be off. On a five-game road trip, the Roadrunners went 2-3, losing at UT Rio Grande Valley, winning two of three at Rice, and then losing at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.

There was no panic at practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I don’t think it was any different,” Miller said. “We knew what we had to do. That was just to get to work and focus and be better next time out. I think that’s what we did.”

UTSA starter Luke Malone worked seven innings and struck out eight. He allowed two runs, both of them earned, on six hits and a walk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said it’s definitely a confidence boost for the team when Malone starts a game and Miller finishes.

“Luke is just so steady,” Hallmark said. “Throws all his pitches for strikes. He’s a wonderful competitor. He checks every box, you know, and then to have Simon. Simon has those tough low breaking pitches that are really hard to get off the ground. It’s hard to get extra bases (off him).”

Hallmark said Liebert’s double into the right-center gap in the ninth was only the second extra-base hit off Miller all season.

“That makes the other team have to get multiple hits,” the coach said. “Generally they need to get three hits to beat him. Simon, his stuff is really elite. He’s ready for pro ball. And Luke, it’s the nature of the mixing of the pitches and the junk-yard dog that he is.”

For the season, Malone has a 3-2 win-loss record with a career-low 2.00 earned run average. In his last four starts, he is 3-0. Miller, along with his four saves, is 6-0 with an 0.59 ERA. The 6-foot-2 junior from Canton has struck out 44 and walked only seven in 30 and 1/3 innings.

Records

Western Kentucky 16-11, 2-5
UTSA 21-6, 6-1

Coming up

WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

Notable

After receiving the invitation to hit in the long-ball competition from event organizer Earnie Granville, Diaz participated with YouTube stars such as Portland-based Will Taylor of the Baseball Bat Bros, Eric “The King of JUCO” Sim, and Jeremy “The Swingman” Nowak, according to a story published in the Pike’s Peak Courier.

The newspaper reported that competitors were trying to break a Guinness world record.

According to Guinness, Babe Ruth holds the record for longest home run in a Major League game, hitting one 575 feet for the New York Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in July 1921. The longest balls hit in Colorado reportedly traveled 534, 531, 515 and 508 feet. The Pike’s Peak Courier reported that Diaz had the 531-foot shot.

Asked about Diaz’s long ball in Colorado, Miller smiled, joking that he wasn’t sure.

“I’ve heard about it,” Miller said. “I don’t know much about it. You know, in Colorado, the air is thinner, so the ball flies farther. So, we don’t know how true it is.”

To that, Diaz said, “These guys always make fun of me. They say I need the wind to hit home runs. It’s not my fault when I hit ’em when the wind’s blowing out.” The home run Diaz hit against Western Kentucky, based on its trajectory, likely traveled 420 feet or farther. It was Diaz’s third home run of the season and his second in two games.

JB’s video replay

UTSA aims for victory No. 21 tonight against Western Kentucky

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Sitting in first place in the Conference USA baseball race, the UTSA Roadrunners host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers tonight at 6. UTSA and WKU also will play Saturday and Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game series. All games will be played on campus at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA (20-6, 5-1 C-USA) has won its first two series in conference play, sweeping the FAU Owls at home on March 17-19 and then winning two of three at Rice University in Houston last weekend. WKU (16-10, 2-4) lost two of three at Middle Tennessee before dropping two of three at home last week against Louisiana Tech.

Winning games at a rate that is slightly off a school-record pace, UTSA has notched 20 victories by the end of March for only the second time in program history. In 1994, UTSA started out 24-9 before April 1, going on to finish the season 39-18. The ’94 team reached the NCAA tournament, playing in a regional at Austin.

After sweeping FAU two weeks ago, UTSA had won 10 straight for an 18-3 record on the season. Since then, the Roadrunners have cooled off a bit, losing 5-3 at UT Rio Grande Valley on March 21, losing in the middle of the three games at Rice, 13-8, and then falling at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 8-2 on Tuesday night.

Baylor transfer Antonio Valdez leads the team with a .412 batting average, eight home runs and 40 RBI. Caleb Hill (.363) ranks second on the team in batting average but hasn’t played since he was hit by a pitch on March 24 in the first game of the series at Rice.

Pitcher Luke Malone (2-2, 1.89 ERA) has been the team’s Friday night starter, followed by Uli Quiroga (4-0, 4.35) on Saturdays. Simon Miller (6-0, 0.64) leads the staff in victories and earned run average. Miller has 41 strikeouts in 28 and 1/3 innings. Daniel Shafer (2.35 ERA) leads the team with five saves.

Records

Western Kentucky 16-10, 2-4
UTSA 20-6, 5-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky University at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

New twists for Texas’ best in baseball: Belt to the Blue Jays, Eovaldi to the Rangers, Raley to the Mets

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With the Major League Baseball season starting on Thursday, I’m working to compile vignettes on athletes from the state of Texas who likely will make their way onto opening-day rosters. The list will include players who played their high school or college baseball in the state. Here is a list of the players, in alphabetical order — likely with more to come as I continue with the research:

Tyler Alexander/LHP/Detroit Tigers/Chicago native/Southlake Carroll HS/TCU – The 28-year-old Alexander is scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen for the Tigers. He’s pitched 95 games, with 42 starts, over the past four seasons in the majors. Alexander is 9-22 with a 4.36 earned run average. He was drafted by the Tigers on the second round in 2015.

