UTSA pitching strikes out 12 in a 4-2 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Ryan Beaird. UTSA beat A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, April 15, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ryan Beaird, a UTSA junior from San Antonio’s Reagan High School, pitched three scoreless innings in relief and struck out five to earn the victory. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Ryan Ward, Ryan Beaird, Braylon Owens and Ruger Riojas combined for 12 strikeouts without a walk Tuesday night as UTSA beat the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 4-2 at Roadrunner Field.

Coming off a two-to-one series victory at Memphis in the American Athletic Conference last weekend, UTSA scored three unearned runs in the third inning and made it stand up, improving to 12-4 over its last 16 games. UTSA is 3-1 on Tuesday nights during that stretch.

The Roadrunners didn’t play great in all phases of the game. They were thrown out on the bases three times.

Ryan Ward. UTSA beat A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, April 15, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ryan Ward, a UTSA senior from San Antonio-area Clemens High School, started and pitched three scoreless innings. Ward allowed only one hit. – Photo by Joe Alexander

But with Ward, Beaird, Owens and Riojas throwing strikes all night, they were able to win against their South Texas rivals after losing two of three to the Islanders in Corpus Christi last month.

Beaird (1-0) earned the victory with three shutout innings. He allowed four hits and struck out five. After Owens got in trouble in the eighth, Riojas entered with a runner at second and one out. He promptly fanned two batters to end the threat.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Islanders got a runner aboard on an infield error, bringing leading hitter Issac Webb to the plate as the potential tying run. Webb, in the end, flied to center, giving UTSA the victory and Riojas his sixth save of the season.

Records

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 17-24
UTSA 22-15

Coming up

American Athletic Conference series
Friday: UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday: UAB at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday: UAB at UTSA, noon

Notable

Cole Modgling, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s fifth-year senior from Medina Valley High School, had three hits in his first three at bats and finished three for four. The Islanders used five pitchers. Junior righthander Joshua Flaugher (0-2) was tagged with the loss. He yielded three hits and three runs, all of them unearned after shortstop Mason Person’s fielding error in the third inning.

Matt King. UTSA beat A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, April 15, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA shortstop Matt King gloves an infield chopper against A&M-Corpus Christi. On offense, he produced two hits and a run scored for the Roadrunners. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Baseball: Services are set for 1969 Mets catcher Jerry Grote

Services have been set for former major league baseball player Jerry Grote, a member of the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, according to the family’s obituary.

Visitation will take place on April 20 from 4–7 p.m. at Scanio-Harper Funeral Home, 3110 Airport Road, in Temple. A funeral service will follow the next day on April 21 at 2 p.m. at Heritage Country Church, 9677 Lark Trail, in Salado.

Burial will be on April 22 at 2 p.m. at the Grote Family Cemetery, 15940 Lookout Road., in Selma.

Grote, 81, a Belton resident, died on April 7. He grew up in San Antonio and played at MacArthur High School and Trinity University. Grote played 16 seasons in the majors and made World Series appearances in 1969 and 1973 for the Mets and 1977 and 1978 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Texans in MLB: Westburg finds his power stroke for the Baltimore Orioles

Texans Jordan Westburg, Jordan Hicks and Chris Paddack all enjoyed big days on Wednesday in the major leagues.

Highlights

Westburg (formerly of New Braunfels High School) hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the Baltimore Orioles’ 7-5 victory over Boston at Fenway Park. It was the second home run for Westburg in his last seven games after hitting three in 68 games last year as a rookie.

The game was hyped nationally as the MLB debut for Jackson Holliday, who is considered the No. 1 prospect in the game.

For Orioles fans, it was the first time that they were able to see Holliday, Gunnar Henderson and Westburg — all drafted in the top two rounds over the past few years — in a game together. Westburg is the oldest player of the three at age 25. Henderson is 22 and Holliday 20.

An Austin native who grew up in Stillwater, Okla., Holliday went zero for four and struck out twice. But he collected his first major league RBI on an infield grounder as the Orioles rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win.

Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Jordan Hicks (from Houston-area Cypress Creek HS) earned the win for the San Francisco Giants in a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

In a home game at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, Hicks gave up a second-inning home run to Joey Gallo but went on to blank the Nationals the rest of the way. He worked six innings and yielded one run on four hits.

Hicks, a relief pitcher in his first six seasons in the majors, including a little more than five with the St. Louis Cardinals, has pitched well as a member of the Giants’ starting rotation. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.00 earned run average over three starts.

Minnesota Twins righty Chris Paddack (an Austin native, formerly of Cedar Park HS) worked the first 4 and 2/3 innings in his team’s 3-2 road victory against the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers. Paddack has started his first full season on an active roster since he underwent ACL surgery in May of 2022.

Fans in San Antonio might remember Paddack from his days as a minor leaguer in the San Diego Padres’ farm system. The 6-foot-5 righthander notched seven starts for the San Antonio Missions in 2018.

Texans in MLB

Tyler Alexander/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago native/Southlake Carroll HS/TCU – The 29-year-old Alexander is scheduled to pitch in the starting rotation with the Rays after working mostly out of the bullpen last year with the Detroit Tigers.

Chase Anderson/RHP/Boston Red Sox/Wichita Falls Rider/North Central Texas College/Oklahoma – The 36-year-old is entering his 11th year in the major leagues and his first season with the Red Sox. In his career, he is 59-56 with a 4.34 ERA.

Grant Anderson/RHP/Texas Rangers/Port Arthur native/West-Orange Stark HS/McNeese State — The high-kicking, side-winding righty is starting his second season in the majors with the Rangers. He’s scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen. His brother, Aidan, is in the Rangers’ farm system.

Brett Baty/3B/New York Mets/Round Rock native/Lake Travis HS — Baty enters his third season with the Mets. After they drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, he toiled in the minors until a 2022 call up. Has hit .210 in 119 major league games with the Mets.

