Southern Miss hits six home runs to beat UTSA 9-5 in series finale

Christopher Sargent smashed three home runs on Sunday to power the Southern Miss Golden Eagles’ 9-5 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

The Golden Eagles homered six times in all as they won for the second straight day in a battle of Conference USA contenders.

Southern Miss, playing on its home field, won two of the three meetings in the weekend series to remain entrenched in first place with three games to play in the C-USA race.

By the end of the afternoon, the Golden Eagles led the C-USA, followed by the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who are two games back. The Roadrunners and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are tied for third, three games out.

The Roadrunners won the opener 8-7 on Friday night in Hattiesburg to pull within one game of the conference lead.

In the final analysis, they couldn’t sustain the momentum, falling 8-3 on Saturday and then watching as Sargent put on an impressive power display at Pete Taylor Park for the 11th-ranked team in the nation.

Sargent, a junior from Wilmer, Ala., was zero for nine in the series coming into the finale.

But he exploded in a game that that decided the series, going three for four at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in four. His three home runs boosted his team-leading total to 18 on the season.

After UTSA took a 2-0 lead in the top of first inning on a Ryan Flores two-run homer, Sargent highlighted a three-run response in the bottom half, answering with a two-run blast of his own off Roadrunners’ starter Drake Smith.

UTSA rallied with three runs in the third to take a 5-3 lead.

But, once again, Sargent had an answer with his potent bat. In the bottom of the third, with UTSA’s Luke Malone on the mound on only one day’s rest, Sargent and Slade Wilks blasted solo home runs to tie the game.

In the fourth, Reece Ewing hit a two-run shot, as the Golden Eagles opened a 7-5 advantage. They never trailed again. Sargent hit a solo homer in the seventh and Carson Paetow added another in the eighth.

With Southern Miss swinging aggressively, UTSA pitching couldn’t match up. Starter Drake Smith got only one out before he yielded three runs on three hits. He was replaced by Malone, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning of Friday night’s victory.

Malone worked 6 and 2/3 innings, and he yielded five runs on seven hits.

The Roadrunners swung the bats well early in the game against USM’s Hurston Waldrep. But they cooled off considerably against relievers Matthew Adams, Justin Storm, Garrett Ramsey and Landon Harper.

UTSA had a chance to rally in the eighth but couldn’t get it done.

With Ramsey on the mound and Southern Miss leading by three runs, Chase Keng opened with a single. Diaz followed with a single, a blast that glanced off Ramsey’s foot and caromed into the outfield.

At that point, Ramsey went down and had to be replaced. Harper entered and struck out Leyton Barry and pinch-hitter Isaiah Walker. Matt King flied out to center to end the inning and the threat.

Records

UTSA 33-18, 17-10
Southern Miss 38-14, 20-7

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 20-7
Louisiana Tech 18-9
UTSA 17-10
Middle Tennessee 17-10
Charlotte 16-11
Old Dominion 16-11
Florida Atlantic 16-11
UAB 12-15

Coming up

Thursday — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday — UAB at UTSA, noon.

C-USA tournament

May 25-29 — at Hattiesburg, Miss.

Southern Miss tops UTSA to hold CUSA lead

UTSA first baseman Ryan Flores at bat against Marshall on May 7, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA first baseman Ryan Flores, shown from a game earlier this season, hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning against Southern Miss.

Southern Miss beat UTSA 8-3 Saturday in Hattiesburg to stretch its lead in the Conference USA baseball standings back to two games.

UTSA (17-9 in CUSA) entered the game with a chance to tie 14th-ranked Southern Miss (19-7) at the top of the conference after the Roadrunners won the opener of the three-game weekend series on Friday.

Southern Miss and UTSA wrap up the series on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Ryan Flores accounted for UTSA’s only runs of the game. He hit his ninth home run of the season in the top of the sixth, a three-run shot that also scored Jonathan Tapia and Josh Killeen.

Southern Miss starting pitcher Hunter Riggins held UTSA scoreless the first five innings. He retired eight batters in a row before Tapia and Killeen worked back-to-back walks with one out in the sixth to set up Flores’ blast.

