Baseball: Grand Canyon holds off UTSA, 9-7

The Grand Canyon University Lopes scored the first four runs of the game and then held off UTSA 9-7 Saturday afternoon at Roadrunner Field. With the win, GCU tied the three-game series at one apiece going into Sunday’s finale.

Records

Grand Canyon 6-4
UTSA 5-6

Coming up

Series finale, Grand Canyon at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Baseball: UTSA scores five in the first inning and blanks Grand Canyon, 12-0

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

UTSA freshman Diego Diaz from Pharr sparked a five-run first inning, and then the pitching dominated the rest of the way in a 12-0 victory over the Grand Canyon University Lopes on Friday night at Roadrunner Field.

Fischer Kingsbery, Rob Orloski and Cooper Hrbacek combined on the first shutout for the Roadrunners in two years. The Lopes, from the Western Athletic Conference, were limited to four hits.

Kingsbery worked the first two innings and then turned it over to Orloski, a freshman from Idaho, who pitched masterfully through the eighth. In his six innings, he allowed only three hits and two walks. With good command on a fastball and a breaking pitch, he struck out seven. Hrbacek closed in the ninth.

In the bottom of the first, Diaz stroked a two-out, three-run double to left field off Grand Canyon ace Daniel Avitia.

It was the first hit of his UTSA career, and after all three baserunners crossed the plate ahead of him, the Roadrunners had a 5-0 lead. Diaz took third on a throw to the plate on the play and slid in head first safely, bringing UTSA players in the dugout to their feet to cheer him.

Ty Tilson went four for four at the plate for the Roadrunners, of the American Athletic Conference, who had 13 hits in the opener of a three-game series against the Lopes.

Records

Grand Canyon 5-4
UTSA 5-5

Coming up

Grand Canyon at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Grand Canyon at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Notable

Phoenix-based GCU arrived in San Antonio with five wins, including victories in Arizona against Southern Cal, BYU, Ohio State and Nebraska. UTSA entered the series coming off its biggest win, an 8-7 road victory Tuesday afternoon against the Houston Cougars. UTSA trailed 7-2 in the game and rallied with six straight runs to pull it out.

Baseball: UTSA rallies on the road to stun Houston

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Ruger Riojas pitched three scoreless innings following an offensive explosion that featured three straight solo homers and six straight runs, as the UTSA Roadrunners rallied on the road to beat the Houston Cougars, 8-7, Tuesday afternoon.

UTSA's Ruger Riojas pitching against Incarnate Word on March 1, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Ruger Riojas yielded one hit across three scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season. – File photo by Joe Alexander

It was UTSA’s best victory of the season, a welcome development for a ball club that had lost five of its first eight.

Credit the Roadrunners for not dropping their heads after they fell behind by five runs against the Cougars, who are playing their inaugural season as a member of the Big 12. Houston bunched four hits and scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to open a 7-2 lead.

UH leadoff man Jake Rainess sparked the outburst with a double. Rainess, a transfer who played for the America East champion Maine Black Bears last season, finished the day with two hits and two runs scored.

After the Cougars took charge, the Roadrunners answered in the top of the sixth with three straight, no-out home runs — first by Caleb Hill and then by Matt King and Alex Olivo. For Hill, it was his second homer of the game and his fourth of the season. All of the blasts in the sixth came off lefthander Jose Torrealba.

Just like that, the UTSA bench was energized. The visiting team, losers of two of three at the Houston-area Sugar Land Classic last weekend, added three more runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead.

Hill drove in one run with a single, his third hit of the day. King followed with a triple to center to make it 7-7 and then scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Riojas entered the ball game in the bottom of the seventh as the sixth Roadrunners pitcher of the day. He would also be the last.

Riojas pitched three scoreless, allowing only one hit, to finish off the Cougars. The sophomore righthander from Wimberley struck out two and walked one.

In the ninth, Houston pinch hitter Kenneth Jimenez battled Riojas in his inning-opening at bat, only to pop up in foul territory to third. After that, Rainess struck out swinging and Alex Lopez flied to right.

Drake Smith (1-0) pitched 1 and 2/3 innings to earn his first victory of the season for UTSA. Riojas notched the nine-out save and lowered his earned run average to a team-leading 1.59.