Josh Bell/1B/Miami Marlins/Dallas Jesuit HS – Bell solidified himself as the Marlins’ starting first baseman in spring camp. He’s got the run-producing credentials. He has RBI totals of 88, 71 and 74 the past three seasons, from 2021 through 2023, respectively. Bell has also played for the Pirates, the Nationals and the Padres.

Cavan Biggio/UTILITY/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston St.Thomas HS/University of Notre Dame – The son of former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio, starting his sixth season in the majors, is expected to play a utility role. Could see quite a bit of time at second base. Biggio helped lead St. Thomas to the 2011 TAPPS Class 5A state championship.

Cody Bradford/LHP/Texas Rangers/Aledo HS/Baylor — Bradford was a late-season callup for the Rangers last year. He pitched 56 innings in 20 games, including eight starts. He crafted a 4-3 record with a 5.20 earned run average. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games, all in relief, including two appearances in the World Series. Bradford had a postseason record of 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA.

Matt Carpenter/DH-1B/St. Louis Cardinals/Galveston/Missouri City Elkins HS/TCU — The 38-year-old Carpenter, a former All-Star in St. Louis, returns to the Cardinals after a few years away with the Yankees and Padres.

Colton Cowser/OF/Baltimore Orioles/Cypress/Cy Ranch HS/Sam Houston State – After playing 26 games in the big leagues late last season, Colton Cowser made the Orioles out of spring training. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft out of Sam Houston State.

Nathan Eovaldi/RHP/Texas Rangers/Houston native, attended Alvin HS. — Eovaldi is projected to play a leading role as the Rangers attempt to defend their American League and World Series titles. He is in his second season with Rangers after he spent the previous five seasons with the Boston Red Sox. 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 — Projected to pitch out of the bullpen as he starts his fifth season in MLB, all with the Nationals. In his career, he has forged a 19-18 record with a 3.53 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 starts his 14th season in the majors. A former seven-time All Star, he ranks fifth among active players in hits (1,909) behind only Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutcheon and Jose Altuve. He played for Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2007-09.

Trent Grisham/OF/New York Yankees/Burleson/Richland, North Richland Hills HS — Dealt from the San Diego Padres to the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade. Grisham broke into the big leagues in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Started in the outfield the past four seasons with the Padres, winning gold gloves as a centerfielder in 2020 and 2022. 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.

Ke’Bryan Hayes/3B/Pittsburgh Pirates/Tomball Concordia Lutheran HS – Hayes starts his fifth season in the majors, all with the Pirates. Drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2015 with 32nd pick on the first round. He’s known as a defensive specialist though he did hit a career-high 15 home runs last year. Spent some time last summer battling a sore back.

Jordan Hicks/RHP/San Francisco Giants/Houston Cypress Creek HS – Hicks gets a fresh start in his career as a starter with the Giants. Hicks has been in the big leagues as a reliever since 2018. Through 2023, he had pitched in 212 games. He was 12-21 with a 3.77 ERA. The Cardinals traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. Hicks elected free agency in the offseason, and he later signed with the Giants.

Josh Jung/INF/Texas Rangers/San Antonio MacArthur HS/Texas Tech — Last year, as a rookie in his first full season in the major leagues, Josh Jung made the American League All-Star team, hit 23 home runs and produced 70 RBIs. He also overcame an injury late in the season to help the Rangers win their first World Series title. He’s expected to start at third base tonight against the Cubs after sitting out much of the spring with a leg injury. Played for coach Tom Alfieri at MacArthur and for Tim Tadlock at Texas Tech.

John King/LHP/St. Louis Cardinals/Sugar Land Clements HS/University of Houston – King, a native of Laredo who grew up in the Houston area, has pitched parts of the last four seasons in the majors. He’s 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 107 appearances, all out of the bullpen. The Rangers traded him to the Cardinals last summer in the Jordan Montgomery deal. King opened the 2024 season in Triple-A at Memphis but was recalled to the big league club on March 31.

Shea Langeliers/C/Portland, Ore., native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The sturdy rookie catcher proved he was up to the task, working in 135 games last season in his first full year in the majors. He hit .205 with 22 homers and 63 RBIs. 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 Loftin/UTILITY/Kansas City Royals/Corpus Christi Ray HS/Baylor University — Loftin made the opening day roster based on his play with the Royals last September, when he hit .323 in 19 games, and then his strong showing in spring training. The Royals selected him 32nd overall in the 2020 draft out of Baylor.

James McArthur/RHP/Kansas City Royals/New Braunfels High School/University of Mississippi — The 6-foot-7 righthander was traded from the Phillies to the Royals last summer. He has made the best of it, earning four saves in 18 relief appearances last season. Now, he’s earned a spot on the Royals’ opening-day roster.

Bryce Miller/RHP/Seattle Mariners/New Braunfels HS/Texas A&M — In a surprise move that ended up pleasing everyone in the Great Northwest last year, the Mariners moved Miller up from Double-A to the major leagues in early May and watched in wonderment as he went 8-7 with a 4.32 ERA. He pitched 131.1 innings in 25 starts.

Shelby Miller/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Round Rock native/Brownwood HS – The 33-year-old Miller starts his 13th season in the major leagues in Detroit. Miller is pitching out of the Tigers’ bullpen. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009 out of Brownwood High School, he has pitched in the majors for the Cardinals, Braves, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers. Miller, who had five starts in the minors with the San Antonio Missions in 2019, is 42-48 with a 4.06 ERA lifetime in the big leagues.

Hoby Milner/LHP/Milwaukee Brewers/Dallas/Fort Worth Paschal HS/University of Texas – The 33-year-old Milner could see a more prominent role in the Brewers’ bullpen with an injury to ace reliever Devin Williams. 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 seven previous seasons, all with the Braves, and has posted 35 saves and 105 holds. His record is 19-25, and his ERA is 3.35. Minter played for Coach Terry Pirtle at the Brook Hill School in East Texas and for Rob Childress-coached teams at Texas A&M from 2013-15.

Max Muncy/INF/Los Angeles Dodgers/Midland native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The 32-year-old Muncy is expected to start at third base for the Dodgers, considered one of the favorites to win the National League pennant and World Series. Coming off a 35-homer, 105-RBI year, Muncy is in his ninth season in the majors. In 2012, he 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.

