Still dreaming big, UTSA opens C-USA tournament play today

UTSA starter Luke Malone pitched six innings. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone says the team has had a good season but hasn’t reached its goals. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners’ baseball team has already left its mark on Conference USA. In its ninth and final run through a C-USA regular-season schedule, Coach Pat Hallmark’s squad bolted into the early lead in the 10-team race and stubbornly held the top spot through the first half.

In the end, the Roadrunners finished second to the streaking Dallas Baptist Patriots. But as eight teams assemble in Houston for this week’s C-USA Championship, in the so-called second season, UTSA stands as one of the favorites with a record of 38-17 and a conference mark of 21-8.

The 21 wins within the conference represent UTSA’s best showing in the C-USA since transitioning out of the Western Athletic Conference in 2013. The 38 wins represent the second most in a season for the team since the program started playing ball in 1992.

In fact, UTSA can tie the record of 39 victories with a win today against Middle Tennessee State in the C-USA tournament opener at Houston.

But in unpacking all their emotions between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason, the Roadrunners left little doubt that while setting a school record for victories sometime this week at Reckling Park would be nice, it would be less than fulfilling if they come up short of the conference’s postseason title.

“Overall, we’ve had a pretty good season,” UTSA pitcher Luke Malone said. “But we still haven’t accomplished our team goals. I don’t want to share with everyone what those are, but we still have goals, and we still can achieve all of them. So, even though we’ve had a good season, I don’t think we’re done yet.”

As the season opened in February, the Roadrunners had a certain look about them. Their competition wasn’t top of the line in every game, but they did win non-conference contests at Houston, Baylor and Texas State and opened with an 18-3 record, which included a 10-game winning streak.

Through the middle of April, they journeyed on the road to beat a likely NCAA team in Texas A&M, and they were 28-8 after sweeping a C-USA series from Middle Tennessee State at Roadrunner Field.

Since then, they haven’t been quite the same.

They’ve played mostly without two of their best outfielders, Shane Sirdashney and Isaiah Walker, and combined with some pitching issues, they’ve recorded a 10-9 record down the stretch. After the 0-3 showing against Dallas Baptist two weeks ago, they finished with a 2-1 series victory at Louisiana Tech last weekend.

Now, with a ratings percentage index listing at No. 64, they know that nothing less than a C-USA postseason title will get them to the NCAA tournament.

“I think where our RPI is … we need to win this tournament,” Hallmark said. “So, that’s the goal, and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”

To get that done, the Roadrunners likely need to start fast, stay out of the losers bracket in the double-elimination format through Saturday and build momentum toward a title match on Sunday.

As the tournament starts today, third-seeded Charlotte and No. 6 Louisiana Tech play the early game today, followed by two seed UTSA and No. 7 Middle Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. Those four teams will play one another today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a berth in the title game, which would be contested Sunday.

In the afternoon and evening games today, top-seeded Dallas Baptist plays eight seed Rice at 4 p.m., followed by No. 4 Western Kentucky against five seed FAU at 7:30 p.m.


1. Dallas Baptist 42-13, 25-5
2. UTSA 38-17, 21-8
3. Charlotte 29-25, 17-12
4. WKU 31-24, 16-14
5. FAU 33-23, 16-14
6. Louisiana Tech 27-29, 15-15
7. Middle Tennessee State 25-27, 14-16
8. Rice 21-35, 9-21


UTSA had a program-record eight players mentioned in postseason awards announced Tuesday.

Senior Taylor Smith, who hit six home runs last week, wasn’t one of them.

Smith started last week with a grand slam at Abilene Christian, followed with three homers at Louisiana Tech on Thursday and two more against LA Tech on Friday. On Saturday, he went 0 for 4 to snap an eight-game hitting streak.

For the season, Smith hit .317 with a team-high 17 home runs. Shortstop Matt King also failed to make the first or second teams in the all-conference listings despite a solid year in which he hit .310. King ranked second on the team with 57 RBIs.

Simon Miller, brilliant with a 8-1 record, 11 saves and a 1.83 earned run average out of the bullpen, was named the C-USA’s Pitcher of the Year. Miller and Antonio Valdez (.391 batting average) were named to the C-USA all-conference first team.

Second team honors went to catcher Josh Killeen, second baseman Leyton Barry, outfielder Caleb Hill, Malone, who was UTSA’s Friday night starter, and Sammy Diaz. Diaz, a first baseman/catcher, made the squad as a utility player. Pitcher Ruger Riojas was named to the all-freshman team.

