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.”


Playoff drama looms with deciding Game 3 tonight at Wolff

Missions Sod Poodles 20230921 Graham Pauley 0807 0443 0434 0572 Graham Pauley had three hits including this double as the San Antonio Missions lost the Amarillo Sod Poodles 7-4 on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Graham Pauley had three hits Thursday night, including this double, as the Missions lost to the Amarillo Sod Poodles 7-4 in Game 2 of the Texas League divisional playoffs. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

After the San Antonio Missions escaped with a wild, extra-innings victory in Amarillo on Tuesday, they returned home to Wolff Stadium on Thursday night hoping to beat the Sod Poodles again to clinch a first-round Texas League playoff series.

The Soddies had other ideas.

Amarillo hit three home runs, cruised to an early six-run lead and then held on for a 7-4 win to tie the best-of-three set at one game apiece. As a result, the two teams will play again Friday night at the Wolff, with the winner advancing to the TL title series.

Seth Beer, Deyvison De Los Santos and Caleb Roberts homered to back the pitching of high-kicking starter Yilber Diaz, allowing the Sod Poodles to keep their championship hopes alive.

On Tuesday, both teams hit five home runs apiece in the series opener as San Antonio won, 12-11, in 10 innings. The Missions weren’t quite as prolific at the plate in Game 2.

They hit the ball well early but couldn’t capitalize when they had runners on base. Finally, in the bottom of the sixth, they broke through with two runs. Michael De La Cruz blasted an RBI double off the wall and 21-year-old Homer Bush Jr. added an RBI single to right.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Amarillo bullpen faltered and San Antonio took advantage, scoring two runs. That’s when the rally ended. With the bases loaded, De La Cruz popped up to left field for the final out.

Afterward, Missions manager Luke Montz said he liked the way his team kept battling in the game. He said he will not need to call a meeting for any pep talks to get his players ready to play on Friday.

“There’s nothing to say,” Montz said. “We talk about this from day one. This is what it’s all about. It’s winning baseball. It’s a winning culture. Playoff baseball. Guys are going to show up at the ballpark tomorrow with a job to do, and (that is to) win.

“We put it on the line. We talk about that from day one. There’s no speeches. We’re going to go out there and compete and get after somebody.”

Missions notes

Infielder Graham Pauley is the Player of the Year and Robby Snelling is the Pitcher of the Year in the San Diego Padres’ minor-league system. Both are playing for the Double-A Missions in the Texas League playoffs.

Pauley, 22, from Alpharetta, Ga., batted .308 in 127 combined games between Single-A Lake Elsinore, High-A Fort Wayne and San Antonio. Snelling, 19, from Reno, Nevada, went 11-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 22 combined starts between Lake Elsinore, Fort Wayne and San Antonio.

In winning the award, Pauley said it was an honor. He said he talked to officials in the organization, including A.J. Preller, the Padres’ president of baseball operations and general manager.

The words of encouragement from everyone were welcomed by Pauley, who joined the Missions late in the season, on Aug. 22.

“It kind of just makes me want to do the same stuff and try to stick to the routine I’ve had all year,” said Pauley, who legged out a double and hit two singles Thursday night. “When you keep doing the same things and it’s working out, you keep those things going.”

Texas League playoffs

Thursday’s scores

South — Amarillo 7, San Antonio 4.
North — Springfield 6, Arkansas 4.
Note: Both series are tied, 1-1.

Friday’s games

South — Amarillo at San Antonio, 7:05 p.m.
North — Springfield at Arkansas, 6:35 p.m.
Note: Winners advance to the TL title series

TL title series

Sunday — South winner at the North
Tuesday — North at South
Wednesday — North at South (if necessary)

Playoffs primer: Five players to watch for the San Antonio Missions

Ryan Bergert - August 25, 2023 vs. Amarillo Sod Poodles

Ryan Bergert is expected to start for the Missions tonight against the explosive Amarillo Sod Poodles. Bergert pitched six scoreless innings at home against Amarillo on Aug. 25, — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Here are a few San Antonio Missions players to watch as they continue their first-round Texas League playoff series tonight at home against the Amarillo Sod Poodles. San Antonio leads Amarillo 1-0 in the best-of-three between teams in the TL South Division. With a win tonight, the Missions would clinch their first playoff series victory since 2018.