Brandon Belt/INF/Toronto Blue Jays/Nacogdoches/Lufkin HS/University of Texas – Signed in January a reported one-year, $9.3 million free-agent contract with the Jays of the American League after spending 12 seasons and winning two World Series rings with the Giants in the NL. Expected to play with the Jays both as a DH and at first base behind all star Vlad Guerrero. Helped lead the Texas Longhorns to a runner-up finish at the 2009 College World Series. Played for UT coach Augie Garrido from 2008 to 2009.

Cavan Biggio/UTILITY/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston St.Thomas HS/University of Notre Dame – Signed in January a one-year $2.8 million contract. The son of former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio is expected to be utilized as a spot starter in both the infield and outfield. Starting his fifth year in the majors with a .228 average and a .740 OPS. Biggio helped lead St. Thomas to the 2011 TAPPS Class 5A state championship.

Matt Carpenter/DH-1B/San Diego Padres/Galveston/Missouri City Elkins HS/TCU — The 37-year-old Carpenter is expected to be the Padres’ left-handed bat in a platoon with right-side swinging Nelson Cruz. He’ll also play first base as the former 13th-round draft pick out of TCU enters his 13th season in the major leagues. Carpenter has batted .263 for his career with 1,192 hits. He’s also slugged 170 homers, including 36 in his best year with the Cardinals in 2018. Last year with the Yankees, Carpenter showed he could still play, hitting 15 homers in 47 games.

JT Chargois/RHP/Miami Marlins/Sulphur, La., HS and Rice University – Traded from the Rays to the Marlins in the offseason. Expected to pitch out of the bullpen. The righthander is 12-6 with a 3.54 ERA in a career playing for the Twins, Dodgers, Rays and now the Marlins. In college, Chargois pitched three seasons for a Wayne Graham-coached Rice team that reached the NCAA tournament each year from 2010-2012.

Hunter Dozier/INF/Kansas City Royals/Wichita Falls/Denton HS/Stephen F. Austin University β€” Projected as a starter at third base alongside shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr., another Texan, from Colleyville Heritage High School. Dozier is a seventh-year MLB player, all with the Royals. Revamped his swing in efforts to rekindle success from 2019, when he hit 26 home runs. Drafted eighth overall on the first round in 2013 out of Stephen F. Austin. In his senior year at SFA, he was Southland Conference Player of the Year and a finalist for the Brooks Wallace award for best shortstop.

Nathan Eovaldi/RHP/Texas Rangers/Houston native, attended Alvin HS. — Projected to pitch second in the starting rotation for the Rangers. One of the Rangers’ top offseason acquisitions after he spent the past five seasons with the Red Sox. A former opening-day starter for Sox. Entering his 12th year in the majors with a 67-68 record and a 4.16 ERA. Drafted in the 11th round in 2008, by the LA Dodgers, out of Alvin High School.

Kyle Finnegan/RHP/Washington Nationals/Houston-area Kingwood HS/Texas State University β€” Projected to pitch out of the Nationals’ bullpen as he starts his fourth season in MLB. Led team last year with 14 holds and finished second with 11 saves and a career-high 70 strikeouts. In his career, he has forged a 12-13 record with a 3.43 earned run average. Played for Coach Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2011-13.

Paul Goldschmidt/1B/St. Louis Cardinals/The Woodlands HS/Texas State – An eighth-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Goldschmidt has become one of the best in baseball. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player last year and started this spring for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. In 12 major league seasons, he’s made seven All-Star game appearances and has hit .295 with 315 homers and 1,042 RBIs. Played for Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2007-09.

Randal Grichuk/OF/Colorado Rockies/Lamar Consolidated HS – Grichuk is in his second season with the Rockies and his 10th in the majors. He’s battled a sports hernia during spring training but is expected to be ready to play next month. He’s hit .247 for his career, with 175 homers. Spent four seasons each with the Cardinals and with the Blue Jays before coming to Colorado last spring in a trade. Grichuk is a former 2009 first-round draft pick out of Lamar Consolidated High School.

Trent Grisham/OF/San Diego Padres/Burleson/Richland, North Richland Hills HS β€” Broke into the big leagues in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Started in the outfield the past three seasons with the San Diego Padres, winning gold gloves as a centerfielder in 2020 and 2022. Trying to bounce back offensively after hitting .184 last year. Selected in the first round, 15th overall, out of high school in 2015 by the Brewers. Played in Triple A for the San Antonio Missions in 2019 before his call up to the majors. Hit for the cycle in his last game before getting the call to the big leagues.

Darick Hall/INF/Philadelphia Phillies/Hereford, Ariz./Dallas Baptist University — The 27-year-old Hall is expected to start at first base for the defending National League champions in the wake of an injury to Rhys Hoskins. Hall started last season at Triple A Lehigh Valley and played well, hitting 28 HR with 88 RBIs before getting called up to the Phillies in June. He played in 41 games for the Phillies and hit .250 with nine homers. Hall was drafted in the 14th round by the Phillies in 2016 out of Dallas Baptist.

Ke’Bryan Hayes/3B/Pittsburgh Pirates/Tomball Concordia Lutheran HS – Hit .333 in the spring and was making hard contact consistently. Starting his fourth season in the majors, all with the Pirates. Played 136 games last year, his career high. He’s a career .261 hitter. Drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2015 with 32nd pick on the first round.

Taylor Hearn/LHP/Texas Rangers/Royse City HS, in Texas; San Jacinto College, Oklahoma Baptist – Hearn’s home of Royse City is 50 miles northeast of Globe Life Field, the home of the Rangers, with whom he has pitched for parts of the past four seasons. Hearn, the son of Clem Hearn, a former professional rodeo star, is 12-15 with a 4.95 earned run average in his career, all with the Rangers.