Chris Paddack/RHP/Minnesota Twins/Austin native/Cedar Park HS — Paddack will enter his sixth season in the majors and his third with the Twins as a starter. Sidelined in May of 2022 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he returned and pitched at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Paddack was drafted out of high school in 2015 by the Marlins. Later traded to the Padres, he pitched in 2018 with the Double-A Missions in San Antonio.

Colin Poche/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Flower Mound/Flower Mound Marcus HS/ University of Arkansas/Dallas Baptist — The 30-year-old lefty will start his fourth season in the majors pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen. Poche was an eye-opening 12-3 with a 2.23 earned run average last year.

Ryan Pressly/RHP/Houston Astros/Flower Mound Marcus – Even with the Astros’ addition of Josh Hader as closer, the 35-year-old Pressley will be counted on heavily in high-leverage situations late in games. He’s pitched in 564 games in his career and another 46 in the playoffs during the Astros’ run of success. 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 — The 35-year-old Raley has enjoyed a long and winding career in professional baseball, getting drafted in 2009, breaking into the major leagues in 2012, playing in Korea from 2015-19, and then hitting his stride in the big leagues from 2020 to the present. Last year, he pitched in 66 games for the Mets out of the bullpen and posted a 2.80 earned run average. This will be his second season in New York.

Anthony Rendon/INF/Los Angeles Angels/Houston Lamar HS/Rice University – The 33-year-old Rendon starts his fifth season with the Angels. He came to the team in 2020 on a $245 million long-term contract. Plagued by injuries, he’s had trouble living up to expectations. Rendon hasn’t played more than 58 games in any season since he joined the team. 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. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Nationals out of Rice.

Grayson Rodriguez/RHP/Baltimore Orioles/Nacogdoches Central Heights HS – Rodriguez (7-4, 4.35) more than held his own as a rookie for the AL East Division champions. He should settle in nicely as the No. 2 starter behind recently-acquired Corbin Burnes.

Burch Smith/RHP/Miami Marlins/San Antonio native/Tyler Lee HS/University of Oklahoma – The 33-year-old Smith returns to the majors after spending the past two seasons playing overseas in Japan and Korea. In 2019, Smith pitched as a starter in Triple-A with the San Antonio Missions. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021.

Drew Smith/RHP/New York Mets/Fort Worth/Crowley HS/Dallas Baptist – The 30-year-old righthander is 11-12 with a 3.53 earned run average over five seasons, all with the Mets. Reached the big leagues in 2018, and sat out all of 2019 after elbow surgery. Last summer, his earned run average ticked up a bit to 4.15, but he remained as a fixture in the pen with 62 appearances.

Trevor Story/INF/Red Sox/Irving HS – The 31-year-old Story is looking for a re-set on his career going into his third year in Boston. Last year, he sat out 112 games with an elbow injury. He returned to play 43 games in August and September and hit only .203. The Sox hope he can regain some of the form he had with the Colorado Rockies, where he enjoyed a couple of 30-plus homer and 20-plus steal seasons. Story was the 45th pick in the 2011 draft out of Irving High School.

Ross Stripling/RHP/Oakland A’s/Pennsylvania native/Southlake Carroll HS/Texas A&M – The San Francisco Giants shipped the 34-year-old Stripling to the struggling A’s in February. With the A’s, he’ll bring veteran savvy to the clubhouse. He’s 38-43 with a 3.96 earned run average in his career. 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.

Jose Trevino/C/NY Yankees/Corpus Christi St. John Paul II/Oral Roberts – Will enter his third year with the Yankees and his sixth in major league baseball. Trevino is coming off an injury-marred season in which he was lost to the team in July with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Trevino, formerly of the Texas Rangers, made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in 2022.

Will Vest/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Houston-area Fort Bend Ridge Point HS/Stephen F. Austin University – Will Vest opens his fourth season in the majors and his third with the Tigers as a middle innings reliever.

Michael Wacha/RHP/Kansas City Royals/Iowa City native, Texarkana Pleasant Grove HS, Texas A&M University – Wacha signed last December as a free agent with the Royals. Clated to be the fourth starter in the Royals’ rotation, Wacha has fashioned a 88-54 record in 11 previous seasons in the majors. He was an All-American at Texas A&M in 2010 and 2011.

Jordan Westburg/INF/Baltimore Orioles/New Braunfels HS/Mississippi State – Westburg, in his first season in the majors, hit .260 and played all over the infield in 68 games last year. He’ll be asked to play a similar role this season.

Bobby Witt Jr./INF/Kansas City Royals/Fort Worth-area Colleyville Heritage HS — Witt enters his third season in the majors with a new contract, which reportedly covers 14 years, including 11 of it guaranteed for $288 million. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft blossomed last season, hitting 30 home runs and stealing 49 bases. He is the son of former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt.

Connor Wong/C/Boston Red Sox/Pearland HS/University of Houston — The 27-year-old Wong became a starter last year and played in 126 games. He’ll have the job again because of his defensive prowess, particularly his throwing arm and his ability to manage games. The Sox are hoping he can improve on a .235 average, 9 HR and 36 RBIs.

Softball: No. 24 Baylor edges UTSA, 2-1

UTSA starting pitcher Jamie Gilbert. Baylor beat UTSA 2-1 in non-conference softball on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA starting pitcher Jamie Gilbert went the distance on Tuesday afternoon at home against the Baylor Bears. No. 24 Baylor emerged with a 2-1 victory. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With some UTSA fans donning “Beat the Bears” T-shirts Tuesday afternoon, the stage was set for a showdown at Roadrunner Field.

The 24th-ranked Bears fell behind early but scored one run in the fifth inning and another in the seventh to down the Roadrunners. Ashlyn Wachtendorf came up big for Baylor with RBI singles in both innings.

Working hard on a 110-pitch performance, Jamie Gilbert starred for UTSA. The senior from La Vernia allowed only five hits and one earned run. Jaylen Prichard went three for four at the plate for the Roadrunners.