Ryan Bergert
Age: 23
Born: Canton, Ohio
Position: Pitcher

The 6-foot-1 righthander is expected to start for the Missions tonight. Bergert’s task is a tough one, to try and slow down an explosive Amarillo offense. Though San Antonio escaped with a 12-11 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night, the Sod Poodles did damage with 17 hits and five home runs. Bergert’s third season as a pro has turned out to be his best. He has fashioned a 6-4 record with a 2.79 earned run average (combined) at both High A Fort Wayne, Ind., and at San Antonio. With the Missions since July 14, he has pitched in nine games and is 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA. His WHIP is solid at 1.14 and opponents hit only .206 against him. One of Bergert’s best performances came against Amarillo at home on Aug. 25 when he pitched six scoreless innings and struck out nine. The Sod Poodles scored an unearned run against the Missions’ bullpen and won the game, 1-0.

Did you know? Bergert pitched in the Big 12 with the West Virginia Mountaineers. He sat out the 2021 season after Tommy John elbow surgery but still got drafted that summer, selected in the sixth round by the San Diego Padres.

Nathan Martorella

Nathan Martorella - Sept. 15 vs. Springfield Cardinals

Nathan Martorella, taking a swing on Sept. 15 at home against Springfield, hit two home runs for the Missions in their playoff opener Tuesday night. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 22
Born: Monterey, Calif.
Position: First base

Martorella went three for five at the plate and slammed two, two-run home runs in the team’s playoff opener. The former all Pac-12 player for the Cal Bears started his second professional season at High-A Fort Wayne, Ind. With the TinCaps, he played in 112 games, hit 16 home runs and produced 73 RBIs. Promoted to Double-A, he joined the Missions on Aug. 22. In 23 regular-season games, Martorella struggled a bit in hitting for a .236 average. He hit three home runs and drove in 15.

Did you know? Martorella was born in Monterey, Calif., and grew up in Salinas. He excelled academically at Salinas High School with a 3.9 GPA. Graduated in 2019 and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 30th round, but did not sign. He went on to attend Cal and became a three-year starter. Blossomed into an all Pac-12 player as a junior. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round in 2022.

Marcos Castanon

Marcos Castanon - July 14 vs. Arkansas Travelers

Marcos Castanon, seen here playing at home against Arkansas on July 14, has sparked the Missions with his defense and his offense. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 24
Born: San Bernardino, Calif.
Position: Second base

Castanon, a 12th-round draft pick two years ago out of UC Santa Barbara, he came up big both defensively and offensively for the Missions in the playoff opener. After receiving a throw from the outfield, he threw out Kristian Robinson at the plate to save a run in the seventh inning. In the 10th, he blasted a three-run homer to give the Missions a five-run lead. To start the year, Castanon played 77 games in High A at Fort Wayne, Ind. Assigned to the Missions on July 14, he hit .280 in 54 regular-season games.

Did you know? Born in San Bernardino, Castanon grew up in Rialto, where he hit .579 as a high school senior. In college, he was a four-year starter at UC Santa Barbara. He hit .404 as a senior in 2021 when the Gauchos reached the NCAA tournament. In the tournament, they beat Oklahoma State twice before bowing out of the Tucson Regional in four games.

Homer Bush, Jr.

Homer Bush Jr. - Sept. 12 vs. Springfield Cardinals

Homer Bush Jr. hit .429 in eight regular-season games for the Missions and homered in the team’s first playoff game Tuesday. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 21
Born: Grapevine
Position: Center field

Bush had a big night in his first playoff game in the minors, going two for three with a home run, three runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. The rangy outfielder is a Texan, a native of Grapevine who played at Southlake Carroll High School. In college, he played for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. The San Diego Padres drafted him in July out of GCU. In a meteoric rise through the system, the first-year pro has played on three levels of the minors this summer, starting with rookie ball at the Arizona Complex League, then with Lake Elsinore in the Single-A California League and now with the Missions. He joined the Missions on Sept. 8 and played eight regular-season games, hitting .429. On the last day of the regular season, he went four for four at the plate, meaning that in his last two games he is six for seven at the plate.

Did you know? His father, Homer Bush Sr., played in the major leagues for seven seasons, suiting up for the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins. He won a World Series title with the Yankees in 1998. But in 1999, the Yanks packaged David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and Bush and sent them to the Blue Jays for pitcher Roger Clemens. Clemens, now retired after winning 354 games in the majors, is listed as part of the Ryan Sanders group holding an ownership stake in the Missions.