Simon Miller wins Pitcher of the Year; Miller and Antonio Valdez make first-team all conference

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller has been named Pitcher of the Year in Conference USA, according to information released on the C-USA website Tuesday. – File photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Simon Miller has been named Pitcher of the Year in Conference USA. Meanwhile, Miller is also a first-team, all-conference selection along with UTSA third baseman Antonio Valdez, according to honors announced on the C-USA website Tuesday afternoon.

UTSA's Antonio Valdez scores the go-ahead run on a double-steal in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word at Roadrunner Field on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Antonio Valdez (at right) has been named first-team, all-Conference USA. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Second-team selections for UTSA are catcher Josh Killeen, second baseman Leyton Barry, outfielder Caleb Hill, pitcher Luke Malone and utility man Sammy Diaz. Pitcher Ruger Riojas was named to the all freshman team.

Miller produced an 8-1 record, 11 saves and a 1.83 earned run average, which ranked fifth in the nation and first in the conference. Valdez led the conference in triples with seven and ranked second in runs scored (63), hits (84), batting average (.391), and RBIs (65).

Shane Sirdashney’s pinch-hit homer fuels optimism as UTSA prepares for the postseason

Shane Sirdashney. UTSA beat Marshall 5-4 on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Shane Sirdashney could be limited in the Conference USA tournament because of a hamstring injury, but he said Monday that he is preparing play. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Shane Sirdashney’s last regular-season at bat for the UTSA Roadrunners a few days ago turned into a memorable one on several levels.

He’ll always remember the solid contact. The ball flying off the bat. The thoughts racing through his head. The sound of his teammates’ voices ringing in his ears.

“Originally I thought it was going to be too much of a line drive, off the wall, and I was going to have to run,” said Sirdashney, who has been battling a left leg injury for the last month. “Then I heard some screaming and cheering when I rounded first base. I was like, ‘OK, I can slow down now.’ ”

In a decidedly good omen for the Roadrunners, Sirdashney blasted a pinch-hit, solo home run in the ninth inning last Saturday at Louisiana Tech.

Even though UTSA lost the game 7-5, the bullet off the bat of their hard-luck outfielder sent a jolt of excitement through a dugout full of players looking for positive signs entering this week’s Conference USA Baseball Championship.

It also launched a few jokes for the trip home.

“The joke is, just hit homers, and you don’t have to stress the leg,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said Monday.

Added UTSA pitcher Luke Malone: “He busted out of the box like he thought it was a double. I mean, he put his head down and started sprinting, which you love to see because of his hamstring. Then the ball went over the fence and he was smiling. It was good to see him back and swinging it.”

Sirdashney, a .361 hitter, has been suffering from a partially torn tendon in his hamstring, in the tendon on the inside of his left knee.

He injured it on April 16 in a home game against Middle Tennessee State. After playing spot duty in two games a few weeks later, Sirdashney was shut down for the next three weeks.

That’s why the UTSA players felt a surge of excitement when they heard his named called to pinch hit late in the game against the Bulldogs.

“We were going crazy when he first stepped in the box,” Malone said. “I mean, there was some energy in our dugout, and then off the bat, we were just screaming. It was good to see.”

Second-seeded UTSA (38-17) opens the tournament Wednesday in Houston against No. 7 Middle Tennessee State (25-27). The tournament is double-elimination through Saturday, with a championship game scheduled Sunday.

The extent of Sirdashney’s role in the five-day event is unknown and could hinge partially on how he practiced Monday, how he feels after practice tonight and on Tuesday. Considering the nature of the injury, he’ll likely be day to day as the tournament progresses.

Sirdashney, from The Woodlands, said he’s preparing to play. It’s important to him because the winner of the event gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I mean, this is my last time ever playing baseball, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got,” Sirdashney said. “The plan is, I’m ready to go on Wednesday. Whatever coach Hallmark needs me to do, if that means starting in centerfield (or whatever).

“I’m going to practice today, see how it feels tomorrow, and I should be good to go on Wednesday.”

UTSA set to take on Middle Tennessee in tournament opener

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners will take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Wednesday in Houston on opening day of the Conference USA Baseball Championship, according to the C-USA bracket. The eight-team championship runs through next Sunday at Rice University’s Reckling Park.

In Game 1 of the tournament, the third-seeded Charlotte 49ers will meet the No. 6 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at 9 a.m. Second-seeded UTSA will play No. 7 Middle Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. in Game 2. On Thursday, the losers of Games 1 and 2 are scheduled to play at 9 a.m., with the winners meeting at 12:30 p.m.

In Game 3 of the tournament, the top-seeded Dallas Baptist Patriots are scheduled to meet the No. 8 Rice Owls at 4 p.m. Wednesday, with No. 4 WKU meeting fifth-seeded Florida Atlantic in Game 4 at 7:30 p.m. On Thursday, the Games 3 and 4 losers play at 4 and the winners at 7:30 p.m.