Prichard, a junior from Liberty, Tex., helped UTSA score its only run of the game in the bottom of the third.

With one on and one out, she singled to left to put runners at first and second. Taylor Jensen then reached on an error, allowing Madi Hays to score from second base.

Records

Baylor 22-14
UTSA 12-30

Coming up

Charlotte will play at UTSA in an American Athletic Conference series, Friday at 6 p.m. and then Saturday and Sunday, both at 1 p.m.

UTSA right fielder Caton Letbetter. Baylor beat UTSA 2-1 in non-conference softball on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA right fielder Caton Letbetter tracks down a fly ball against the Baylor Bears. – Photo by Joe Alexander .

Austin Claunch delivers a strike in his first pitch at UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

On his first pitch at UTSA, new men’s basketball Austin Claunch threw a strike.

It came on a hot and muggy Tuesday afternoon in a ceremonial sequence just before the Baylor Bears played the Roadrunners in softball. The 34-year-old Claunch toed the circle and threw under-handed, just as they do in the women’s fast pitch game. His left-handed offering was true, and it appeared to be in the zone on the inside corner.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch completed his duties as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama on Saturday when the Crimson Tide lost in the Final Four to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Claunch, who grew up in Houston, is in town fresh off a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

He worked for the past season as an assistant coach in the resurgent basketball program at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide, under head coach Nate Oats, marched all the way to the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., where they lost in the NCAA semifinals Saturday to the UConn Huskies.

The Huskies beat the Tide 86-72 and then polished off the Purdue Boilermakers in Monday night’s NCAA title game.

At the end of UTSA’s season in March, the university elected not to renew Steve Henson’s contract, setting the stage for a new head coach to come in and take charge.

Four days after the Roadrunners were eliminated in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament, the university announced on March 17 that it had hired Claunch.

As one of the youngest Division I coaches in the nation, Claunch led the Nicholls State (La.) Colonels to 90 victories in five seasons and a couple of Southland Conference regular-season titles.

Claunch is expected to meet the media Thursday afternoon.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch showed his stuff Tuesday afternoon by throwing out the first pitch. And, yes, he is a lefthander. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi leads list of Texans on opening-day MLB rosters

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Former Alvin High School pitching star Nathan Eovaldi claimed victories in five postseason starts last fall in a magical run for the Texas Rangers, who won their first World Series title.

With a new season in Major League Baseball looming, Eovaldi is scheduled to get the start for the Rangers on opening night tonight when they host the Chicago Cubs.

To herald opening day (not counting last week’s games in Korea between the Padres and the Dodgers), here’s my first pitch, so to speak.

It’s my third annual list of prominent athletes from the state of Texas on active MLB rosters. To compile the information, I sifted through available information at the Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference and mlb.com.

Editor’s note: I’ve since added a few names to the original list as new information came to light through the first weekend of the regular season:

Texans in MLB

Tyler Alexander/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago native/Southlake Carroll HS/TCU – The 29-year-old Alexander is scheduled to pitch in the starting rotation with the Rays after working mostly out of the bullpen last year with the Detroit Tigers.

Chase Anderson/RHP/Boston Red Sox/Wichita Falls Rider/North Central Texas College/Oklahoma – The 36-year-old is entering his 11th year in the major leagues and his first season with the Red Sox. In his career, he is 59-56 with a 4.34 ERA.

Grant Anderson/RHP/Texas Rangers/Port Arthur native/West-Orange Stark HS/McNeese State — The high-kicking, side-winding righty is starting his second season in the majors with the Rangers. He’s scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen. His brother, Aidan, is in the Rangers’ farm system.

Brett Baty/3B/New York Mets/Round Rock native/Lake Travis HS — Baty enters his third season with the Mets. After they drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, he toiled in the minors until a 2022 call up. Has hit .210 in 119 major league games with the Mets.

Josh Bell/1B/Miami Marlins/Dallas Jesuit HS – Bell solidified himself as the Marlins’ starting first baseman in spring camp. He’s got the run-producing credentials. He has RBI totals of 88, 71 and 74 the past three seasons, from 2021 through 2023, respectively. Bell has also played for the Pirates, the Nationals and the Padres.

Cavan Biggio/UTILITY/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston St.Thomas HS/University of Notre Dame – The son of former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio, starting his sixth season in the majors, is expected to play a utility role. Could see quite a bit of time at second base. Biggio helped lead St. Thomas to the 2011 TAPPS Class 5A state championship.

Cody Bradford/LHP/Texas Rangers/Aledo HS/Baylor — Bradford was a late-season callup for the Rangers last year. He pitched 56 innings in 20 games, including eight starts. He crafted a 4-3 record with a 5.20 earned run average. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games, all in relief, including two appearances in the World Series. Bradford had a postseason record of 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA.

Matt Carpenter/DH-1B/St. Louis Cardinals/Galveston/Missouri City Elkins HS/TCU — The 38-year-old Carpenter, a former All-Star in St. Louis, returns to the Cardinals after a few years away with the Yankees and Padres.

Colton Cowser/OF/Baltimore Orioles/Cypress/Cy Ranch HS/Sam Houston State – After playing 26 games in the big leagues late last season, Colton Cowser made the Orioles out of spring training. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft out of Sam Houston State.

Nathan Eovaldi/RHP/Texas Rangers/Houston native, attended Alvin HS. — Eovaldi is projected to play a leading role as the Rangers attempt to defend their American League and World Series titles. He is in his second season with Rangers after he spent the previous five seasons with the Boston Red Sox. 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 — Projected to pitch out of the bullpen as he starts his fifth season in MLB, all with the Nationals. In his career, he has forged a 19-18 record with a 3.53 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 starts his 14th season in the majors. A former seven-time All Star, he ranks fifth among active players in hits (1,909) behind only Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutcheon and Jose Altuve. He played for Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2007-09.