Corey Julks/OF/Houston Astros/Friendswood/Clear Brook HS/University of Houston — The Astros announced Tuesday that Julks made the team as a fourth outfielder. Julks hit .270 with 31 homers and 89 RBIs last year at Triple-A Sugar Land. Julks was an all-Conference USA player for coach Todd Whitting at the University of Houston in 2017.

Josh Jung/INF/Texas Rangers/San Antonio MacArthur HS/Texas Tech — Expected to start at third base on opening day for the Rangers. Hit a home run in the first at-bat of his major league debut last September. He went on to struggle a bit with a .204 average, but he did slam five homers in 26 games. Played for coach Tom Alfieri at MacArthur and for Tim Tadlock at Texas Tech. Made All-American and played in the College World Series for Tech in 2018 and 2019. Drafted by the Rangers in 2019 with the eighth overall choice on the first round.

Clayton Kershaw/LHP/Los Angeles Dodgers/Highland Park HS – Veteran left-handed pitcher signed a one-year contract for $20 million, meaning he will pitch for the Dodgers for a 16th season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and nine-time National League all star is 197-87 with a 2.48 ERA in his brilliant career. He was 12-3, 2.28 last season. Kershaw was selected seventh overall in the 2006 draft by the Dodgers out of Highland Park High School in the Dallas area.

Corey Kluber/RHP/Boston Red Sox/Coppell High School in Texas/Stetson University – Kluber, who will turn 37 on April 10, is expected to be in the Red Sox’s starting pitcher on opening day. He pitched in 2009 and 2010 with the Double A San Antonio Missions and has spent the last 12 years in the majors. Kluber claimed Cy Young Awards with the Cleveland Indians in 2014 and 2017. Bouncing back physically from a few injury-plagued seasons, Kluber pitched 164 innings last year with the Rays. He finished 10-10. Kluber is 113-71 in his career.

Shea Langeliers/C/Oakland A’s/Portland, Ore. native/Keller, Tx, HS/Baylor University – After showing enough to satisfy management in the second half of his rookie season last summer, Langeliers appears poised to become the A’s starter behind the plate. He hit .218 with six home runs and 22 RBI. It’s been written that the 25-year-old probably won’t make people forget the departed Sean Murphy, but officials are apparently betting that the A’s can make it work. Langeliers played for Rob Stramp at Keller HS and for Steve Rodriguez at Baylor. He was the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, out of Baylor, by the Braves.

Nick Lodolo/LHP/Cincinnati Reds/Laverne HS, Calif./TCU – Lodolo will enter his second season in MLB as a starter. Likely he is the Reds’ No. 2 starter behind Hunter Greene. Last season as a rookie, he ranked among the National League rookie pitching leaders in ERA (4th, 3.66), wins (T5th, 4) and strikeouts (3rd, 131). Played at TCU for three seasons under Jim Schlossnagle and pitched on NCAA tournament teams in 2017 and 2019. Lodolo went to the Reds as the seventh overall pick in the draft in 2019.

Lucas Luetge/LHP/Atlanta Braves/Brenham/Bellville HS/Rice University – Luetge, at 36, will pitch out of the Braves’ bullpen. Dispatched from the majors to the minors in 2015, he toiled there for most of seven seasons before getting a break with the Yankees. Wearing the pinstripes, he went 8-6 over the last two seasons with an ERA of around 2.70. In December, the Yankees traded him to the Braves for SS Caleb Durbin and RHP Indigo Diaz. His pro career began in 2008 when he was taken in the 21st round by the Brewers out of Rice.

Hoby Milner/LHP/Milwaukee Brewers/Dallas/Fort Worth Paschal HS/University of Texas – The 32-year-old Milner, coming off his best year in the big leagues, will pitch out of the bullpen for the Brewers. He’s has played for four teams in the last six years, pitching in 160 games. He’s 3-3 with a 4.31 earned run average. Milner has pitched for the Brewers the past two seasons, and last year he established a career high with 67 appearances. He had a 3-3 record, a 3.76 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Milner was drafted in the seventh round out of UT in 2012 by the Phillies.

A.J. Minter/LHP/Atlanta Braves/Tyler/Brook Hill School in Bullard/Texas A&M – Minter is expected to help anchor the Braves’ bullpen once again. He’s pitched six previous seasons, all with the Braves, and has posted 25 saves and 84 holds during that time. His record is 16-19, and his ERA is 3.24. He’s also made 17 postseason appearances, including three in the 2021 World Series. Minter played for Coach Terry Pirtle at the Brook Hill School in East Texas. Played for Rob Childress-coached teams at Texas A&M from 2013-15.

Max Muncy/INF/Los Angeles Dodgers/Midland native/Keller HS/Baylor University β€” The 32-year-old Muncy is expected to take over at third base in an infield that is undergoing significant changes with the loss of Justin Turner and Trea Turner. Muncy likely is up for the task. He’s nothing if not versatile, playing first base two years ago and splitting time at second and third last year. Offensively Muncy struggled last year, hitting .196, well below his career average. This year he hopes to get closer to his career high of .263 so that his home run/RBI numbers can return to the 30/90 range. In 2012, Muncy was drafted on the fifth round by the Oakland A’s, a few weeks after he led 49-win Baylor to an NCAA Super Regional.