Lake Bachar

Lake Bachar - Aug. 22, 2023 vs. Sod Poodles

Lake Bachar, a former college football player at Wisconsin-Whitewater, hasn’t allowed an earned run since Aug. 17. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 28
Hometown: Winfield, Ill.
Position: Relief pitcher

Bachar is riding a nearly month-long streak of 10 appearances without allowing an earned run. He capped the streak Tuesday night by striking out four in two scoreless innings. Over that time, Bachar has pitched 17 innings, while yielding only five hits and two runs (neither of them earned). Also in the streak, he has struck out 21 and walked five. Last time he gave up an earned run? It was Aug. 17. On that date he yielded three runs (all earned) on four hits in 2 and 1/3 innings a 9-4 loss to the Midland RockHounds.

Did you know? Bachar played football and baseball in college at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. In 2014 and 2015, he was a kicker and a punter on the nationally-ranked football team. He kicked a 46-yard field goal in an D-III semifinal playoff game against Mount Union (Ohio).

Missions, Travelers win on opening night in the Texas League playoffs

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The San Antonio Missions escaped with a wild 12-11 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night to take a 1-0 lead on the Amarillo Sod Poodles in a best-of-three, first-round series in the Texas League playoffs.

Both teams hit five home runs in the opener of a South Division series that will continue with Game 2 on Thursday night at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio. A third game, if necessary, would be played Friday night at Wolff.

The winner of the series will advance to the TL championship round, which is scheduled to open on Sunday in the home park of the North Division winner.

Arkansas has the upper hand in the North after winning the opener in the other TL semifinal. The Travelers downed the Springfield Cardinals 3-1 on a rainy night in Springfield. The series now shifts to North Little Rock, Ark., where Arkansas can clinch with a victory in Game 2 on Thursday.

Playing in Amarillo in Game 1 of a series between TL South rivals, the Missions needed a fast start, and they got it, surging into leads of 5-0 and 6-1.

But in a game that evolved into an epic struggle, with the Sod Poodles rallying to tie the score 7-7 after the regulation nine innings, both teams saved the best for last.

In the top of the 10th, the Missions erupted for five runs, capped by a three-run homer from Marcos Castanon. Not to be outdone, the Sod Poodles scored four in the bottom half. Caleb Roberts’ second homer of the game, a three-run shot off Daniel Camarena, rallied the Soddies to within the eventual final score.

The game finally ended when Amarillo star A.J. Vukovich flied out to Korry Howell in right field.

For the Missions, 22-year-old Nathan Martorella hit two, two-run home runs, one in the first inning and another in the third, to lead the early surge. San Antonio’s other homers came from 21-year-old Homer Bush, Jr., and also from Cole Cummings and Castanon.

Despite the onslaught by the first-half South Division champions, the Sod Poodles, who won the second-half title, never seemed to be out of contention.

Roberts, a 23-year-old from West Palm Beach, Fla., led the way with two home runs on the night to highlight his three-hit, five RBI attack. Additionally, former Stanford University star Tim Tawa, Kristian Robinson and Seth Beer added one homer apiece.

After the Missions scored once in the eighth on a Sod Poodles throwing error to take a 7-6 lead, the home team tied it in dramatic fashion, with Beer slugging a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth.

The Missions used six pitchers, with 19-year-old Robby Snelling getting the start and working four innings. He yielded three runs on seven hits.

Lake Bachar, the fourth Missions hurler, proved to be effective with two scoreless innings. He held the Sod Poodles to two hits over the seventh and the eighth. Team saves leader Efrain Contreras pitched all of the ninth and part of the 10th to earn the victory. After giving up Roberts’ blast, Camarena hung on at the end to get the last out.

In all, the Sod Poodles’ offense lashed 17 hits against Missions pitching. Missions hitters did some serious damage themselves, collecting 14 hits. Starter Dylan Ray took the brunt of it, yielding six runs on eight hits in 3 and 2/3 innings. Forced to go to the bullpen time and again after that, Amarillo used six pitchers to try and stay in it.

Reliever Raffi Vizcaino worked the ninth inning and part of the 10th, yielding five runs, including four of them earned, to take the loss.