The Golden Eagles scored twice in the second inning and once in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead. They went back in front 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the sixth.

Southern Miss pulled away with four runs in bottom of seventh including two-run homer by Carson Paetow.

Riggins (6-4) got the win for Southern Miss. Golden Eagles reliever Dalton Rogers pitched the final three innings for his fifth save. UTSA’s Ulises Quiroga (1-4) took the loss.

Records

UTSA 33-17, 17-9
Southern Miss 37-14, 19-7

Coming up

Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.
May 19 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 20 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 21 — UAB at UTSA, noon

Notable

UTSA pitchers surpassed the school record for strikeouts in a season. Quiroga recorded strikeout No. 455 to break the record. The Roadrunners’ added one more strikeout in the game to raise their total to 456.

After using six pitchers in Friday’s victory, UTSA used six more on Saturday. Roadrunners starter Ryan Ward went 1 2/3 innings. Jacob Jimenez and Quiroga had Saturday’s longest relief stints at two innings each.

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone (7-2, 2.53 ERA), originally scheduled to be Saturday’s starter, pitched the final inning as Friday’s closer. He could be up for the start on Sunday.

Hurston Waldrep (5-1, 2.54 ERA) is the expected starter for Southern Miss.

Malone, UTSA hold off Southern Miss in the ninth inning

The championship-hungry UTSA Roadrunners took another step toward the top of the Conference USA standings Friday night with an 8-7 victory over the 11th-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

With the potential tying run at second base, drama unfolded in the bottom of the ninth inning. UTSA ace righthander Luke Malone was on the mound, trying to protect the one-run lead.

Southern Miss’ Danny Lynch opened the frame with a bloop double to left field.

The hit was a looping fly ball that dropped on the foul line, just out of the reach of two UTSA defenders — third baseman Austin Ochoa and left fielder Ian Bailey.

Brady Faust entered the game as a pinch runner at that point, but, ultimately, he never moved off second base after Malone retired the next three batters in order.

First, he struck out Will McGillis. On the third strike, UTSA catcher Sammy Diaz retrieved a ball on the ground and threw to first base to retire McGillis.

Next, Malone got Carson Paetow on a fly ball to center. It was a big moment for the Roadrunners, because Paetow had homered earlier and had knocked in four runs.

Finally, Malone ended the game when Rodrigo Montenegro sliced a liner to left.

If it had carried down the line for a hit, it likely would have scored the runner from second easily and would have put Montenegro into position as the potential game-winner.

Bailey, however, had other ideas. The UTSA outfielder was in position to glove it, allowing the Roadrunners to clinch the first game of a three-game series. It also pulled UTSA to within one game of first place in the C-USA.

Southern Miss leads the race by one game over second place UTSA, with two to play in the series at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, one on Saturday and another Sunday. Both teams have five games remaining in the regular season.

The Roadrunners are the hottest team in the C-USA, having won 20 of their last 26 games overall.

On offense, UTSA rocked Southern Miss pitching for a dozen hits. The Roadrunners had a few notable performances with the bats, including Diaz, who contributed three hits and two RBIs. Flores also had three hits, and he also had an RBI to cap UTSA’s six-run, sixth inning.

As for the pitching, the back end of the Roadrunners’ bullpen stood out. In the eighth inning, Ryan Beaird entered the game with one out and runners at second and third.

The freshman from Reagan High School promptly walked a batter to load the bases. But from there, Beaird got extremely tough and fanned Christopher Sargent and Slade Wilks to put out the fire.

Malone, a UTSA starter, closed the game by holding off the Golden Eagles in the last inning. By using Malone, the Roadrunners raised some questions. Namely, will Malone get a start in the series?

Other questions have come up, as well. Namely, can UTSA win the regular-season title? If so, it would be the first time for the Roadrunners to win the C-USA regular-season crown since they started play in the league in 2014.

Records

UTSA 33-16, 17-8
Southern Miss 36-14, 18-7

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-7
UTSA 17-8
Louisiana Tech 16-9
Florida Atlantic 15-10
Charlotte 15-10
Middle Tennessee 15-10
Old Dominion 14-11
UAB 11-14

Five to play in the regular season. Top eight teams in the 12-team league make the conference tournament.