In head-to-head meetings this season, the Roadrunners swept three games from the Blue Raiders in San Antonio back in April. They split two games against the 49ers in a rain-shortened weekend at Charlotte and won two of three over the past three days at Louisiana Tech.

Sirdashney homers in finale

Shane Sirdashney came off the bench to rip a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning, but the UTSA Roadrunners fell short in their regular-season finale. Louisiana Tech held off UTSA 7-5 Saturday at J.C. Love Field in Ruston, La. With the loss, the Roadrunners wrapped up their regular season at 38-17, one victory shy of the school record.

Next up for the Roadrunners is the Conference USA tournament, scheduled for next week in Houston. They’ll be the second seed in the tournament that will run from Wednesday through next Sunday at Rice University’s Reckling Park. The winner in Houston gets the prize of an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Sirdashney’s availability next week could be a factor. He is a standout defender in centerfield and a .361 hitter. But, because of a hamstring problem, he hasn’t played much in the past month. His appearance on Saturday was only his third since he played three games against Middle Tennessee State from April 14-16.


UTSA 21-8, 38-17
Louisiana Tech 15-15, 27-29

Coming up

Conference USA tournament, May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston

UTSA, on the right path again, beats LA Tech 5-3 to clinch series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Taylor Smith hit two homers Friday night as the UTSA Roadrunners downed the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 5-3, to clinch a weekend series in Conference USA baseball.

Coming into the three-game series at Ruston, La., the Roadrunners had lost four straight games. But in the first two of a three-game series at J.C. Love Field, the Roadrunners have prevailed by two runs in both contests, pushing their record for the season to 38-16, including 21-7 in the C-USA.

On Thursday night, they hit five home runs in an 18-16 victory in 11 innings. On Friday, they hit three more, including back-to-back shots by Smith and Antonio Valdez in the first inning. Smith added another solo shot in the ninth to give him six home runs in three games this week.

The senior from Georgetown hit one homer at Abilene Christian on Tuesday. He added three more at LA Tech on Thursday night. And now, with the two on Friday, he increased his team-leading total to 17 on the season. In the three games, Smith has totaled nine hits in 16 at bats. In addition, he has produced 10 RBIs.

In the pitching department, junior Ryan Ward from Clemens High School pitched a season-high five innings to earn the victory. He allowed only two runs on two hits. Drake Smith (no relation to Taylor Smith) yielded only one run on one hit and struck out six in four innings to close the game.

With the victory, the Roadrunners clinched their 12th weekend series of the season, improving to 12-1-1 in series on the weekend. They split two games in a rain-shortened series on the road at Charlotte and lost all three games to Dallas Baptist a week ago at home.

The team’s latest win also moved the Roadrunners to within one of tying the school record for victories in a season. The record of 39 was set in 1994 and was tied in 2008. They’ll have a chance to tie the mark when they play LA Tech Saturday at noon in the series finale.

The C-USA tournament is set for next week in Houston.


UTSA 21-7, 38-16
Louisiana Tech 14-15, 26-29

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, noon (regular-season finale)
Conference USA tournament, May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston

Game updates:

In the second game of a Conference USA baseball series, UTSA is playing on the road tonight in Ruston, La., against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. UTSA took the first game of the series, 18-16, in 11 innings Thursday night. Reed Smith is on the mound for LA Tech against Ryan Ward for UTSA.

With one out in the top of the first, UTSA’s Taylor Smith (no relation) stepped to the plate with one out and hit a solo homer. Antonio Valdez followed with another solo shot. After Matt King singled, Smith settled down and retired Caleb Hill and Josh Killeen to get out of it, setting the stage for Ward to take the mound for the Roadrunners, protecting a 2-0 lead.

For Smith, his first at bat served as a continuation of a remarkable week. On Tuesday, the senior from Georgetown belted a grand slam in UTSA’s 10-8 loss at Abilene Christian. Last night, Smith hit three homers in the first game of the series against the Bulldogs. The blast off LA Tech’s Reed Smith was his fifth homer of the week and his team-leading 16th of the season.

Ward is a 6-foot-2 junior from Clemens, a righthander who entered the contest with an 0-1 record and a 5.50 earned run average. To this point, Ward had appeared in nine games this season and had pitched 18 innings. In the first inning against the Bulldogs, Ward threw strikes and retired three in a row, a welcome sign for a team that had to throw a lot of pitches Thursday night in the series opener.