Missions notes

A defensive gem for the Missions came in the seventh inning. With the game tied 6-6, Amarillo’s Jancarlos Cintron lined a single to right field. Cole Cummings fielded it and fired to Castanon, the second baseman. Castanon promptly fired home, where catcher Michael De La Cruz applied the tag on Robinson for the third out. To begin the play, Robinson was on first base. Though he got a fast start on a hit-and-run ploy, the Missions foiled it with two strong throws.

Last season, the Missions were swept out of the first round of the playoffs in two games by the eventual league champion Frisco RoughRiders. They dropped the first game 7-3 in Frisco and came home to lose, 5-2. It was their first trip to the postseason since 2018. In ’18, they beat Corpus Christi three games to two in the first round, only to lose three games to none to the Tulsa Drillers in the finals.

The Missions won their last league pennant 10 years ago.

In 2013, the Missions swept to the TL title behind manager Rich Dauer. They were led on the field by pitchers Keyvius Sampson, Matt Andriese and Matt Wisler. In the first round, they eliminated Corpus Christi three games to two. In the finals, they beat Arkansas by the same count. Journeyman Johan Limonta, who started the season playing in an independent league in Pennsylvania, hit a grand slam in the championship series clincher at Arkansas. His fourth-inning blow was the difference in a 5-0 victory.

North Division highlights

Prelander Berroa struck out the final two hitters of the night to nail down a 3-1 victory for the visiting Travelers. The final strikeout came with the two runners in scoring position. A single to the outfield could have tied the game, but Berroa fanned Cardinals leadoff man Victor Scott II to end the game.

September to remember: James McArthur finds his groove with the Kansas City Royals

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The professional baseball career of former New Braunfels High School pitcher James McArthur has taken a few unexpected twists and turns over the past four months. He has been traded and he has been hit hard. He’s bounced back and forth from the minor leagues to the majors.

Adversity? Coming off elbow troubles last year, McArthur has seen his share of it, for sure. But that was then, and this is now. And right now, he apparently has packed away all his troubles, setting the stage for a strong finish as a Kansas City Royals rookie.

Four months after a trade sent him from the Phillies to the Royals, McArthur clearly has found a groove. He hasn’t allowed an earned run — or even a run, period — in seven appearances out of the Royals’ bullpen this month.

After adding a slider to his repertoire, the 6-foot-7 righthander has thrown one-hit ball over 9 and 2/3 scoreless innings in September.

In his last two appearances, both at home, he earned his first major league win against the Houston Astros last Friday night, followed by his first save against the Cleveland Indians on Monday.

As the Royals beat the Indians 6-4 at Kauffman Stadium, McArthur finished the game — three up three, three down — to earn mention Tuesday morning on the MLB network highlights.

All told, he threw only 17 pitches in retiring Bo Naylor, Myles Straw and Steven Kwan, lowering his WHIP to a microscopic 0.10 for the month. Highlighting the outing, McArthur unleashed a nasty slider to strike out Straw swinging.

Not too bad for a guy who was battling an elbow problem as a Phillies minor leaguer last summer. Eventually, he moved past the sore arm, but the defending National League champions had other plans for him.

In May, the Phillies dealt McArthur for outfielder Junior Morin and cash. The former 12th-round draft pick by the Phillies went to the Royals, who assigned him to Triple-A Omaha.

By the end of June, he got the call to the majors. But in keeping with the crazy summer, his callup was hardly the stuff of Hollywood. Once in the big leagues, he got bombed in his Royals debut on June 28 against the Indians, giving up seven runs in one inning. Two days later, he was sent back to the minors.

Through August, he moved up and came back down to the minors a few more times. On Sept. 1, though, the Royals recalled him again. He’s been stringing zeroes on the scoreboard ever since.


McArthur is the third former New Braunfels High School ball player to reach the major leagues this season. Earlier, Bryce Miller made the Seattle Mariners and Jordan Westburg was called up to the Baltimore Orioles. All three athletes played collegiately in the Southeastern Conference, Miller at Texas A&M, Westburg at Mississippi State and McArthur at Ole Miss.

McKenzie Adams is touched by the call to UTSA’s Hall of Fame

Former UTSA volleyball All-American McKenzie Adams salutes the crowd Friday night before a home match against Missouri State. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Volleyball star McKenzie Adams was in the house again Friday night at the UTSA Convocation Center, and, just like old times, the crowd cheered her presence.