Colin Poche/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Flower Mound/Flower Mound Marcus HS/ University of Arkansas/Dallas Baptist — The 29-year-old lefthander will start his third season in the majors pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen. In the past two seasons, both with the Rays, he’s pitched 116 games. Poche is 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in his career. Attended Arkansas and later Dallas Baptist in college. Selected in the 14th round of the 2016 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks and traded to the Rays in 2018. Raised eyebrows in 2020 when he posted concerns about social injustice, specifically the killing in 2014 of Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Ryan Pressly/RHP/Houston Astros/Flower Mound Marcus – The 34-year-old Pressley has been a mainstay in the Astros’ recent era of excellence. He joined the team in July of 2018, coming down to Houston in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. The Astros, who won their first title in 2017, have made playoff runs in each of the five seasons that Pressly has been on the roster. In the World Series last fall, he made five appearances, didn’t allow an earned run and earned two saves. Pressly is embarking on his 11th season in the big leagues. He’s 29-28. He’s got an ERA of 3.20, and he’s got 77 saves, including 59 in the last two seasons. In high school, Pressly attended American Heritage Academy for three years and was an 11th-round pick of the Red Sox out of Marcus HS in 2011.

Brooks Raley/LHP/New York Mets/San Antonio native/Uvalde HS/Texas A&M β€” A hamstring injury kept the 34-year-old Raley out of game action for about three weeks this spring, but it’s expected that he’ll have time to ramp up activity, allowing him to be activated by opening day. With closer Edwin Diaz injured and lost for the season, the Mets will need other bullpen arms to step up, and Raley has the experience to fill in. He’s pitched in 160 games in the regular season and in another 15 in the postseason since 2020. The Cubs drafted Raley in the sixth round out of Texas A&M in 2009. He first pitched in the big leagues in 2012.

Anthony Rendon/INF/Los Angeles Angels/Houston Lamar HS/Rice University – The 32-year-old Rendon is determined to show that he can re-create the sucess that prompted the Angels to reward him with a $245 million, long-term contract three years ago. A power-hitting third baseman, he slugged a total of 103 home runs in a four-year stretch from 2016-19 with the Washington Nationals. Since joining the Angels in 2020, he has hit only 22 homers, as he’s been dogged by an assortment of injuries. In college, Rendon produced a career .373 average over three seasons for Wayne Graham at Rice University. Named as the national Player of the Year in 2010, he followed that with another strong season in 2011 that prompted the Nationals to pick him sixth overall in the draft.

Drew Smith/RHP/New York Mets/Fort Worth/Crowley HS/Dallas Baptist – The 29-year-old righthander is making a reported $1.3 million and will pitch in the bullpen for a Mets team expected to contend for the National League pennant. Smith has been in the major leagues for the parts of the last five seasons, all with the Mets. Last year, he made 44 appearances and went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA. He’s 7-6 and 3.24 in his career. Smith was drafted by the Tigers in the third round in 2015. Reached the big leagues in 2018, and sat out all of 2019 after elbow surgery.

Trevor Story/INF/Red Sox/Irving HS – The playing status of the 30-year-old Story is in question after he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in January. The surgery on his throwing arm has been described as an internal bracing on the ulnar collateral ligament, an alternative to Tommy John surgery. The hope is that Story could be ready at midseason. But officials told cbssports.com that they can’t ‘bank on him’ being back this year. It’s a setback for the Red Sox. Story hit .238 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs for the Sox last year. In six seasons at Colorado, he was an all-star twice. Story was the 45th pick in the 2011 draft out of Irving High School.

Ross Stripling/RHP/San Francisco Giants/Pennsylvania native/Southlake Carroll HS/Texas A&M – The 33-year-old Stripling is expected to pitch as a starter in his first year with the Giants after signing a two-year contract for $25 million. Stripling is 38-38 with a 3.78 ERA in seven seasons in the majors. Last year, he pitched well in Toronto, going 10-4 with a 3.01. In high school, Stripling played for Larry Hughes at Southlake Carroll. In college, he pitched the Rob Childress-coached Aggies to three NCAA tournaments, including the 2011 College World Series.

Noah Syndergaard/RHP/Los Angeles Dodgers/Mansfield Legacy HS – Signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers for $13 million. Expected to be the fourth starter behind Julio Urias and fellow Texans Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw. Syndergaard started his MLB career in New York, playing six years with the Mets. In 2016, his second season, he made the NL all-star team. Syndergaard played parts of last year with the Los Angeles Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Phillies, he pitched in three playoff games, including a World Series start against the Houston Astros. He was drafted 38th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.

Jameson Taillon/RHP/Chicago Cubs/The Woodlands HS – Signed by the Cubs in the offseason as a free agent. Expected to be the fourth starter in the rotation behind Drew Smyly, Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman. He is 51-35 with a 3.84 ERA in six MLB seasons. Last year, he was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA for the Yankees. Coming out of high school in the Houston area, he was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ryan Tepera/RHP/Los Angeles Angels/Brazoswood HS/Blinn College/Sam Houston State – The former 19th-round draft pick broke into the majors in 2015 with the Blue Jays. Has also pitched for the Cubs and the White Sox. The 35-year-old will pitch out of the bullpen for the Angels. Tepera is 17-18 in his career with a 3.50 ERA, including 5-4 and 3.61 last year.