In response, Reed Smith came out and had a much better experience with UTSA batting in the top of the second. He retired three straight, setting up his teammates to do some damage in the bottom half. That’s exactly what happened. With one out, Phil Matulia doubled. Later, Logan McLeod reached on a two-out, hit by pitch. Two men were on, at first and second. Phil Hasler took advantage of the situation, ripping a double to left field that scored both runners, tying the score, 2-2.

LA Tech starter Reed Smith is settling into the game nicely. After getting lit up for two home runs in the first inning, he’s held UTSA scoreless in the second, third and fourth innings.

During that stretch, he’s yielded a double to Taylor Smith in the and an infield single. But he’s kept the game under control against an explosive offense. Buoyed by Smith’s turn of fortune, the Bulldogs came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, with the game tied 2-2, trying to make something happen against Ward and the Roadrunners.

In the fourth, Ward started to rise to the challenge. Outside of a two-out walk, he didn’t give up a thing, with Kyle Hasler popping up for the third out. It was his second straight scoreless inning.

By the fifth, the Roadrunners brought Dalton Porter to the plate to lead off, and he sent a blast into left field for a double and then took third on a ground ball out. Next, Taylor Smith walked to put runners at the corner, and Smith stole second base to set up a second-and-third situation for Matt King. King delivered with a two-run single up the middle, lifting the Roadrunners to a 4-2 lead.

As the game moved into the middle innings, the major storyline for the Roadrunners centered on Ward. In only his 10th appearance of the season, he worked five innings, yielding only two runs on two hits. Ward walked three and struck out one in his longest outing of the year. Previously, his season-best was three innings. The most pitches he had thrown in a game? Fifty seven, against Stephen F. Austin, back in March. Against the Bulldogs, he threw 71 pitches, 39 of them for strikes and exited with a 4-2 lead.

With Drake Smith on the mound, the Roadrunners made it through the sixth inning unscathed. But the Bulldogs got it going in the seventh, drawing a leadoff walk and turning it into a run with Dalton Davis’ two-out RBI double. Smith, throwing well, struck out the next batter to retire the side. He struck out three in the inning, allowing UTSA to take a 4-3 lead into the eighth.

In the eighth, it was more of the same for the Bulldogs, who couldn’t figure out Smith. The UTSA righthander set down the opposition 1-2-3, picking up a strikeout along the way, sending the game to the ninth inning with the Roadrunners leading 4-3.

UTSA’s offense had been dormant for three innings. In the sixth through the eighth, it had done little damage and had been held scoreless in each frame. Until the ninth. UTSA’s Taylor Smith hit another home run, his second of the game, to boost the Roadrunners into a 5-3 lead. Smith has two homers tonight and six in three games this week. The senior from Georgetown has 17 for the season.

UTSA wins a wild one, beating Louisiana Tech 18-16 in 11 innings

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners snapped a season-long, four-game losing streak Thursday by holding off the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 18-16 in 11 innings at Ruston, La.

In the Conference USA series opener, the Bulldogs rallied from deficits of 9-5 and 13-8 to send the game into extra innings tied at 14.

Taylor Smith and Leyton Barry homered in a four-run 11th for UTSA. It was Smith’s third home run of the game. In the bottom half, Louisiana Tech scored twice off UTSA relief ace Simon Miller before its last rally was finally shut down.

With runners at first and third base, Adarius Myers bounced one back to Miller, who tossed to first base for the final out, ending a game that lasted about four hours and 20 minutes.

Miller (8-1) pitched the last five innings, throwing 85 pitches, to pick up the victory. Barry had four hits, and Smith, Barry and Matt King each had four RBIs.

Leadoff batter Dalton Davis led Louisiana Tech with two home runs and six RBIs. Ethan Bates (4-3) was the losing pitcher after giving up the two home runs in the 11th.

The Roadrunners play two more games in Ruston against LA Tech, which beat UTSA last year in the C-USA title game.


UTSA 20-7, 37-16
Louisiana Tech 14-14, 26-28

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Friday, 6 p.m.
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, noon
Conference USA tournament, May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston

Winning 20

The UTSA baseball program has won 20 conference games for the first time in the Conference USA era. The Roadrunners have been in the C-USA since 2014. In that time, their previous best efforts within the league came in 2015 when they finished 17-13 and last year when they finished 19-11. The Dallas Baptist Patriots, at 23-5, have clinched the C-USA title. The Roadrunners, now 20-7, will finish second going into next week’s tournament at Houston. Overall, UTSA’s 37 wins are two shy of the school record of 39, set in 1994 and again in 2008.

Ending the skid

UTSA entered the series opener in Ruston on a four-game losing streak. The Roadrunners were swept in three games at home last weekend by Dallas Baptist for their first lost series of the season. Following the sweep, they played on the road Tuesday and lost 10-8 to the Abilene Christian University Wildcats of the Western Athletic Conference. The four-game skid was the longest for UTSA coach Pat Hallmark since his team lost five straight to end the 2021 season.