Trent Grisham/OF/New York Yankees/Burleson/Richland, North Richland Hills HS — Dealt from the San Diego Padres to the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade. Grisham broke into the big leagues in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Started in the outfield the past four seasons with the Padres, winning gold gloves as a centerfielder in 2020 and 2022. 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.

Ke’Bryan Hayes/3B/Pittsburgh Pirates/Tomball Concordia Lutheran HS – Hayes starts his fifth season in the majors, all with the Pirates. Drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2015 with 32nd pick on the first round. He’s known as a defensive specialist though he did hit a career-high 15 home runs last year. Spent some time last summer battling a sore back.

Jordan Hicks/RHP/San Francisco Giants/Houston Cypress Creek HS – Hicks gets a fresh start in his career as a starter with the Giants. Hicks has been in the big leagues as a reliever since 2018. Through 2023, he had pitched in 212 games. He was 12-21 with a 3.77 ERA. The Cardinals traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. Hicks elected free agency in the offseason, and he later signed with the Giants.

Josh Jung/INF/Texas Rangers/San Antonio MacArthur HS/Texas Tech — Last year, as a rookie in his first full season in the major leagues, Josh Jung made the American League All-Star team, hit 23 home runs and produced 70 RBIs. He also overcame an injury late in the season to help the Rangers win their first World Series title. He’s expected to start at third base tonight against the Cubs after sitting out much of the spring with a leg injury. Played for coach Tom Alfieri at MacArthur and for Tim Tadlock at Texas Tech.

John King/LHP/St. Louis Cardinals/Sugar Land Clements HS/University of Houston – King, a native of Laredo who grew up in the Houston area, has pitched parts of the last four seasons in the majors. He’s 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 107 appearances, all out of the bullpen. The Rangers traded him to the Cardinals last summer in the Jordan Montgomery deal. King opened the 2024 season in Triple-A at Memphis but was recalled to the big league club on March 31.

Shea Langeliers/C/Portland, Ore., native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The sturdy rookie catcher proved he was up to the task, working in 135 games last season in his first full year in the majors. He hit .205 with 22 homers and 63 RBIs. 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 Loftin/UTILITY/Kansas City Royals/Corpus Christi Ray HS/Baylor University — Loftin made the opening day roster based on his play with the Royals last September, when he hit .323 in 19 games, and then his strong showing in spring training. The Royals selected him 32nd overall in the 2020 draft out of Baylor.

James McArthur/RHP/Kansas City Royals/New Braunfels High School/University of Mississippi — The 6-foot-7 righthander was traded from the Phillies to the Royals last summer. He has made the best of it, earning four saves in 18 relief appearances last season. Now, he’s earned a spot on the Royals’ opening-day roster.

Bryce Miller/RHP/Seattle Mariners/New Braunfels HS/Texas A&M — In a surprise move that ended up pleasing everyone in the Great Northwest last year, the Mariners moved Miller up from Double-A to the major leagues in early May and watched in wonderment as he went 8-7 with a 4.32 ERA. He pitched 131.1 innings in 25 starts.

Shelby Miller/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Round Rock native/Brownwood HS – The 33-year-old Miller starts his 13th season in the major leagues in Detroit. Miller is pitching out of the Tigers’ bullpen. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009 out of Brownwood High School, he has pitched in the majors for the Cardinals, Braves, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers. Miller, who had five starts in the minors with the San Antonio Missions in 2019, is 42-48 with a 4.06 ERA lifetime in the big leagues.

Hoby Milner/LHP/Milwaukee Brewers/Dallas/Fort Worth Paschal HS/University of Texas – The 33-year-old Milner could see a more prominent role in the Brewers’ bullpen with an injury to ace reliever Devin Williams. 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 seven previous seasons, all with the Braves, and has posted 35 saves and 105 holds. His record is 19-25, and his ERA is 3.35. Minter played for Coach Terry Pirtle at the Brook Hill School in East Texas and for Rob Childress-coached teams at Texas A&M from 2013-15.

Max Muncy/INF/Los Angeles Dodgers/Midland native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The 32-year-old Muncy is expected to start at third base for the Dodgers, considered one of the favorites to win the National League pennant and World Series. Coming off a 35-homer, 105-RBI year, Muncy is in his ninth season in the majors. In 2012, he 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.

Chris Paddack/RHP/Minnesota Twins/Austin native/Cedar Park HS — Paddack will enter his sixth season in the majors and his third with the Twins as a starter. Sidelined in May of 2022 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he returned and pitched at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Paddack was drafted out of high school in 2015 by the Marlins. Later traded to the Padres, he pitched in 2018 with the Double-A Missions in San Antonio.

Colin Poche/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Flower Mound/Flower Mound Marcus HS/ University of Arkansas/Dallas Baptist — The 30-year-old lefty will start his fourth season in the majors pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen. Poche was an eye-opening 12-3 with a 2.23 earned run average last year.

Ryan Pressly/RHP/Houston Astros/Flower Mound Marcus – Even with the Astros’ addition of Josh Hader as closer, the 35-year-old Pressley will be counted on heavily in high-leverage situations late in games. He’s pitched in 564 games in his career and another 46 in the playoffs during the Astros’ run of success. 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 — The 35-year-old Raley has enjoyed a long and winding career in professional baseball, getting drafted in 2009, breaking into the major leagues in 2012, playing in Korea from 2015-19, and then hitting his stride in the big leagues from 2020 to the present. Last year, he pitched in 66 games for the Mets out of the bullpen and posted a 2.80 earned run average. This will be his second season in New York.

Anthony Rendon/INF/Los Angeles Angels/Houston Lamar HS/Rice University – The 33-year-old Rendon starts his fifth season with the Angels. He came to the team in 2020 on a $245 million long-term contract. Plagued by injuries, he’s had trouble living up to expectations. Rendon hasn’t played more than 58 games in any season since he joined the team. 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. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Nationals out of Rice.

Grayson Rodriguez/RHP/Baltimore Orioles/Nacogdoches Central Heights HS – Rodriguez (7-4, 4.35) more than held his own as a rookie for the AL East Division champions. He should settle in nicely as the No. 2 starter behind recently-acquired Corbin Burnes.