Jose Trevino/C/NY Yankees/Corpus Christi St. John Paul II/Oral Roberts – Will enter his second year with the Yankees and his fifth in major league baseball coming off a season in which he made the American League all-star team, played in the playoffs and won a Gold Glove. He’ll share time behind the plate with Kyle Higashioka. He was slowed in spring training with a wrist sprain.

Michael Wacha/RHP/San Diego Padres/Iowa City native, Texarkana Pleasant Grove HS, Texas A&M University – Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Wacha will enter his 11th season bidding for a spot at the back of the starting rotation for a team that is built to win. He’s been solid in his career, 74-50 with a 4.05 ERA. After seven years in St. Louis, he moved in 2020 to the New York Mets and in 2021 to the Tampa Bay Rays and in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox. He is on a one-year contract with the Padres, with player options for 2024, 2025 and 2026.

Bobby Witt Jr./INF/Kansas City Royals/Fort Worth-area Colleyville Heritage HS β€” Will enter his second season in the big leagues with high expectations. As a rookie, the son of former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt hit .254 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. He also stole 30 bases. He entered the majors last season rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft (behind Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman) will get the shortstop job full time this year after the Royals traded Adalberto Mondesi.

Note: Compiled from player bios and reports at mlb.com and from baseball-reference.com.

Islanders gain redemption with an 8-2 victory over UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

For the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders baseball team, a victory at home against UTSA on Tuesday night at Chapman Field meant a little more than usual.

The Islanders scored four runs in the third inning for a five-run lead and then coasted past the Roadrunners, 8-2.

A few weeks ago, A&M-Corpus Christi played in San Antonio and lost all three games to UTSA in a weekend series.

Moreover, the Roadrunners won the three games by a combined margin of 50-18, including a mind-boggling 31-6 victory on March 11.

Sparked by pitching, error-free defense and timely hitting, A&M-Corpus Christi made amends in the fourth and final non-conference meeting between the teams this season.

Starting pitcher Matthew Watson (2-2) allowed two runs on five hits in 5 and 1/3 innings to earn the victory.

In addition, Max Puls supplied both defense and offense. As a left fielder, he robbed UTSA’s Shane Sirdashney of a possible two-run homer to end the fifth inning and, as a batter, he produced two of his team’s 11 hits and an RBI.

Diego Johnson also had a big night, contributing a couple of hits, an RBI and a couple of nice fielding plays at third base.

One came in the eighth when he snared a hard ground ball off the bat of Matt King and started an inning-ending double play.

Not to be outdone, the Islanders’ bullpen didn’t let the Roadrunners explode on them as they did in San Antonio.

All told, they kept some of the most dangerous hitters in the state off balance and limited the visitors to only seven hits.

Evans Hendricks, a junior out of Navarro High School, struck out three and pitched a scoreless ninth for A&M-Corpus Christi of the Southland Conference.

It was a tough night for the Roadrunners, who had won two of three on the road against the Rice Owls in Conference USA last weekend and 12 of their last 14 overall.

Antonio Valdez, Sammy Diaz and Tye Odom led the offense with two hits apiece.

Records

UTSA 20-6
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 13-13

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Western Kentucky at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Western Kentucky at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

UTSA beats Rice, 6-5, and wins a Conference USA road series, two games to one

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA righthander Daniel Shafer retired one batter in the eighth inning and three straight in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon as the streaking UTSA Roadrunners won a Conference USA road series, downing the Rice Owls, 6-5.

With the victory, the Roadrunners (20-5, 5-1 in the C-USA) improved to 12-2 in their last 14 games and maintained a hold on first place early in the conference race.

Powered by three home runs, the Owls (12-12, 4-2) rallied into a 3-2 lead early in the game and came back again to tie 5-5 in the late innings.

But behind the relief pitching of Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery and Shafer, the Roadrunners captured the series against the Owls at Reckling Park in Houston. Leyton Barry doubled in the eighth inning for an RBI and a 6-5 lead for the Roadrunners.

UTSA won the series opener on Friday, claiming a 4-3 victory in 11 innings. Rice responded Saturday, exploding past the visitors from San Antonio, 13-8.

In response, the Roadrunners came back on Sunday, played error-free baseball and emerged with their second one-run victory on the weekend and their third of the season.

Kingsbury worked two scoreless innings without allowing a hit to earn his first victory. He is 1-0. Shafer struck out one and cruised to his second save in the series and his team-leading fifth for the season. Blake Brogdon was the losing pitcher, falling to 1-2, despite striking out six in 3 and 1/3 innings.

Records

UTSA 20-5, 5-1
Rice 12-12, 4-2

Coming up

UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

UTSA at Rice baseball
Game 3 summary

Capitalizing on Rice starter Tom Vincent’s control problems, the Roadrunners took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Vincent set the UTSA rally in motion when he hit Sammy Diaz with a pitch. Vincent walked three more in the inning.

Both Shane Sirdashney and Isaiah Walker worked the count to 3-2 before they drew bases-loaded walks to drive in the first two runs of the game. With the bases loaded, UTSA had a chance to do more damage, but Leyton Barry grounded out to end the threat.

Down by two runs early for the third straight day, the Owls retaliated with three runs in their next at bat against UTSA starter Zach Royse.

The surge came suddenly, as the three runs scored on two swings of the bat. First, Royse walked the leadoff man. Next, Aaron Smigelski clubbed a two-run homer. On the next pitch, Ben Royo hit a solo shot.

Given the one-run lead to protect, Vincent couldn’t get it done. After UTSA’s Antonio Valdez led off the third and reached on an error, Sammy Diaz belted a two-run homer, and the Roadrunners once again assumed the lead, 4-3.