Records

UTSA 4-5
Houston 6-2

UTSA season results

Feb. 16 – L, 9-10, UT-Arlington
Feb. 17 – W, 7-2, UT-Arlington
Feb. 17 – W, 2-1, UT-Arlington
Feb. 18 – L, 4-5, UT-Arlington
Feb. 20 – L, 10-14, at Tarleton State
Feb. 23 – W, 7-6, SFA at Sugar Land Classic
Feb. 24 – L, 1-4, Creighton at Sugar Land Classic
Feb. 25 – L, 3-5, Lamar at Sugar Land Classic
Feb. 27 – W, 8-7, at Houston

Coming up

Grand Canyon (Ariz.) at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Grand Canyon at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Grand Canyon at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Baseball: Roadrunners take a 2-2 record on the road against the Tarleton State Texans

Ty Tilson. UTSA beat UT-Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Third baseman Ty Tilson and the UTSA Roadrunners emerged from opening weekend with a 2-2 record. Sandwiched around a doubleheader sweep on Saturday were one-run losses Friday and Sunday. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Pat Hallmark’s UTSA Roadrunners are set to play on the road for the first time this season. They’ll be in Stephenville on Tuesday afternoon to take on the Tarleton State Texans. First pitch is at 4 p.m.

Records

UTSA 2-2
Tarleton 1-2

Opening weekend

Last weekend, Roadrunners split four games at home against the UT Arlington Mavericks. Tarleton played on the road and lost two of three to Southeastern Louisiana.

Coming up

UTSA will play three games this weekend in Sugar Land at the Sugar Land Classic. On Friday, they’ll face the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at 3 p.m. Saturday, they’ll meet the Creighton Bluejays at 11 a.m. On Sunday, the Roadrunners will close out the three game with a 2 p.m. contest against the Lamar Cardinals. Next Tuesday, on Feb. 27, they’ll play at the University of Houston at 3 p.m. UTSA returns home to Roadrunner Field on March 1-3 to face Grand Canyon (Ariz.).

Baumann’s walkoff winner lifts UTSA to a doubleheader sweep

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 on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

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.

Ty Tilson. UTSA beat UT-Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

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.

Broc Parmer. UTSA beat UT-Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

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 the final three innings in relief and earned the win. UTSA beat UT-Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

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.

Records

UT Arlington 1-2
UTSA 2-1

Coming up

UT Arlington at UTSA, Sunday at 1 p.m.
UTSA at Tarleton State, Tuesday at 4 p.m.

A photographer’s eye view of the Roadrunners on opening night

Pat Hallmark. 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

Coach Pat Hallmark, in the blue shirt, pays a visit to the mound to make a point in Friday night’s season opener. – Photo by Joe Alexander .

The UTSA Roadrunners play the UT Arlington Mavericks in a doubleheader today, with a seven-inning game set for noon, followed by a nine-inning game that will start about 3 p.m. Arlington broke out to a couple of nine-run leads early in the season opener Friday night and then held on for a 10-9 victory. I wanted to share a package of photos by Joe Alexander. Here are some of his best images:

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek. 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

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek worked two scoreless innings in the opener to help the Roadrunners stay in the game. Hrbacek is from Abilene where he attended Wylie High School. He also played for McLennan College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hector Rodriguez. 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

Junior Hector Rodriguez joins the UTSA squad this season as a transfer from Galveston College. He played in high school at Houston Westside. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Zane Spinn. 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

Shortstop Zane Spinn hails from Holland, Tex. He’s played in college at Temple JC and at Sam Houston State. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Lorenzo Morresi. 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

Lorenzo Morresi, from Macerata, Italy, started at catcher for the Roadrunners. Morresi has played at New Mexico Junior College. He also represented Italy in the Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Starting pitcher Robert Orloski. 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

Hard-throwing pitcher Rob Orloski comes to UTSA from Middleton, Idaho. The Boston Red Sox selected him on the 20th round of the draft last summer. He elected to play at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Alex Olivo. 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

Alex Olivo started in the opener as a designated hitter. Olivo also plays first base. He comes to UTSA from Texas Southern. He played previously at Deer Park HS and Ranger College. – Joe Alexander.

Feeling the opening-night blues: UTSA rally falls short, 10-9, to UT-Arlington

Caleb Hill (15) hit two home runs. 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

Caleb Hill (15) hit two homers to highlight a two-for-five performance with three runs scored and four RBIs against the UT Arlington Mavericks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second game of the the season can’t come soon enough for the UTSA Roadrunners.