Rolling in home-run city

UTSA and Louisiana Tech combined for nine home runs in the first game of the series. For the Roadrunners, Taylor Smith hit three of them, and Garrett Poston and Leyton Barry had one apiece. For the Bulldogs, Dalton Davis hit two homers, and Ethan Bates and Phillip Matulia one each. Matulia’s grand slam came in the bottom of the first inning, off Luke Malone, and it catapulted LA Tech into a 5-2 lead.

Riding Smith’s hot bat

Taylor Smith, a senior transfer from Texas A&M, has hit four home runs in two games this week. He hit a grand slam in the fifth inning Tuesday in a 10-8 loss at Abilene Christian. Against Louisiana Tech, he socked a solo homer in the first inning, a two-run shot in the fourth and a solo homer in the 11th that broke a 14-14 tie. Smith’s long-ball surge has boosted him to a team-leading 15 home runs on the season.

Looking at Barry’s numbers

Leyton Barry, one of the all-time great hitters in school history, had four hits in five at bats against Louisiana Tech. He also drove in four runs. He had a single in the first inning, a two-run double in the third, a deep fly ball out to center in the fourth, a walk in the fifth, a ground out in the seventh, a two-out, two-strike double in the ninth and a two-run homer in the 11th. Approaching the end of his UTSA career, Barry has totaled 210 hits and 39 doubles in 175 games. He also has 21 career homers.

Malone’s struggles

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone, the team’s workhorse, Friday-night starter over the last two seasons, has been vulnerable to opponents making solid contact in his last five appearances. Over that stretch, his earned run average is 10.67. Against FIU, UAB, Rice, Dallas Baptist and Louisiana Tech, the senior from Round Rock has yielded 45 hits and 34 earned runs in 28 and 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in 3 and 1/3 innings against LA Tech.

Abilene Christian hands UTSA its fourth straight loss

Miller Ladusau contributed a two-run single in the sixth inning and Logan Britt added a solo homer in the eighth Tuesday afternoon, propelling the Abilene Christian University Wildcats to a 10-8 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

The Wildcats surged early and led 6-0 after three innings and 7-1 after four against the Roadrunners. From there, the Roadrunners staged a rally, tying the game 7-7 with six runs in the top of the fifth. Taylor Smith knotted the score with a grand slam.

In the sixth, UTSA took the lead, 8-7. Antonio Valdez doubled and moved up on a ground ball. When Leyton Barry struck out, the ACU catcher bobbled the ball and had to throw to first for the out. On the throw, Valdez raced for home and slid in head first just ahead of the tag.

Undeterred, the Wildcats regained the lead with Ladusau ripped a single through the left side to score two, making it a 9-8 ballgame. Britt, a transfer from Texas A&M, homered in the eighth for the final run of the game.

Abilene’s Zach Smith pitched the last 1 and 1/3 inning to close the door on the Roadrunners, who have lost four in a row.


UTSA 36-16
Abilene Christian 32-20

Coming up

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Thursday through Saturday

Dallas Baptist coach says UTSA still belongs in the NCAA at-large conversation

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Before leaving the ball park on Sunday afternoon, Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner had a couple of interesting takeaways from his team’s three-game sweep of the UTSA Roadrunners.

First of all, he praised his players for rising to the challenge and seizing the regular-season title in the program’s first year in Conference USA. Next, he said the Patriots helped themselves in regard to the merits on whether they deserve to be one of 16 hosts of an NCAA tournament regional.

But, most interesting, he said he believes the Roadrunners still belong in the discussion to reach the 64-team NCAAs even if they come up short of the C-USA tournament title.

“I think without a doubt they’re still in the mix,” he said Sunday after his team completed an 11-7, 11-9 and 9-6 weekend sweep at Roadrunner Field.

By Monday morning, it became apparent that the Roadrunners will need to play extremely well in their last four regular season games and in the conference tournament to gain an at-large bid.

And, quite possibly, the only sure way for the Roadrunners to play in an NCAA regional this season would be to win C-USA postseason title in Houston, which would yield an automatic bid.

UTSA’s precarious position became evident when the NCAA Division I baseball ratings percentage index was published overnight following last weekend’s games. The latest NCAA RPI has Dallas Baptist as the C-USA’s top-rated team at No. 15, which is up 10 spots. The latest listing for UTSA is at No. 60, which is down six spots.