The Owls, in response, replaced Vincent. His day was done. Right-handed reliever Tyler Hamilton took the mound and retired three of the next four batters.

In the bottom half of the third, the Roadrunners also made a pitching change, going to freshman righthander Ruger Riojas, who promptly started his day by retiring three straight.

Riojas continued to throw strikes and find success in the fourth. After yielding a two-out double to Aaron Smigelski, the first-year player from Wimberley High School came off the mound, fielded a ground ball and threw out Ben Royo to end the inning.

With Riojas finding his groove, Valdez stepped up on offense to create more momentum for the Roadrunners. He led off the top of the fifth by pulling a pitch and drilling it for a solo homer over the right field wall. Valdez’s eighth homer of the year boosted UTSA’s lead to 5-3.

After Josh Killeen followed with a one-out double to deep right, Rice elected to stay with Hamilton, who promptly walked Matt King. At that point, Rice coaches had seen enough, and Blake Brogdon entered as the Owls’ third pitcher. Brogdon closed the door on UTSA, getting Taylor Smith on a long fly ball to center to end it.

As the game reached the middle innings, Riojas emerged as a force for UTSA. A freshman from Wimberley, Riojas cruised through the third, fourth and fifth by retiring nine out of 10 Rice batters. He struck out two in the bottom of the fifth as UTSA maintained its two-run lead.

With Brogdon throwing well for Rice and shutting out UTSA in the top of the sixth, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark didn’t hesitate — he sent Riojas out for his fourth inning on the day.

Nonetheless, the Owls exploded again. First, Guy Garibay Jr. singled up the middle, and then Connor Walsh belted a two-run home run. As Walsh crossed the plate, Rice had tied the game, 5-5. It was Rice’s third homer of the day and its fifth in the series.

UTSA’s Fischer Kingsbery, a junior from Leander, replaced Riojas and finished the inning, walking one but retiring Ben Royo on a pop up to the infield.

In the top of the eighth, UTSA’s Taylor Smith led off with a single and moved to second on a ground ball.

As Brogdon exited the playing field with two outs, Jack Ben-Shoshan came in to pitch for the Owls. The first batter, Leyton Barry, greeted him with an RBI double to give UTSA a 6-5 lead. Next up, Valdez smoked a ball to right field but it was caught, ending the inning.

In the bottom half, Hallmark had some choices to make. First and foremost, how long should he stay with Kingsbery? Well, Kingsbery did his job, retiring two straight. From there, Hallmark lifted him for Daniel Shafer, who ended the inning with one pitch. Walsh, who had homered in his last at bat, flied out to right.

Notable

On Friday, the Roadrunners won the opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Freshman Tye Odom delivered the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th with an RBI single. Simon Miller pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of relief for the victory, and Daniel Shafer got the last two outs for the save.

On Saturday, Manny Garza and Paul Smith drove in three runs apiece as the Owls bounced back from the series-opening loss for a 13-8 victory. In a game that featured three lead changes, Rice pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of eight UTSA walks to even the best-of-three at one win apiece.

Garza, Smith lead the Rice Owls past UTSA, 13-8

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Manny Garza and Paul Smith drove in three runs apiece Saturday as the Rice Owls bounced back from a series-opening loss for a 13-8 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

In a Conference USA game that featured three lead changes, Rice pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of eight UTSA walks to even the best-of-three at one win apiece.

A big blow for the Owls came in the fifth inning when Smith, a freshman from Houston Episcopal High School, blasted a three-run home homer to cap a five-run outburst and boost his team into a 9-5 lead.

After UTSA rallied twice over the next few innings, Rice’s Ben Royo unloaded with a long, two-run homer off Drake Smith in the bottom of the eighth to make it 13-8.

For UTSA, Taylor Smith (no relation to Paul Smith) and Tye Odom both went two for four at the plate with two RBIs. Smith cranked a two-run homer. Josh Killeen had three hits and scored twice.

The series finale between teams tied for the early lead in the C-USA race is set for Sunday afternoon at Rice’s Reckling Park.

Records

UTSA 19-5, 4-1
Rice 12-11, 4-1

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Notable

On Friday, the Roadrunners won the opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Freshman Tye Odom delivered the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th with an RBI single. Simon Miller pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of relief for the victory, and Daniel Shafer got the last two outs for the save.

Odom strokes the winning hit as UTSA beats Rice 4-3 in 11 innings

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Freshman Tye Odom delivered an RBI single for the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, and the UTSA Roadrunners held in the bottom half to beat the Rice Owls 4-3 on the road in the opener of a Conference USA baseball series.

The series will continue with single games Saturday and Sunday at Reckling Park in Houston.

UTSA managed just enough offense to win for the 11th time in 12 games behind the pitching of starter Luke Malone, relief ace Simon Miller and closer Daniel Shafer.

After Malone pitched 5 and 2/3 innings, coming out in the sixth after he was hit by a batted ball, Miller entered and worked masterfully through the next 4 and 2/3, earning the victory and improving his record to 6-0 on the season.

Though Miller yielded the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, UTSA stayed with him, and he pitched into the 11th.

All told, he threw 78 pitches. Miller, the nation’s earned run average leader at 0.38 entering the series, yielded one run on four hits and one walk. He struck out seven.

Trying to close the game, Miller hit Drew Holderbach with a pitch to open the bottom of the 11th.