Why? Because, in the opener on Friday night, the Roadrunners made a few too many mistakes early, got burned by three home runs and fell behind by nine on two different occasions.

In the end, the Roadrunners scored eight unanswered runs in a spirited rally led by Caleb Hill and Mason Lytle, only to fall in a heartbreaker, 10-9, to the UT Arlington Mavericks.

Starting pitcher Robert Orloski. 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

UTSA starting pitcher Robert Orloski, a freshman, worked 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs – four of them earned. He also walked only one and struck out five. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With Hill homering twice and Lytle making a grand UTSA debut by hitting a high-arc blast into the screen over the left field fence, the team nevertheless tasted defeat on what had been billed as a day of celebration, when officials welcomed fans into a remodeled Roadrunner Field.

The game just started off on a sour note all the way around for the Roadrunners, who watched as the Mavs built leads of 9-0 and 10-1.

They didn’t quit, though. A crowd announced at 785 started to generate noise when the home team erupted with three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, three more in the seventh and one in the ninth.

Hill sparked the uprising by crushing a line drive to right center for a three-run homer in the fifth. Not to be outdone, Lytle hit a solo shot in the sixth. He nearly homered again in the seventh but it was caught at the wall for a sac fly RBI. In addition, Hill scorched a sky-scraper that landed well beyond the right field wall to lead off the ninth.

“It was good but it wasn’t enough,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “We just didn’t play very good (early). We got to play better. We looked hesitant and passive way too often, which can happen, especially in the first game of the season, with the nerves.

“I’m sure it was nerves, but you got to get over it,” the coach said. “I was disappointed in the way we played and I was disappointed in the way I coached. I need to be better, too.”

The Mavericks were just too good for the Roadrunners in the early innings. With UTSA giving the ball to highly-touted freshman pitcher Robert Orloski to start the opener, Arlington made him pay by smashing two home runs.

Orloski yielded six runs, four of them earned, in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss. Against Orloski, Ryan Black delivered a one-out homer in the first inning to make it 1-0. In the second inning, Parker Airhart led off by belting one out of the yard to make it 2-0.

Isaiah Walker. 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

Isaiah Walker batted leadoff, stroked two hits and scored twice in the season opener against UT Arlington . – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the third, Orloski was still throwing well but the game started to get away from him. Black, swinging from the left side, laced an RBI double down the left field line. A relay throw to the plate from UTSA shortstop Zane Spinn was overthrown, allowing Black to take third base on the play.

He scored a few moments later on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.

Fans who watched the Roadrunners win 38 games in each of the last two seasons seemed a bit stunned at the outburst, but the Mavericks weren’t finished.

Lifting Orloski with two outs and two runners on base in the fourth, the Roadrunners called on junior Ryan Beaird, and Garrison Berkley greeted him with a three-run blast to break the game open. Like Orloski, Beaird was throwing well and firing hard. But he grooved one, and Berkley smashed it over the wall for a 7-0 lead.

Later in the frame, the Mavs tacked on two more runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Hallmark said he wasn’t displeased at all with the first outing for Orloski, who at this time last year was pitching in high school in Middleton, Idaho.

“He was OK,” the coach said. “The kid on their team, the (No.) 2 hole hitter, Black, is good. We knew he was good. The whole report was that this kid’s their best hitter, and he looked like it. So, I wasn’t disappointed in him getting hits off Rob.”

Not shy about throwing a high fastball, Orloski at times was impressive by inducing the Mavs into futile swings and misses. And yet other times, a couple of his mistakes proved costly. In the end, he pitched 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs — four of them earned — while he walked one and struck out five

“Rob can pitch better,” Hallmark said. “I bet his strike percentage was somewhere around 58 percent, which is a little low. But he didn’t pitch poorly at all. I wasn’t disappointed at all with Rob. He was fine. He’ll be back out there.”

Hallmark tipped his cap to an old friend, Clay Van Hook, the UT Arlington coach who is in his second season with the Mavs. Years ago, both worked together as assistant coaches at Rice University under the Wayne Graham. Hallmark is also friends with Arlington assistant Mike Taylor.

“Mike and I go way back,” Hallmark said. “We played against each other. Both of them, they’re good baseball people. They bounced back last year. They won a bunch more games last year than they did the year before. He’s doing a good job. Clay knows baseball.”