Burch Smith/RHP/Miami Marlins/San Antonio native/Tyler Lee HS/University of Oklahoma – The 33-year-old Smith returns to the majors after spending the past two seasons playing overseas in Japan and Korea. In 2019, Smith pitched as a starter in Triple-A with the San Antonio Missions. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021.

Drew Smith/RHP/New York Mets/Fort Worth/Crowley HS/Dallas Baptist – The 30-year-old righthander is 11-12 with a 3.53 earned run average over five seasons, all with the Mets. Reached the big leagues in 2018, and sat out all of 2019 after elbow surgery. Last summer, his earned run average ticked up a bit to 4.15, but he remained as a fixture in the pen with 62 appearances.

Trevor Story/INF/Red Sox/Irving HS – The 31-year-old Story is looking for a re-set on his career going into his third year in Boston. Last year, he sat out 112 games with an elbow injury. He returned to play 43 games in August and September and hit only .203. The Sox hope he can regain some of the form he had with the Colorado Rockies, where he enjoyed a couple of 30-plus homer and 20-plus steal seasons. Story was the 45th pick in the 2011 draft out of Irving High School.

Ross Stripling/RHP/Oakland A’s/Pennsylvania native/Southlake Carroll HS/Texas A&M – The San Francisco Giants shipped the 34-year-old Stripling to the struggling A’s in February. With the A’s, he’ll bring veteran savvy to the clubhouse. He’s 38-43 with a 3.96 earned run average in his career. 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.

Jose Trevino/C/NY Yankees/Corpus Christi St. John Paul II/Oral Roberts – Will enter his third year with the Yankees and his sixth in major league baseball. Trevino is coming off an injury-marred season in which he was lost to the team in July with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Trevino, formerly of the Texas Rangers, made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in 2022.

Will Vest/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Houston-area Fort Bend Ridge Point HS/Stephen F. Austin University – Will Vest opens his fourth season in the majors and his third with the Tigers as a middle innings reliever.

Michael Wacha/RHP/Kansas City Royals/Iowa City native, Texarkana Pleasant Grove HS, Texas A&M University – Wacha signed last December as a free agent with the Royals. Clated to be the fourth starter in the Royals’ rotation, Wacha has fashioned a 88-54 record in 11 previous seasons in the majors. He was an All-American at Texas A&M in 2010 and 2011.

Jordan Westburg/INF/Baltimore Orioles/New Braunfels HS/Mississippi State – Westburg, in his first season in the majors, hit .260 and played all over the infield in 68 games last year. He’ll be asked to play a similar role this season.

Bobby Witt Jr./INF/Kansas City Royals/Fort Worth-area Colleyville Heritage HS — Witt enters his third season in the majors with a new contract, which reportedly covers 14 years, including 11 of it guaranteed for $288 million. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft blossomed last season, hitting 30 home runs and stealing 49 bases. He is the son of former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt.

Connor Wong/C/Boston Red Sox/Pearland HS/University of Houston — The 27-year-old Wong became a starter last year and played in 126 games. He’ll have the job again because of his defensive prowess, particularly his throwing arm and his ability to manage games. The Sox are hoping he can improve on a .235 average, 9 HR and 36 RBIs.

Notable

Infielder Brandon Belt (UT Longhorns/Nacogdoches), outfielder Robbie Grossman (Cy-Fair HS) and pitchers Noah Syndergaard (Mansfield Legacy) and Taylor Hearn (Royse City) remain unsigned … Former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Corey Kluber (Coppell HS) has retired.

Outfielder Corey Julks (Friendswood/University of Houston) has been optioned by the Houston Astros to Triple-A Sugar Land. Infielder David Hamilton (San Marcos HS/University of Texas) has been optioned by the Boston Red Sox to Triple-A Worcester.

Former Stephen F. Austin standout Hunter Dozier will start in Triple A with the Salt Lake Bees, a Los Angeles Angels affiliate, after the former first-round draft pick spent the past seven years with the Kansas City Royals … First baseman Darick Hall has been optioned to the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate at LeHigh Valley. Hall played in college at Dallas Baptist.

Injured list — Pitchers Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Highland Park HS), Jameson Taillon of the Chicago Cubs (The Woodlands), Nick Lodolo (TCU) and Brandon Williamson (also TCU) — both of the Cincinnati Reds — and JT Chargois of the Miami Marlins (Rice University).

Also, outfielders Randal Grichuk of the Arizona Diamondbacks (Lamar Consolidated HS) and Gregory Stone Garrett of the Washington Nationals (Richmond George Ranch).

Kershaw, on a Hall of Fame trajectory in his career, is expected to be out until midseason after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Say, what? UTSA women’s basketball isn’t mentioned in AAC postseason honors

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners have been shut out in individual postseason honors for women’s basketball announced Friday by the American Athletic Conference.

UTSA finished 16-13 overall and 10-8, in a tie with South Florida, for fourth place. In the upcoming AAC tournament, UTSA will take the fourth seed and a double bye into its opening game Monday in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena.

UTSA failed to receive mention in the awards despite performances from center Elyssa Coleman (10.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game) and guard Kyra White (10.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists).

Also, a pair of UTSA freshmen — guard Aysia Proctor (10.3 points, 5.1) and forward Idara Udo (8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds) — played well. Jordyn Jenkins, the Conference USA Player of the Year last season, averaged 14 points and 7.3 rebounds in seven games since returning from a knee injury.