This time, the former All-American for the Roadrunners was introduced as an honoree in the inaugural class of the UTSA Athletics Hall of Fame.

McKenzie Adams, a two-time All-American at UTSA, greets old friends at the Convocation Center. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

As the crowd stood and showered her with applause, Adams flashed the ‘Birds Up’ sign to fans who attended the pre-game ceremony on the first day of the season.

Later, the Roadrunners (2-0) completed their second straight-sets victory of the day, this one over the Missouri State Bears. Earlier, they dispatched the Texas Southern Tigers.

The scene in the pre-game lead-up to the Missouri State game was emotional, with Adams walking in, only to be greeted by former teammates and also by well-wishers who were fortunate enough to see her play in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.

With the crowd filling most of one side of the bleachers on the lower level, considerable volume was produced. Adams was clearly moved by the cheers. She loved it especially that some of her former teammates had gathered to greet her.

From days gone by, Jordan Kotara, Elise and Brandy Huskey, Paige Hamilton and a few others were on hand.

“It means everything that they showed up,” Adams said. “I didn’t know that they were going to come. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. You know, it takes six people on the court. To have them support me like this was a blessing. It was awesome.”

Adams, an athletic 6-foot-3 outside hitter, was humbled to get the call notifying her that she had made UTSA’s inaugural class.

“I’ve tried to put into words what it means,” she said. “To be a part of the inaugural class, it’s such an honor.”

Others who made the first class include former athletic director Lynn Hickey, former football coach Larry Coker, football player Marcus Davenport, basketball’s Devin Brown and track and field’s Tameka Roberts.

Adams, who grew up in Schertz and attended Steele High School, started her college career in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Virginia and then transferred to UTSA.

In her time with the Roadrunners, playing for former UTSA head coach Laura Neugebauer Groff, she earned honorable mention All-American honors as a junior in 2012 and then made the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America third team as a senior in 2013.

“I knew Virginia was not the place for me,” Adams said. “So I came back home, like a little lost puppy, not sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. Laura reached out and kind of took me in and said, ‘We got a home for you here.’

“The rest is history.”

Not only did Adams reap all-conference honors each year she played in college, her teams won most of the time.

At UTSA, the Roadrunners went 67-28 overall and 40-8 combined in seasons spanning the Southland, the Western Athletic and Conference USA.

After UTSA lost to Texas A&M in the 2013 NCAA volleyball tournament, she answered the call and extended her college athletic career just a bit longer, playing basketball for former coach Luby Lichonczak.

“Obviously winning is going to be the best memory,” she said of her time on the UTSA campus. “But just being around the girls, being around the team, those were my best friends. I’m just grateful to them and everything that we got to do together.”

In the pros, Adams has pretty much seen it all, living in outposts such as Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Aachen and Schwerin in Germany; Istanbul in Turkey and both Conegliano and Novara in northern Italy.

“Volleyball’s allowed me to travel the world,” she said. “Not even playing, after the season, I’ve been to Croatia. I’ve been to Greece. I’ve been to places in Turkey. I’ve been able to experience different cultures. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

Now, in a few days, she’ll have her bags packed for a trip to Japan to play another season on a one-year contract. Not bad for a 31-year-old gym rat.

“I’ve always said, until they stop paying me, I’ll keep showing up,” she said.


UTSA downed Texas Southern 25-19, 25-14 and 25-15 on Friday morning before returning for the nightcap and whitewashing Missouri State, 25-21, 25-12, 25-19. UTSA will host Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Ivan Melendez cranks out three hits to boost Amarillo

Sod Poodles designated hitter Ivan Melendez. The Amarillo Sod Poodles beat the San Antonio Missions 4-2 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sod Poodles DH Ivan Melendez, a former college Player of the Year for the Texas Longhorns, went 3 for 4 at the plate last night against the Missions. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Amarillo Sod Poodles maintained a one-game lead in the Texas League South division’s second-half race Thursday night, downing the San Antonio Missions 4-2 at Wolff Stadium.

Former University of Texas star Ivan Melendez led Amarillo with three hits, a run scored and an RBI.