Coming up

Saturday — UT Arlington at UTSA. Doubleheader. First game starts at noon.
Sunday — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m.

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 made his UTSA debut a memorable one by smashing a high-arc home run into the screen over the left field wall. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Opening day: UTSA baseball coach on the lookout for ‘hunger and determination’ in his players

UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners will open a new baseball season at home today against the UT Arlington Mavericks. First pitch is at 4 p.m. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Over the past few seasons, baseball players at UTSA didn’t always match up in talent with the players they were tasked with defeating.

The one thing they did have was a core of leaders that embraced competition so eagerly and so completely, that the Roadrunners won 38 games in each of the past two years.

With that, UTSA athletes also won the undying respect of their coach, Pat Hallmark.

In retrospect, Hallmark will tell anyone who will listen that those two intangibles — a hunger to compete and a determination not to lose — are foundational to any winning program.

Two years ago, players such as Johnny Tapia and Ryan Flores just didn’t want to concede defeat. Same thing last year. With Luke Malone and Simon Miller and others, the Roadrunners found inspiration to play at a higher level.

With a new UTSA baseball season dawning today, all four of those players and others have moved on in their lives and in their careers, which is a bit unsettling for the coach.

Why? Because even though he knows he will have quite a bit of talent at his disposal this weekend against UT Arlington and in the coming months, he doesn’t know for sure whether his new players will have the essentials.

In other words, the hunger and the determination.

“We’ve certainly seen some signs of that,” Hallmark said a few days ago. “But until you get someone with a different color uniform that kind of hates your guts and wants to take something away from you, you don’t really know. So, we’ll find that out starting Friday.”

“It’ll take a little time to figure that out, who likes that confrontation.”

Through fall practices and conditioning, the coach said he can’t always tell who will bring the intangibles to the table.

“We’re about to play some people that don’t want the best for us,” he said. “And, likewise. We need to find 10, 11 guys that enjoy that (confrontation). That’s what we’ve had the last couple of years.”

Will it manifest itself today? The coach will be watching.

Coming up

Game 1 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 4 p.m. today.
Games 2 and 3 — UT Arlington at UTSA, doubleheader, with the first game at noon on Saturday.
Game 4 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m. Sunday.

Notable

Pitching rotation: For UT Arlington — Zach Norris (2-2, 4.63 ERA last season) today. On Saturday, it’s Aaron Calhoun (0-1, 8.16 last season at Oklahoma) in the first game and then Caylon Dygert, a freshman, in the second game. Sunday’s starter is TBA. For UTSA — Freshman Robert Orloski today. On Saturday, Ruger Riojas (5-0, 4.11) in the first game and then Zach Royse (0-1, 9.58). On Sunday, TBA.

Outfielder Mason Lytle, a University of Oregon transfer, has opened eyes with his athleticism. But he’s not the only outfielder on the UTSA roster with speed and ability. Both Isaiah Walker and Tye Odom can run and track the ball, as well.

James Taussig. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

James Taussig is expected to bring some home-run power to the Roadrunners this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I would say this is a very athletic outfield,” third baseman Matt King said. “We have depth, whether it’s starters or the guys coming off the bench. I think they’re all athletic. They’re all going to make some plays. They can all play defense. So, yeah, outfield defense is something we should not have to worry about.”

Who will have home-run power? Among the newcomers, keep an eye on first baseman / designated hitter Alexander Olivo, infielder/outfielder James Taussig and infielder Zane Spinn. Also, among returning players, both King and Caleb Hill have both shown the ability to send the ball out of the yard.

Olivo may be the one to watch in the power department. He produced 13 homers and a .706 slugging percentage last year at Texas Southern. In addition, Taussig is known around the batting cage for exit velocity of more than 100 mph, tops on the team.

Taking a look at San Antonio-area players in NCAA Division I baseball

Editor’s note: With college baseball starting this week, here is a list of athletes from the San Antonio area playing in NCAA Division I programs. I’ll be updating when new information comes to light. Major college players of note include TCU infielder Anthony Silva and two players at Texas, outfielder Porter Brown and infielder Jalin Flores. Both Silva and Brown made the preseason All-Big 12 team.