2023-24 AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HONORS

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Temira Poindexter, F, Tulsa

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Danae McNeal, G, East Carolina

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Vittoria Blasigh, G, South Florida

COACH OF THE YEAR
Jason Burton, North Texas

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Delanie Crawford, G, Tulsa

SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dyani Robinson, G, North Texas

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
DesiRay Kernal, F, North Texas
Romi Levy, F, South Florida

AMBASSADOR AWARD
Chantae Embry, F, SMU

ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
Dazia Lawrence, G, Charlotte
Danae McNeal, G, East Carolina*
DesiRay Kernal, F, North Texas
Tommisha Lampkin, F, North Texas
Temira Poindexter, F, Tulsa*

ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
Madison Griggs, G, Memphis
Romi Levy, F, South Florida
Tiara Young, G, SMU
Tiarra East, G, Temple
Delanie Crawford, G, Tulsa

ALL-CONFERENCE THIRD TEAM
Denim DeShields, G, UAB
Mia Moore, G, UAB
Malia Fisher, F, Rice
Aleah Nelson, G, Temple
Daniela Abies, F, Wichita State

ALL-NEWCOMER TEAM
Mia Moore, G, UAB
Tatyana Wyche, F, East Carolina
Alasia Smith, F, Memphis
DesiRay Kernal, F, North Texas*
Romi Levy, F, South Florida

* denotes unanimous selection

Beltre’s Hall of Fame election marks a ‘special day’ for the San Antonio Missions

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Calling it “a special day” for the franchise, San Antonio Missions president Burl Yarbrough on Tuesday afternoon hailed third baseman Adrian Beltre’s first-ballot election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Beltre spent part of one season in San Antonio in 1998 and then went on to play 21 in the big leagues, rapping out 3,166 hits. With his election, he becomes the 10th former Missions player to reach Cooperstown.

“It’s great,” Yarbrough said. “Obviously we’ve followed his career since he played here in San Antonio. He went right from here to the big leagues. I think we knew when he arrived … that he was a special prospect.

“We’ve seen a lot of those come and go over the years. But he was one that really played well as a teenager in the Texas League.”

In his third season as a professional, Beltre, from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, moved up to the Double-A Texas League and reported for duty at age 19.

With the Missions, who were a Dodgers affiliate at the time, he hit for a .321 average and launched 13 home runs in 64 games. Additionally, his run production was solid as he had 56 RBIs.

Beltre also clubbed 21 doubles.

“Back when he played here,” Yarbrough said, “there weren’t a bunch of kids in Double-A. There were some grown men, and he came in as a teenager and held his own. You could just see the talent there.”

Yarbrough said it was his understanding that Beltre knew “very little” English when he arrived in San Antonio.

“I know (former Missions broadcaster) Brian Anderson probably spent quite a bit of time with him and got to know him,” Yarbrough said. “What was great about the Dodgers was that we always had several players from the Caribbean, from the Dominican. (Also) having Spanish-speaking folks in San Antonio, (it) probably (all) made it a little easier (for him).”

Beltre’s tenure in San Antonio didn’t last long, about two months.

By June 24, he played his first game in the major leagues with the Dodgers. Yarbrough said there was a feeling at the time that the Dodgers might send him back down to the minors, but they never did.

In all, he hit for a .286 average in 21 major league seasons with the Dodgers, the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers. He also slammed 477 home runs and totaled 1,707 RBIs.

“You know, this is a special day for our franchise, and one that we’ve been waiting for, for the last five years, knowing that he’d be eligible this year,” Yarbrough said.

In the majors, Beltre spent seven seasons with the Dodgers, breaking out for 48 home runs and 121 RBIs in 2004, his last year in the National League.

He played the next five seasons with the Seattle Mariners, and then one with the Boston Red Sox, before becoming a member of the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, he played eight years through the end of his career in 2018.

Beltre’s most memorable year in Arlington may have been his first, in 2011, when the Rangers won the American League pennant and then lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three, in the World Series.

He also played on Rangers playoff teams in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Notable

Here is a list of former San Antonio Missions players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, according to a Missions news release:

Outfielder Ross Youngs
Infielder Brooks Robinson
Outfielder Billy Williams
Infielder Joe Morgan
Pitcher Dennis Eckersley
Outfielder Willard Brown
Infielder Ron Santo
Pitcher Pedro Martinez
Catcher Mike Piazza
Third baseman Adrian Beltre

One last thing. In researching the topic, I found three members of the Hall of Fame who once played professionally in San Antonio, whose entire careers played out before integration of the major leagues in the late 1940s. Can’t overlook the contributions of these men, all native Texans, who were among the greatest players of all time — here they are:

Infielder Willie Wells
Catcher Raleigh ‘Biz’ Mackey
Pitcher ‘Smokey’ Joe Williams

Charlotte expected to slow down the pace tonight at UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners are playing a team tonight that likes to use most of the 30-second shot clock on each possession.

In the Charlotte 49ers, they’ll face an opponent that sets picks and cuts and passes and forces the defense to make fast-twitch movements in a confined area.

One wrong movement and a defense that loses focus can give up a back-door layup. Or two. If the trend continues, a team like UTSA that likes to play fast can get frustrated.

“Their style has the (capability) of sucking the life out of the crowd, to suck the life out of the opponent’s defense,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “If you get a little impatient and ratchet up your aggressiveness, then they’ve got you.

“You got to stay true to the game plan. You got to stay beneath them. You’ll have some breakdowns but you’ve just got to keep playing.”

Guard Jordan Ivy-Curry said the key to speeding up the game centers on playing sound defense and forcing misses.

“We’ve just got to play really good defense and run,” Ivy-Curry said.

Coming up

Charlotte at UTSA, tonight at 7, at the Convocation Center.

Records

Charlotte 8-7, 2-1
UTSA 7-9, 1-2

Notable

Playing a team with a slow-down style similar to Charlotte, UTSA suffered a 63-53 loss at home on Dec. 21. On that night, the Roadrunners hoisted 30 attempts from the 3-point line and made only five. Since then, they have come alive with an offense averaging 92.5 points over their last four games. In games against Prairie View, UAB, Rice and Memphis, the Roadrunners have knocked down a total of 52 3-point field goals. The Roadrunners are sizzling from outside the arc during that stretch, hitting 41.3 percent.