Melendez, from El Paso, is batting .288 in 33 games for the Sod Poodles since he was called up to Double A. He has 12 homers for Amarillo and 30 on the season, counting 18 that he hit for the Advanced A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops in the Northwest League.

With the Missions holding a 2-1 edge on the Sod Poodles in the series, the teams will play three more games at Wolff this week, starting tonight at 7:05 p.m. The series wraps up with another 7:05 p.m. game on Saturday, followed by a 1:05 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Sod Poodles designated hitter Ivan Melendez. The Amarillo Sod Poodles beat the San Antonio Missions 4-2 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ivan Melendez holds his bat high as he prepares to hit for the Amarillo Sod Poodles. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Ivan Melendez of the Amarillo Sod Poodles playing against the San Antonio Missions on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Melendez has played third base and has also been the designated hitter.. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Teen baseball prodigy delivers a walk-off winner in his San Antonio Missions debut

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Teenage baseball prodigy Ethan Salas popped out to the infield in the third inning and took a called third strike in the fifth. He walked in the sixth and then flied out in the eighth.

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Overall, the No. 5 overall prospect in the minors had not dazzled anyone in his first game with the San Antonio Missions to that point — until he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th.

After pinch-runner Connor Hollis stole second base, Salas sent a jolt of electricity through the home crowd at Wolff Stadium, stroking a line-drive double into the gap in right center.

Suddenly, the fans were on their feet. Hollis was churning around third and headed for home, clenching a fist just as he scored the winning run in an 8-7 victory for the Missions over the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Salas, who turned 17 in June, had won the game in dramatic walk-off style. Afterward, Missions manager Luke Montz praised the ball player’s composure.

“Just meeting the kid today, the guy wants to play baseball,” Montz said. “He wants to get after it. He tells you he wants to get better every day … He’s got a lot to work on, in his game and stuff like that, but he showed in his last at bat, there’s a lot of tools in there. He hits a walk off double. With composure, he controls the game in that situation and he puts good wood on the ball.”

Playing the opener of a six-game home series against the second-half leaders in the Texas League South division, the Missions fell behind 5-0 and 6-2 but didn’t give in.

“Any time you can come back and win a baseball game and walk it off in the bottom of the 10th, it’s always huge for your ball club,” Montz said. “It’s exciting. It’s an exciting moment for your ball club. You look at how we won. Down by five and chipped away. Got to give it all to those guys. They played hard from start to finish and came out on top at the end of the ball game.”

The game marked a new beginning of sorts for the Missions, who won the TL South in first half and then slumped, entering the regular season’s home stretch three games under .500. Five new players were promoted to their roster, including Salas, Nathan Martorella, Jakob Marsee, Graham Pauley and Robbie Snelling.

Trailing by a run entering the bottom of the 10th, a few of the newbies sparked the game-winning rally.

The inning opened as Pauley took the field as the designated runner at second base. Martorella, who had three hits on the night, tied the game with a single to center field.

Hollis, pinch-running for Martorella, stole second base with one out, setting the stage for Salas. Batting from the left side, he worked a 3-2 count against Mitchell Stumpo before stroking his first hit as a Double-A ball player.

In January, Salas was regarded as the top international prospect in the game by both Baseball America and MLB.com. A Florida native, the Venezuelan ball player signed a reported $5.6 million contract Padres.

After going through Padres’ spring training, he started his pro career at Single A Lake Elsinore in the California League and then moved up briefly to Advanced A Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. Between the two, Salas played 57 games and hit for a .257 average.

Salas was particularly impressive in 48 games at Lake Elsinore, hitting for a .267 average, while smashing nine home runs and driving in 35 runs.


Conference title-race crunch time: UTSA hosts Rice tonight

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

The UTSA Roadrunners are 33-12 for the season and 19-2 in games that relief ace Simon Miller pitches. Consequently, Miller is likely to be on the mound some time tonight in the opener of a three-game, Conference USA series against the Rice Owls. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Three days after suffering their most lopsided loss of the season, the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners will return to Conference USA play tonight as they host the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game series. First pitch is at 6 p.m. at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA yielded 18 hits, including five home runs, in an 18-2 loss at home Tuesday night to the Sam Houston Houston State Bearkats.

With 10 games left in the regular season, a series of bounce-back performances against Rice this weekend might be considered crucial to the team’s long-term goals of a C-USA title and an NCAA tournament bid.