UTSA

Ryan Beaird, junior right-handed pitcher from Reagan HS
Ruger Riojas, sophomore right-handed pitcher from Wimberley HS
Ryan Ward, senior right-handed pitcher from Clemens HS
Barrett Johnson, freshman right-handed pitcher from Johnson HS
Whitt Joyce, freshman catcher from Medina Valley HS
Ryan Jester, freshman left-handed pitcher from Bracken Christian HS
Aiden Baumann, sophomore outfielder from New Braunfels HS

Texas State

Ryne Farber, freshman infielder from Johnson HS
August Ramirez, redshirt senior catcher from O’Connor HS, Cisco College
Colten Drake, redshirt junior left-handed pitcher from Kerrville Tivy, Blinn JC
Rashawn Galloway, sophomore catcher from Boerne HS
Tyler Garritano, freshman infielder from Boerne HS
DJ Burke, senior right-handed pitcher from Clark HS, Garden City, San Jacinto JC, Texas
Matthew Tippie, junior right-handed pitcher from Wimberley HS, Angelina College

Incarnate Word

Isaiah Zavala, graduate student right-handed pitcher from Southwest HS
EJ Garcia, sophomore right-handed pitcher from New Braunfels Canyon HS
AJ Herrera, freshman catcher from Central Catholic HS
Rey Mendoza, graduate student outfielder from Eagle Pass HS, University of Houston
Edward Mendoza, junior right-handed pitcher from Eagle Pass HS
Julio Riggs, graduate student infielder from Boerne HS

Texas

Porter Brown, redshirt senior outfielder from Reagan HS, TCU
Jalin Flores, sophomore infielder from Brandeis HS

Texas A&M

Zane Badmaev, redshirt senior right-handed pitcher from Boerne HS, Tarleton State

TCU

Anthony Silva, sophomore infielder from Clark HS
Luke Boyers, senior outfielder from Boerne Champion HS
Cohen Feser, junior right-handed pitcher from Reagan HS
Mason Bixby, freshman right-handed pitcher from Johnson HS

Baylor

Andrew Petrowski, redshirt junior right-handed pitcher from Clark HS, Garden City College, San Jacinto College
Jackson Elizondo, freshman left-handed pitcher from Smithson Valley HS

Kansas State

Preston Martinez, junior right-handed pitcher from Johnson HS, Dyersburg State College (Tenn.)

Rice

Kyte McDonald, graduate outfielder from Antonian College Prep, Mississippi State, Alvin CC and Wichita State.

Arkansas

Hunter Grimes, redshirt senior outfielder from Kerrville Tivy HS, UTSA and McLennan CC

Oklahoma

Rocco Garza-Gongora, sophomore infielder/outfielder from Laredo Alexander HS
Will Carsten, senior right-handed pitcher from Reagan HS, McLennan Community College

Georgia

Clayton Chadwick, graduate student outfielder from La Vernia, Sam Houston State

Duke

Edward Hart, sophomore left-handed pitcher from Alamo Heights

Tarleton State

Jake Burcham, junior right-handed pitcher from Reagan HS

Wichita State

Camden Johnson, freshman infielder from Boerne HS

Houston Christian

Jarek Wells, senior pitcher/outfielder from Smithson Valley HS and Midland College
Dylan LaRue, sophomore catcher from Blanco HS
Tyler LaRue, senior catcher from Blanco HS, Rice University and Grayson College
Lance Berkman, head coach, from New Braunfels Canyon

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Chance Reisdorph, junior catcher from New Braunfels Canyon HS
Cole Modgling, redshirt senior outfielder from Medina Valley, Northeast Texas CC
Evans Hendricks, senior left-handed pitcher from Navarro HS, and Temple Junior College
Zach Garcia, junior left-handed pitcher from New Braunfels HS
Alberto Santos IV, freshman right-handed pitcher from San Marcos HS
xScott Malone, head coach, former assistant coach at UTSA

UT-Rio Grande Valley

Matt Mendez, redshirt freshman infielder from Del Rio HS
Evan Janner, freshman outfielder from New Braunfels Canyon HS
Francisco Hernandez, redshirt junior right-handed pitcher from Laredo Alexander HS, San Jacinto College

Stephen F. Austin

Cal Martin, senior infielder from Reagan HS

Notable

Outfielder Kasen Wells, considered the top player in the San Antonio area in 2022 at Smithson Valley HS, is on the roster at Weatherford College after playing as a freshman last season at Texas A&M.