After Holderbach was erased on a Connor Walsh fielder’s choice, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark took Miller out and replaced him with Shafer, who induced Max Johnson to pop up.

In the final sequence, Shafer earned the save when he fanned Aaron Smigelski to end it.

The game started fast with UTSA’s Antonio Valdez clubbing a two-run homer off Rice starter Parker Smith in the top of the first. Rice responded in the bottom half when Guy Garibay Jr. smashed a two-run homer off Malone.

UTSA took a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Leyton Barry bunted for a single and took second base on a throwing error by Smith. Barry advanced to third on a fly ball and then raced home on a wild pitch.

Undeterred, Rice scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth against Miller to tie it.

Manny Garza started the uprising with a two-out single. At that point, Johnson entered to pinch run. Smigelski followed with an infield single to the right side, putting runners at first and second. Pinch hitter Paul Smith, a freshman, stroked an RBI single to right to tie the game.

Records

UTSA 19-4, 4-0
Rice 11-11, 3-1

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.

UTSA capitalizes on a Florida Atlantic bat infraction to win its 10th straight game


UTSA junior Ulises Quiroga remained undefeated by working 6 and 1/3 innings to earn the victory in the first game Sunday, setting up a doubleheader sweep of the FAU Owls.

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Pitching, hitting and playing defense aren’t the only things that that aid in the winning cause in baseball.

Sometimes, just being alert can be crucial to team success.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark cited catcher Sammy Diaz for picking up on a subtle rules infraction by the opposing team, helping the Roadrunners complete a Conference USA doubleheader sweep against the Florida Atlantic University Owls, 7-2 and 5-3, on Sunday afternoon at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched two scoreless innings. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller ran his record to 5-0 with 2 and 2/3 innings of work in the second game – File photo by Joe Alexander

As a result, the Roadrunners won all three games against the Owls in their C-USA opening series, extending their winning streak to 10 games, the second-longest in school history.

How did Diaz’ awareness aid the UTSA cause? Well, it’s a bit complicated. But, during Game 1 Sunday morning, he noticed that a few FAU hitters came to the plate with a bat that didn’t meet regulations.

“There’s bat testing in NCAA baseball now,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark explained. “Every bat has to pass a test on Thursday and have a new sticker, a present-year sticker, and Sammy noticed in Game 1 that they had a bat that didn’t have an orange sticker on it.”

As soon as the Roadrunners became aware of it, they employed a strategy, to call attention to the infraction only when the Owls used a bat without an orange sticker to score a run.

It happened in the top of the first inning in Game 2. With a runner on base via a walk, UTSA pitcher Ryan Beaird threw a fastball that FAU offensive star Nolan Schanuel smashed over the left field wall for an apparent two-run homer.

“At no point in the first game did that bat do any damage (to us),” Hallmark said. “They used the bat again in the second game, and that was the bat he hit the home run with.”

That’s precisely when the issue blew up on the Owls. As Schanuel was rounding the bases, UTSA’s second-game catcher Josh Killeen picked up the bat to bring it to everyone’s attention, and a discussion among umpires ensued.

Then, with Schanuel already seated in the dugout and the scoreboard showing FAU with a 2-0 lead, one of the umpires in the conference at home plate looked up and motioned with his fist, giving the “out” signal.

Two runs, ultimately, were erased from the scorebook.

“I saw J.K. pick up the bat, and I didn’t know what was going on,” recalled UTSA relief pitcher Daniel Shafer, who was in the bullpen in left field at the time. “I kind of assumed it was an illegal bat or something was up with it. Then I saw him called out and I just said, ‘OK. I’ll take it.’

“That’s a great hitter over there, Schanuel. He puts good swings on the ball.”

Does he ever. Schanuel leads Conference USA with a .441 batting average. He’s also got eight home runs.

FAU coaches and players objected to the ruling on what would have been his ninth jack of the season, but the discussion didn’t last too long after the home plate umpire issued a warning to the bench.

“I think they were showing them some stickers that looked like last year’s stickers,” Hallmark said. “They’re not orange anymore. So, that’s what happened.”

The first C-USA series of the season for UTSA started on Friday with the Roadrunners beating the Owls 8-2 on a cold and blustery night. By Saturday, the weather worsened, with rain washing out what had been scheduled as an afternoon game.

Because of the rainout, the teams played two seven-inning games Sunday, with the first starting at 9:30 a.m. By the time the doubleheader was complete, the Roadrunners were answering questions about a C-USA series sweep and a 10-game win streak.

“Ten wins in a row is great, but it’s still a long season,” said Shafer, who closed out both ends in the doubleheader. “It’s still really early. I mean, we’ve got a lot to work on. In all phases of the game. It’s great, but a lot of season is left.”

Nevertheless, it helps the Roadrunners immensely to forge such a solid start in conference play, going 3-0 against a team that came in with its own five-game win streak.

Offensively, UTSA pounded out 14 hits in Friday’s opener, including four of them for extra bases. On Sunday, there were fewer balls hit into the gaps, and there were only 16 UTSA hits in the two games combined.

But there was quite a bit more pop in the balls they did hit, with four going for home runs, including three of them in the second game — one each by Leyton Barry, Matt King and Isaiah Walker.

On the pitching side, UTSA was impressive all weekend, as usual. The Owls, hitting .292 as a team entering the series, scored only seven runs on 19 hits in the three games. In the two played on Sunday, Roadrunners’ pitching scattered 12 hits.