Last year, UTSA was 37th after grinding all the way through to the C-USA postseason championship game, where it lost to Louisiana Tech. On the next day, a 38-win UTSA team was not in the 64-team NCAA field despite winning twice on the road in the C-USA tournament against the regular-season champion and top 15 Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

Right now, the Roadrunners can point to a 2-1 record this season against RPI top-50 programs. Namely, a road victory over RPI No. 39 Texas A&M and a 1-1 split against RPI No. 47 Texas State. Also, they have been as consistent in the regular season as anyone in the nation, going 11-1-1 in weekend series.

On top of that, they’re 36-15 and 19-7 in conference, failing to win on the weekend at Charlotte and Dallas Baptist at home. Moreover, they’ve been in the top 25 in various media polls since the first week of April.

Last week, the DI Baseball poll had them at No. 22. On Monday morning, the DI poll dropped UTSA out of the Top 25, while moving Dallas Baptist up one notch to No. 17.

Still looming on UTSA’s schedule are four road games, Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. The C-USA tournament is set for the following week, from May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston.

At present, Heefner insisted that UTSA still belongs in the discussion for an at-large bid.

“Yes, for an at large,” he said. “They’ve been really consistent all season long. Obviously, I feel like we have a really good team. (Also), they’ve still got their Tuesday game, they got next weekend (at LA Tech) and the conference tournament. They’re a talented team and they’ve put themselves in a really good position.

“I think if they finish well, they have a very deserving shot at an at=large bid.”

UTSA was 25-5 at home before Dallas Baptist arrived, making the Patriots’ sweep all the more noteworthy. Heefner said he hopes his team’s performance at Roadrunner Field will aid in its desire to host an NCAA regional.

“That’s a thing for the (NCAA) committee, but that’s a goal we have as a program. We’ve done it before, and we schedule in a way that we’re going to really challenge ourselves in a non-conference schedule standpoint, because we do want to put ourselves in that position. I think our guys have done a great job and have been pretty consistent.

“You know, we had one little stretch at the very beginning of the year, and then ever since then, we’ve played really well. I think we’ve played like a (first-weekend) host team.”

Dallas Baptist clinches C-USA title by sweeping UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Give the Dallas Baptist Patriots some credit. On a weekend that featured a few late-night lightning storms in San Antonio, they brought the the thunder to Roadrunner Field.

The Patriots clinched the Conference USA title Sunday with a 9-6 victory, their third straight in a historic three-game series.

It was the first time in UTSA school history that two teams entered a weekend series on campus nationally ranked. Both lived up to the billing, too, though 18th-ranked Dallas Baptist made more plays and produced more key hits when it counted.

No. 22 UTSA had no reason to hang its head, though. The Roadrunners battled it out to the end in all three games and, moreover, they drew close to 1,000 fans to see a Friday night doubleheader and another 487 on Sunday.

After the school song was played, a fan seated high in the aluminum bleachers stood up and delivered a message to players on the field.

“Good job, guys,” he said. “Thanks for bringing baseball back to San Antonio.”

At least two Roadrunners said later that they heard the comment, a welcome message to a group that held the lead in the C-USA standings for half the season, only to see another team clinch near the end of the campaign on their home field.

“It’s cool to see the impact we’re having in San Antonio,” catcher Josh Killeen said. “It’s pretty neat what we’ve already accomplished. (But) we still have a chance. Conference tournament (is coming up). So, we’re not going to hang our heads here. Obviously, we wanted to pull out a game this week. But it just didn’t go our way.”

The Roadrunners fell behind 8-0 with the Patriots roaring out of the gates with three runs in the first inning and five more in the second. But in keeping with their mindset all season, they kept grinding, scoring two runs in each the fifth and sixth innings to pull within 9-6.

In the end, the Patriots’ defense rose up to meet the challenge.

The Roadrunners left three men on base in the seventh when left fielder Grant Jay robbed Leyton Barry of extra bases on a tumbling catch.

In the eighth, they had another opportunity shut down when third baseman Kodie Kolden stretched out to spear a line drive off the bat of Caleb Hill, who was thinking extra bases when he hit it.

Hill just shook his head and credited the Patriots for making the plays, but he also commented on how the Roadrunners may have sparked a change in attitude in terms of baseball appreciation on campus.

“I think Friday, I realized how many people we had (in the park) at the doubleheader, at both games,” he said. “That’s what I’ve noticed, that the fan base has grown. It just really means a lot that everyone’s been so supportive this year.

“The weekend didn’t go the way we wanted it, but it was a really fun, competitive series.”

The Patriots won 11-7 and 11-9 in two nine-inning games played Friday. Officials decided to play two on the opening day to allow for impending stormy weather. In each game, the newcomers in the conference clubbed three home runs in each game and hit both of UTSA’s best pitchers hard.