All C-USA teams have nine conference games remaining over the next three weekends, with the conference tournament looming May 24-28 in Houston. The front-runners in the chase are the Dallas Baptist Patriots (18-3), the Roadrunners (16-4) and the Charlotte 49ers (12-8).

This weekend, Dallas Baptist, UTSA and Charlotte are all playing at home. The Patriots face a test from the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, while the Roadrunners take on the Owls in a series for the second time this season, and the 49ers meet FAU.

Earlier this season, the Roadrunners won two of three in a closely-contested series against Rice at Houston.

Parker Smith, the Owls’ Friday night starter, plus relief pitchers Matthew Linskey and Krishna Raj, all had productive outings in the series played at Reckling Park.

UTSA won the opener, 4-3 in 11 innings. Rice bounced back to claim a 13-8 decision in the second game and then UTSA rebounded to take the finale, 6-5.

Offensively for Rice, Guy Garibay homered in each of the first two games. Drew Holderbach, Manny Garza and Ben Royo all had multi-hit performances in Game Two. In the third game, the Owls bashed three more home runs, including one each by Aaron Smigelski, Royo and Connor Walsh.

The difference in the series for UTSA stemmed from solid performances in the opener by pitchers Luke Malone and Simon Miller, who combined to shut down the Owls for 10 and 1/3 innings. Also, in the series finale, UTSA’s bullpen work from Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery and Daniel Shafer was crucial.

In addition, Antonio Valdez produced three hits and three RBIs over the weekend and pounded home runs in both victories. Also in the three games, Josh Killeen had six hits and Sammy Valdez three, with three runs scored. Diaz homered and had two RBIs in the finale.

The Roadrunners haven’t played as well lately as they have for most of the season. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 games, and they had to scramble to secure wins over Houston Christian and UAB in that stretch.

Roadrunners having success at the plate lately include Caleb Hill (.454 over his last six games), Taylor Smith (.413 in his last eight) and Leyton Barry (.395 in his last 12). On the mound, Miller has been dynamic. The 6-foot-2 junior righthander from Canton hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four appearances. Also in that span, he has struck out eight batters in seven innings.

Miller is a potential All-America candidate with a season record of 7-0, 10 saves and a 1.10 ERA. Moreover, the Roadrunners are 19-2 when he pitches. UTSA is also 9-3 when Malone pitches in a game. Lately, though, the senior righty from Round Rock has struggled a bit, allowing nine earned runs in 12 and 2/3 innings over his last two starts. Malone, the team’s Friday night starter, is 6-3 with a 3.13 ERA for the season.


UTSA 33-12, 16-4
Rice 17-27, 7-14

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.


UTSA took a significant tumble in the NCAA’s ratings percentage index this week. Before the lopsided loss to Sam Houston, the team’s RPI was at No. 47. It fell in the days afterward, and by Friday morning, it was at No. 57.

An RPI in the 30s going into NCAA tournament selection day is considered crucial for programs vying for at-large berths into the 64-team national field. After losing in the C-USA finals last season, UTSA was 37th going into selection day and didn’t receive a bid.

Given the history, RPI is a statistic to watch in the coming weeks. Going into Friday night, Dallas Baptist has the top RPI in the conference at No. 19, and UTSA is second. FAU is next at 67, followed by Charlotte (74), Louisiana Tech (127) and Rice (145) Bringing up the rear, Middle Tennessee is 170, followed by Western Kentucky (174), UAB (179) and FIU (208).

UTSA plays three games at home next week against C-USA leading Dallas Baptist (May 12-14). After a non-conference game at Abilene Christian the following week (on May 16), UTSA finishes its conference schedule with three on the road at Louisiana Tech. The LA Tech series (May 18-20) is scheduled to start on a Thursday and run through Saturday.

Mariners manager on Bryce Miller: ‘Calm, cool as any young player I’ve ever seen’

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Bryce Miller’s performance for the Seattle Mariners late Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum reverberated all the way back to his Texas home, where he made at least one evening television sportscast in San Antonio on Wednesday night and generated stories on more than a few local websites.

In his major league debut, the 24-year-old New Braunfels High School alumnus took a perfect game against the A’s into the sixth inning. He finished with only one run allowed on two hits in six innings. Perhaps more eye opening, the 24-year-old righthander struck out 10 and walked none.