Title-series bound Amarillo manager applauds the young San Antonio Missions for having ‘a great season’

Adam Mazur. The Amarillo Sod Poodles beat the San Antonio Missions 6-3 in Game 3 of the Texas League South Division playoffs on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Missions starter Adam Mazur struck out six in four innings but yielded four runs to take the loss Friday night. The Amarillo Sod Poodles went on to win 6-3 to clinch a Texas League divisional playoff series. — Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Shawn Roof was a proud baseball manager on Friday night. Proud of his players. Proud of his coaches. Three nights ago, Roof’s Amarillo Sod Poodles lost the first game of a Texas League divisional playoff series at home to the San Antonio Missions.

Suddenly the Soddies, who dominated the second half in the TL South Division with 43 victories, were one loss away from getting unceremoniously swept out of the postseason by a team that finished tied for last.

But it didn’t happen. Or, rather, Amarillo’s players and coaches wouldn’t allow it to happen. They won Thursday and then won again Friday at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio to claim the best-of-three series, two games to one.

Outside the visitors’ clubhouse, about an hour after Amarillo had secured the postseason title in the South and advanced to the TL title round against Arkansas, the stadium lights were still on.

Amarillo players slowly filed out of the dressing room with bags slung over their shoulders, heading for the bus. A reporter asked Roof what it meant to him for his players to buckle down and win twice in two nights on the Missions’ home field.

“First off, you want to give credit to San Antonio,” Roof said. “They had a heck of a year. (Missions manager) Luke Montz and his staff did a great job. Those players play the game right. They had a great season. First, (I) want to congratulate them.”

The Missions, a team filled with enticing young talent and capable veterans, won 12-11 in 10 innings Tuesday night in Amarillo. In that regard, it took quite a bit of resilience for the Sod Poodles to steady themselves and win 7-4 on Thursday and then 6-3 on Friday.

Back to back — on the road. It was quite a statement, all right. A four-run fourth inning by the Soddies, ignited by extra-base hits from Seth Beer and Deyvison De Los Santos, proved to be the difference in the series finale.

“They were a very formidable opponent,” Roof said. “We had our backs to the wall (after the first game). But our guys came back and, you know, they never stopped fighting all year long. They’d always answer back no matter what the score was.

“I’m really proud of them and our coaching staff. I’m just excited for those guys, to have an opportunity to play for a ring.”

For the Missions, it was the second time in two years that they were eliminated on their home field in the first round. Last year, they lost the opener on the road and then came home to lose Game 2, falling in two games to the Frisco RoughRiders.

The Missions’ first season under Montz and its third under a renewed affiliation agreement with the San Diego Padres had its highs and its lows.

Buoyed by players such as Tirso Ornelas and Chandler Seagle, they won the TL South first half and thereby qualified for the playoffs by finishing 37-32.

After an almost complete roster makeover in the second half, they showed promise at times but ultimately finished 33-36, tied for last in the South with Frisco. Now, with the season completed, it was time for reflection.

“Hell of a season,” Montz said. “We came up short … This what you work for from Day 1, is to reach the playoffs.”

Added Montz, “We won Game 1 on the road, and that’s a tough place to play. Ten home runs, five by each team … It just didn’t go our way at home. We fell behind early in both games tried to fight back. Tonight they just went with a bullpen night (with the pitching) and we have three hits, four hits?”

For the record, it was three. Two singles and a Graham Pauley double. Another telling statistic? They were 1 for 11 at the plate with runners in scoring position.

The Missions had their chances. They led 1-0 early, and starting pitcher Adam Mazur plowed through the first three innings mostly unscathed.

“I thought Mazur threw the ball well,” Montz said. “We had that one hiccup where we give up four runs in the inning. We chipped away, got ourselves within a couple and then we give up another one late in the ball game. One win away from moving on and just didn’t come up with it.”

Trailing by a run early, the Sod Poodles erupted for four runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead. All of it came at the expense of Mazur, who had allowed one hit through the first three innings.

A.J. Vukovich started it off with a one-out single to center field. After Vukovich stole second, Beer followed with a ringing RBI double into the gap in left center.

Not to be outdone, De Los Santos hit a hard smash into the left field corner. Beer scored easily and De Los Santos made it all the way to third when the ball got away from Missions outfielder Ripken Reyes on the carom.

After that, the momentum continued to flow in Amarillo’s favor. Kristian Robinson walked, putting runners on the corner. Up stepped Juan Centeno, who executed a sacrifice bunt that scored De Los Santos. Jancarlos Cintron promptly drove in the fourth run on a triple to right.

Another key sequence in the game came in the bottom of the fifth when the Missions scored one to pull within 4-3. Nathan Martorella was up with two outs and the bases loaded. Carlos Meza struck him out to end the inning and the threat.

In the Sod Poodles’ next at bat, they capitalized when relief pitcher Austin Krob lost his control. First, he hit Beer with a pitch. Next, a wild pitch allowed Beer to take second. Ultimately, he advanced to third on a ground ball and scored on a line single to right.

So instead of the Missions taking control in the previous inning, the the Arizona Diamondbacks-affiliated Sod Poodles padded a lead that they ultimately would not relinquish, and now they’re headed for Game 1 of the championship series Sunday afternoon at Arkansas.

Montz told reporters that he enjoyed in his first year as manager of the Missions.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was a blast. Fell in love with San Antonio. You know, we’re Texas people. We live here, about five hours away (in East Texas). My wife and kids enjoyed it. We loved it. What a season.

“The locker room’s been fun,” he continued. “You know, we had some ups and downs from Day 1 to where we are today. Won the first round in the division. (Also, just) look at the new wave of guys who came through this locker room. A lot of guys have shifted to Triple A. Three or four who made it up to San Diego. Positives all around.”

Talented players who came to San Antonio in the second half of the season were so young, fans are surely wondering whether some might be back next year.

Catcher Ethan Salas was only 17 when he arrived in the last week of August. Pitcher Robby Snelling was 19. Shortstop Jackson Merrill was 20. Then there was 21-year-old Homer Bush, Jr., along with Pauley, Martorella and Jakob Marsee, all of them only 22.

“You look at the roster and you put things together,” Montz said. “Offseason, we’ll go to spring training and see what the front office wants to do. We’ll see what (Padres president) A.J. Preller wants to do with these guys, and go from there.”

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