After taking Saturday off because of wet grounds, the teams took to the field Sunday under mostly sunny skies. The Patriots took advantage of a leadoff walk in each of the first two innings and four overall during that stretch to jump out to a big lead.

Nathan Humphreys, named last week as the national hitter of the week by one service, clubbed a two-run double in both the first and second innings.

Trailing 8-0, the Roadrunners finally got on the board in the bottom of the second when Killeen barreled a ball over the left field fence for a solo homer.

Killeen also homered in each of the first two games of the series, including a memorable eighth-inning grand in Game 2 that tied the score.

UTSA has some issues to iron out before they conclude the regular season Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. Killeen’s swing, however, is not one of them.

Killen said he “was on the attack” in each at-bat against the Patriots.

“I felt really good with being free with my hands,” he said. “And, yeah, they gave me some good pitches to hit.”

“They’re a very good program,” he said. “They’re good on the mound. They’re very good at the plate, and they play really good defense. They kind of hit every facet of the game really well, so hats off to them, to what they did this week. Yeah, they’re a good program and we hope to see them again at the conference tournament.”


Dallas Baptist 23-4, 40-12
UTSA 19-7, 36-15

Coming up

UTSA at Abilene Christian, Tuesday
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Thursday through Saturday
UTSA at Conference USA tournament, in Houston, at Rice University, May 24-28

C-USA standings

x-Dallas Baptist 23-4, 40-12
UTSA 19-7, 36-15
Western Kentucky 15-12, 30-22
Charlotte 14-12, 25-25
Florida Atlantic 14-13, 30-22
Middle Tennessee 14-13, 25-24
Louisiana Tech 14-13, 26-27
FIU 7-20, 20-31
Rice 7-20, 18-34
UAB 7-20, 16-34

x-clinched regular-season title

High-stakes duel: Dallas Baptist takes two from UTSA on a six home-run night

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

At one point late Friday night, it appeared that the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners might rise up and steal the second game of a doubleheader from the No. 18 Dallas Baptist Patriots.

But after a dramatic eighth-inning grand slam by UTSA’s Josh Killeen tied the score, the Patriots retaliated with two runs in the ninth to close out a long day in which it secured 11-7 and 11-9 victories in front of nearly 1,000 fans at Roadrunner Field.

The third and final game of the series is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Grant Jay highlighted the decisive two-run ninth for the Patriots with a long home run into the screen above the left field wall, his second homer in the game and the sixth for hard-hitting Dallas Baptist in the two games combined.

Pitcher Kyle Amendt, who gave up the grand slam to Killeen, steadied himself to close out the victory.

After a 30-minute weather delay chased away most of the spectators, the Patriots returned to the field, and Amendt did his job. He retired the last two batters in order, giving his teammates the upper hand in the Conference USA title race.

“That,” Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner said of Amendt’s performance, “was really big.”

At the height of the drama between C-USA title contenders, a crowd announced at 935 made for a festive atmosphere on the grounds of UTSA’s humble home ball park.

Fans were seated in lawn chairs and under canopies on the right field berm. Others were camped under trees along the left field side. Fans who wanted a closer look at the action were seated in three sections of aluminum grandstands.

It was clearly a pro-UTSA crowd.

But DBU, a traditional power in NCAA baseball, held its own by bringing in a vocal red-and-white clad cheering section. Near the end of the night, after officials warned of lightning in the area, players were waved off the field and most of the fans left the premises, never to return.

Later, at the conclusion of about seven hours of C-USA baseball, Heefner talked about the charged atmosphere at the game site, and he praised his players for taking what essentially were two huge steps toward the conference’s regular-season championship.

“I thought they handled the delay outstanding, but I thought they handled the entire day (well),” Heefner said. “UTSA is an outstanding ball club. They’ve had a great season. It was a big series. (It was) really cool. This is kind of college baseball at it’s finest, to have first- and second-place teams able to play each other at the end of the year.”

Because of the weekend weather forecast, officials altered the schedule. They decided to play two games in the three-game series on Friday, so that they could be reasonably sure that they could get the third game in sometime during the rest of the weekend.

It made for an interesting situation, with so much on the line late in the conference race, two games pitting 18th-ranked Dallas Baptist against No. 22 UTSA. DBU entered the day a half game ahead of UTSA in the C-USA race. After it was over, Heefner’s team held a 2 and 1/2-game lead in the race with four to play.

“We’ve been following them the whole year,” Heefner said. “I’m sure they’ve been following us. Just like the last game ended, we had the lead (and) they hit a grand slam to tie it. You know, that’s pretty exciting stuff. And then to see how our guys responded, having the delay, thinking we were probably done for the night. And of a sudden, (the weather) clears up and we’re able to go out (to play) again.

“And then to get those last two outs, was really big.”