Yes, he did it against the A’s, the team with the worst record in baseball. But his stuff was so good, it raised eyebrows in the Mariners organization, with manager Scott Servais calling it “an unbelievable performance” in postgame comments aired on Roots Sports.

“Calm, cool as any young player I’ve ever seen, for any young player getting to start his first major league game,” Servais said. “That’s kind of what we saw in spring training. But you never really know when the lights come on, and it was the same guy.

“He got in an awesome rhythm, a groove, with his secondary pitches. Obviously, the fastball’s got all kinds of life on it, and the swing and miss that that can bring from other lineups. You can’t ask for much more. That was some kind of shot in the arm.”

When the game started, it was sort of a curiosity, with A’s rookie Mason Miller going against a kid from Texas named Bryce Miller (no relation). When it reached the sixth inning, both pitchers were still in the game and both had no hitters going.

In the bottom of the sixth, with Bryce on the mound, the A’s came to life with Tony Kemp delivering a one-out single. Eventually, former San Antonio Missions star Esteury Ruiz doubled to drive in Kemp with the game’s first run.

By the top of the seventh, the A’s had a 1-0 lead, with Mason Miller still on the mound, throwing well and retiring the Mariners 1-2-3. For the A’s rookie, that was it. He was done, and the game would be turned over to the A’s bullpen. The Mariners took advantage of the situation, scored twice late and won the game, 2-1.

In the aftermath, historians and data specialists determined that Miller had become the only pitcher in Mariners history to strike out 10 batters in his debut. He joined Stephen Strasburg and Johnny Cueto as the only pitchers in AL/NL history to post 10 plus strikeouts and no walks in his first game.

Bryce Miller was still beaming about it all in his first Mariners’ post-game news conference. “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was little,” he said in remarks published by mlb.com. “I’ll definitely take the results from today.”

Earlier in the afternoon on Tuesday, New Braunfels coach Robert Alford talked about the pride he feels in what his former player has accomplished in simply reaching the big leagues. Alford coached him for three years on varsity through 2017 on a team that also included Baltimore Orioles’ prospect Jordan Westburg.

“It’s just a really, really cool deal,” Alford said of Miller’s promotion to the majors.

Alford said Miller had “a ton of upside” coming out of New Braunfels and elected to play one year in 2018 at Blinn Junior College. From there, he signed with Texas A&M of the Southeastern Conference and continued to progress.

At A&M, he faced a serious challenge when his second season with the Aggies in March of 2020 was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. Undeterred, Miller didn’t flinch. By June, he joined the Brazos Valley Bombers in the Texas Collegiate League and continued to work on his craft.

Alford applauded Miller and all the ball players around the state who pursued their goals during a time of uncertainty.

“Like you said, it was just a lot of people trying to chase their dream,” Alford said. “There was so much fear of the unknown and what was happening with Covid … but (there was a sense that) ‘I still need to get out there and do what I’m supposed to do.’

“I saw it all across the summer, because I’ve got two boys myself, and we were driving all over Texas and watching them play. You see all those kids out there, just trying to have some sense of normalcy. It was pretty impressive.”

Missions president Burl Yarbrough ran the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio in the TCL out of Wolff Stadium in both 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the TCL was the only baseball show in town after the minor league season was canceled.

Three years ago, Miller and the Bombers were the opposition to Yarbrough and the Chanclas. But upon learning Tuesday morning that Miller had made the major leagues, he acknowledged that it “was really cool” to have someone from the 2020 TCL break through to the highest level of baseball.

Recalling what it was like to meet specific health and safety protocols on a nightly basis that summer, Yarbrough reflected on what it all meant to him.

“None of us had ever been through anything like that,” he said. “You take those kids that had their season taken away from them at the college level, and we had lost our (entire) season at Triple-A that summer. We were just looking for something to put together and have an opportunity for kids to play. It’s something that I’m very proud of, that we were able to get all that done.

“Because, man, it would have been a long, long year without baseball.”

Bryce Miller from New Braunfels and Texas A&M started on the mound for the Brazos Valley Bombers and pitched three scoreless innings against the Flying Chanclas on Tuesday at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Three years ago, former New Braunfels High School standout Bryce Miller pitched for the Brazos Valley Bombers in the Texas Collegiate League. Today, he is coming off a historic first start in the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners . – File photo by Joe Alexander