Orloski earns opening-day start on the mound as UTSA rolls with a talented freshman

UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The batting cage was alive with activity Tuesday as UTSA hosted media day and prepared for Friday’s opener against the UT-Arlington Mavericks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Last year, the UTSA baseball team relied on a time-tested veteran as its starting pitcher on Friday nights. Senior Luke Malone was the man to open most three-game series. When games got dicey, the Roadrunners called on reliever Simon Miller.

Coach Pat Hallmark. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Pat Hallmark announced that freshman Robert Orloski will start the season opener Friday at home against UT-Arlington. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Bases loaded in the fifth? With the opponent’s cleanup man at the plate? UTSA trying to protect a one-run lead? Everyone at Roadrunner Field knew that Miller would get the ball in that situation.

Ultimately, UTSA rode the Malone-Miller combination to a 28-8 start that vaulted the Roadrunners into the national Top 25 for the first time in school history.

This season, they’ll open their first series of the season at home Friday afternoon with a different look altogether. Instead of veteran savvy on the mound, Coach Pat Hallmark will roll with a freshman. He announced Tuesday afternoon on media day that he’ll start highly-touted righthander Robert Orloski against UT Arlington.

As a matter of fact, the Roadrunners will stay young in the second game of the four-game series and in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, as well, going with sophomore righty Ruger Riojas. So, with Miller scheduled to pitch this season in the Cincinnati Reds’ minor-league system, who will take his place?

Who will fill that all-important bullpen role? Hallmark admittedly doesn’t have an answer just yet.

“I don’t know,” Hallmark said. “Multiple people at this point. Hopefully that evolves. From a pure talent standpoint, I don’t think we have a Simon Miller. Simon … had a major league breaking ball. He could keep his breaking ball from 87 to 90 miles per hour and keep it depthy. We just don’t have someone that’s going to do that, right?

Ruger Riojas. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ruger Riojas is set to open the season as the Roadrunners’ No. 2 starter. Riojas, from Wimberley, was 5-0 with a 4.11 earned run average out of the bullpen last year. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We do have some guys that are pretty good. Daniel Garza’s solid. And others. But that’s an evolving role at this point.”

UTSA is banking on Orloski to have the chops to withstand all the pressure that comes with being an opening-day starter. Last spring, he was pitching in high school in Middleton, Idaho. In July, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder with the low 90s fastball and good command was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.

Ultimately, he turned down the opportunity and decided he wanted to attend college instead. “He’s talented,” Hallmark said. “He was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in the 20th round, so you know he’s got some talent. And he’s mature. I don’t think Rob will be rattled. I could be wrong, right? But eventually Rob’s going to be a very good college pitcher, so we might as well start finding out when right now.”

Orloski already rates as one of the most-watched pitchers on the team by the veterans. Junior third baseman Matt King said he enjoys watching him work. “I have a lot of high expectations for him,” King said. “I like watching him. He pounds the zone. He throws hard. He’s one of my favorite pitchers on this team.”

Matt King. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Matt King is expected to play third base this season after starting most of the last two seasons at shortstop. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Honored as Gatorade Pitcher of the Year in Idaho in 2023, Orloski will hardly be the only newcomer on the field for UTSA on opening day. It is probably a safe bet that fans will see veterans Matt King, Isaiah Walker and Caleb Hill on the field somewhere. King, a preseason All-American Athletic Conference pick, likely will be at third base. Walker and Hill will be out there somewhere.

But after that, it’s hard to read Hallmark’s mind on who will be where. What is known, at this point, is that the newcomers will face expectations. UTSA won 38 games in each of the last two seasons. Both teams finished high in the Conference USA race. Everyone in the renovated ball park this spring will want to see all that, and more.

“It’s new, right?” Hallmark said. “There’s certainly expectations after the last two years, which is wonderful. We don’t shy away from it. That’s what we want. We talk about it. But (there) are new players. They haven’t done it before. So, we need to tee it up and see how they do.

“It won’t be perfect, right? We’re going to have bad games and some bad play. But I think we’ll figure it out. We just need to figure it out as soon as possible.”

Hallmark said a conference championship is the next step for his program.

“We finished second in the conference last year and third the year before,” he said. “I think it’s easy and appropriate to say the next step is to win a conference championship and to play in the NCAA tournament. Those are the two things that are the next step.”

Coming up
UT Arlington at UTSA

Game One – Friday, 4 p.m.
Games Two and Three — Doubleheader on Saturday, first game starting at noon
Game Four – Sunday, 1 p.m.

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