The Patriots held a commanding 9-5 lead entering the bottom of the eighth. In response, UTSA’s Leyton Barry drew a leadoff walk and, one out later, Antonio Valdez reached on a hit by pitch. At that point, the Patriots pulled pitcher Alec Baker in favor of Amendt, the team’s standout closer.

Entering the game with a 1.35 earned run average, Amendt promptly allowed the Roadrunners to generate an epic rally. He hit Caleb Hill with a pitch to load the bases, and then he grooved one to Killeen, who struck a ball high and far over the right field wall for a grand slam, tying the score at 9-9.

As a result, Roadrunners fans roared their approval.

UTSA’s momentum didn’t last long. With one out in the top of the ninth, Jay scorched his 18th homer of the season high into the net above the left field wall. Moving in front by one run, the Patriots added to it with a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly for the eventual two-run margin of victory.

In the bottom of the ninth, UTSA’s Sammy Diaz opened by lining out to right field for the first out. But just as Diaz was taking a seat on the bench, a UTSA facilities official walked out to notify umpires that lightning had been detected in the area, necessitating the delay.

The Roadrunners went back to their dressing room, while the Patriots filed out of the ballpark, headed for the team bus.

Unbeknownst to some fans, the visitors weren’t leaving. They were just waiting out the delay. At Roadrunner Field, there is no visitors’ dressing area, so players went to the bus to pass the time. During the break in action, Amendt did his best to stay ready.

“It was just a (matter of) keeping the body hot,” Amendt said. “Honestly, just talking to the coaches, moving a little bit and staying locked in.”

After the final out of the night, Roadrunners players were downcast and quiet. In the dugout, one sat on the bench, holding his head with both of his hands. Coach Pat Hallmark was busy making notes to prepare his team for the series finale.

“We didn’t play wonderful,” Hallmark said. “But we didn’t play terrible. Mostly (we) just tip our hat to the hitters on their team. I didn’t like our third inning (in the second game). There were three walks in the five-run third inning.22-4, 39-12 You know, the first game, they just hit us. That can happen.

Without the big fastball, we can give up some hits. Unfortunately today, they were home runs. In Game One, the home runs hurt us. I can’t fault out pitchers if we give up base hits. I was a little frustrated with the third inning of the second game. Other than that, I didn’t think we did too much wrong.”


Dallas Baptist 22-4, 39-12
UTSA 19-6, 36-14

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at Abilene Christian, Tuesday, 4:05 p.m. (non conference)

Home-run memories

Game One featured three home runs by the Patriots (Nathan Humphreys, Ethan Mann and George Specht) and one by the Roadrunners (Josh Killeen). In Game Two, the Patriots also hit three homers (two by Jay, a freshman, and one by Mann), while the Roadrunners (Leyton Barry and Killeen) added two.

Grand slams altered the course of each game. Specht hit his slam in the fifth inning of the first game off UTSA senior Luke Malone, allowing DBU to open an 8-3 lead. In Game Two, Killeen launched his off DBU relief ace Kyle Amendt, tying the score at 9-9.


In one day, UTSA experienced two unpleasant firsts for the season — losing consecutive games for the first time and also losing a weekend series. The Roadrunners were 11-0-1 in three- and four-game weekend series coming into the weekend. A road series at Charlotte ended in a rain-shortened 1-1 tie.

Another concern centered on the team’s top two pitchers, Simon Miller and Luke Malone.

Miller was hit on the knee by a hard-hit ground ball in the sixth inning of the second game. After attention from the trainer, he was allowed to continue, but he suffered the loss in his worst outing of the year, yielding six runs (five of them earned) in 4 and 1/3 innings. In the first game, Malone, a Friday-night starter all season, pitched in relief. He also took the loss, giving up 10 runs (all earned) in 6 and 2/3 innings.

Dallas Baptist hit two home runs off Malone in the first game, one by Ethan Mann and another, the grand slam, by George Specht. The Patriots added two off Miller in the second, one by Mann and another by Jay. Jay has 18 home runs for the season and Mann has 16.

With five games left in the regular season, UTSA needs three victories to tie and four to break the school record for wins in a season. The record is 39. Of course, UTSA will get another chance to win a few more games at the C-USA tournament, set for May 24-28 in Houston at Rice University’s Reckling Park.

It’s looking increasingly like UTSA might need to win the C-USA tourney in Houston to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. Winning in Houston would give UTSA the conference’s automatic bid.

The only other route would be through an at-large bid, with national RPI playing a role in that calculation. With UTSA’s RPI at 54 coming into the weekend, the team clearly needs to pick up some victories down the stretch. UTSA came up short of an at-large bid last year with a season-ending RPI of 37.