With such a deep reservoir of talent on the mound, Roadrunners coaches had the luxury in the second game Sunday to bring in ace reliever Simon Miller in an early high-leverage situation. In the top of the third, with UTSA leading 2-0, FAU had runners at first and second with one out.

In came Miller, who got Schanuel on a ground ball force play for the first out, before he retired the side against cleanup hitter Jackson Ross. The move allowed UTSA to get through the meat of the Owls’ batting order for the second straight time without harm.

“We’re deep,” Hallmark said. “People don’t realize, guys like Ruger (Riojas) and Fischer (Kingsbery) who are throwing a bullpen (session) right now, allow us go to Simon so early in the game. (Pitching) Simon that early in the game is a little odd, to most people.”

In the move to Miller, Hallmark elected to take out Daniel Garza, one of his best bullpen arms.

“But with two guys on, and one out, and the best hitter in the country coming up to bat, to me, the game is on the line, even though it’s only the third inning …

“It could be the moment of truth, and Simon is our best pitcher … and the only way you do that is to have a deep pitching staff.”

Miller, the winning pitcher in Game 2 after working 2 and 2/3 innings, has responded in key situations all season.

The junior righthander from Canton has made nine appearances and has fashioned a 5-0 record with an 0.38 earned run average. His five victories lead the C-USA.

Hallmark is also high on Shafer, who has made nine appearances and notched three saves, with a 2.70 ERA.

“He wants the ball,” the coach said. “Shafer’s mad when I put Simon in, because he wants to go out there. So, today, it worked out. He got to go out there when he wanted.

“We’re lucky to have as many as what we call ‘Junk Yard Dogs’ on that pitching staff. They want the ball, and they want it in the leverage innings.”

Records

Florida Atlantic 12-9, 0-3
UTSA 18-3, 3-0

Coming up

UTSA at UT-Rio Grande Valley, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Friday, 3 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Notable

UTSA’s winning streak started on March 4, with an 11-5 victory over Utah.

UTSA beat Utah twice to close out a home series against the Utes and then won a mid-week game at Texas State. UTSA returned home to win three straight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. From there, they traveled to Nacogdoches to beat Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday. After taking three straight from Florida Atlantic, the Roadrunners’ streak is 10.

Unofficially, based on a quick review of the UTSA baseball record book, the longest streak in program history appears to be 12 games.

It was a streak put together in the 1994 season under coach Jimmy Shankle. That year, UTSA was in only its third year of baseball. Regardless, Shankle’s Roadrunners went on to win a school record 39 games and advanced to the NCAA Central Regional at Austin.

UTSA has had three other eight-game streaks since then — in 2006, 2008 and 2010 — all under coach Sherman Corbett.

The Roadrunners won six straight twice last season under Hallmark.

Quiroga’s big day

Junior Ulises Quiroga pitched 6 and a third innings to earn the victory in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, striking out nine batters while allowing two runs on five hits.

He gave up a hit and a walk in the seventh and was lifted with one out and runners at first and second. Shafer entered and walked the first man he faced, before Schanuel hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the second run of the game for the Owls. Shafer fanned Ross for the third out to end the game.

After the game, Quiroga said UTSA players aren’t dwelling on the winning streak, calling Sunday “just another day at the ballpark. Worried about the next one.”

Quiroga (4-0, 3.62 on the season) said he felt good about the way he was throwing the ball. “Command was there, and then the offense just opened up,” he said. “That helped me out big time, for sure.”

What was working best for him? “I was able to throw the breaker in there when I needed it.”

Quiroga always has been a fastball-oriented pitcher. It’s his best pitch. But in some respects, the junior from Baytown has altered his style this season, ditching the slider he used last year and replacing it with a curve.

“It’s a spike curve ball,” he said. “Fingers on top and throw it like a fastball.”

Jackson-led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi wins first NCAA tournament game

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders overcame the loss of one of their top players Tuesday night and won the first NCAA tournament game in school history, holding off the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 75-71, in Dayton, Ohio.

Playing in the NCAA First Four for the second year in a row, the Islanders utilized the speed and attacking style of senior point guard Jalen Jackson, who scored a career-high 22 points. Jackson is a familiar face in San Antonio, as he led the Wagner Thunderbirds to the state finals in 2019.

Jackson, a 5-10 guard who started his college career at North Texas, scored 18 in the second half for the Islanders. After Jackson made two free throws to give his team a three-point lead, drama unfolded in the final seconds.

Southeast Missouri guard Phillip Russell came down and missed an open three with two seconds remaining. Isaac Mushila gathered the defensive rebound, got fouled and hit a free throw on the other end for the game’s final point.

With the victory, the Islanders (24-10) will move on to play the Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5) in the tournament’s round of 64 on Thursday night. The Tide are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA South region.

The Islanders were one-and-done in two previous trips to the NCAA tournament.

In 2007, they opened as a 15th seed in the round of 64 at Chicago and lost to Wisconsin, 76-63, Last season, in a round-of-68 game at Dayton, they were matched against the Texas Southern Tigers and bowed out, 76-67.

Islanders guard Terrion Murdix started against Texas Southern a year ago and produced 10 points and six assists. Murdix, one of the team’s key players, was unavailable to play against SEMO with a knee injury.

Chris Harris scored 23 points to lead the Redhawks (19-17), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by winning four games in four days for the Ohio Valley Conference postseason title.

Mushila, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Islanders, who won the regular-season and postseason titles in the Southland Conference. Guard Ross Williams had 13 points off the bench and Trevian Tennyson added 12.