Coming up

Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.
May 19 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 20 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 21 — UAB at UTSA, noon

Notable

With the win, UTSA tied the school record for most C-USA victories in a season with 17. Previously, the team’s best effort in the conference came in 2015 when it produced a 17-13 record. UTSA played its first season in the C-USA in 2014.

UTSA’s chances of making the 64-team NCAA tournament are also in discussion. They could make in one of two ways — as an automatic qualifier from the C-USA as the conference’s tournament champion, or, possibly, as an at-large entry.

Going into the series in Hattiesburg this week, they were 59th in the NCAA’s ratings percentage index.

Top-of-the-line, non-conference victories were notched by the Roadrunners against Stanford (No. 21 RPI), TCU (34) and Texas State (37). And now, they have another good one against Southern Miss (26) as their best win within the conference.

The few, the proud, the totally exhausted — UTSA’s baseball team went 19-6 in 41 days

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

Coach Pat Hallmark and his UTSA Roadrunners play on the road tonight against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. It’s the opener of a three-game series with Conference USA title implications. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Last weekend, a baseball team challenging for a conference championship and NCAA tournament consideration seemed a bit sluggish.

The UTSA Roadrunners played three hours last Saturday afternoon in near 100-degree heat. After going home to hydrate and rest, they showed up on Sunday morning confronted with the prospect of competing again in an atmosphere that felt sort of like what you’d expect from a Central American rain forest.

By the time the game at Roadrunner Field started at 11:30 a.m., most of the few fans that turned out for the series finale against Marshall huddled under umbrellas to ward off the sun. Some of the people working the game hid out in areas shaded by the grandstands, hoping for a breeze that never really materialized.

Some of the Roadrunners, who were on their 25th game in 41 days, were not mentally into it in the early innings. UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said a couple of players who hit balls that were barely foul, who should have been running on contact, instead lingered in the batters’ box. The coach barked at them to, in not so many words, wake up and play.

After eight innings, the Roadrunners still seemed to be in a bit of a fog, trailing 4-3 against the ninth-place team in Conference USA. But just about that time, something clicked. Sensing that they were letting a prime opportunity slip away, they rallied, pushing across two runs to win, 5-4.

After the players had celebrated another comeback victory, Hallmark was asked how much he has enjoyed working with this group of players. He paused. His voice cracked just a bit. He related the story about how he had to get on them. And then he admitted something that he has felt all along, but hasn’t articulated to this point.

“It’s fun to be a part of,” the coach said. “I’m proud of ’em.”

Today, the Roadrunners will take a 19-6 record in their last 25 games on the road for a showdown against the 11th-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The two teams will play the opener of a three-game series tonight at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss is in first place in Conference USA. UTSA is in second, two games back.

Oddly, neither team battling for the C-USA regular season title is at the top of its game right now. Southern Miss has lost five of its last eight. UTSA has dropped three of its last five.

In the Roadrunners’ case, I’m guessing that part of their malaise has had something to do with fatigue. The grind of playing so many games. Twenty five games in 41 days? In nine different ball parks? Is it any wonder, considering the occasional contest played in sauna-like conditions, that the team is hitting .206 during the slide?

“We’ll keep working at it,” Hallmark promised. “The guys have hit well all year. It’s not uncommon to go through slumps. So, we’re going to keep working at it.”

After Shane Sirdashney’s game-winning hit lifted the Roadrunners last Sunday, the team took Monday and Tuesday off. They went through a workout at home on Wednesday and traveled on Thursday. Tonight, they’ll face the ultimate test.

The Golden Eagles, with championship dreams of their own, will be waiting for them.

“I hope we take this momentum (all the way),” Sirdashney said last Sunday afternoon. “I know everyone’s finishing finals this week. We’re going to be all focused on baseball after finals, and then when we go to Southern Miss, we’re going to be ready to play.”

Records

UTSA 32-16, 16-8
Southern Miss 36-13, 18-6

Recent struggles

UTSA has lost three of its last five games overall, and the Roadrunners are hitting only .206 in that stretch. Southern Miss has dropped five of its last eight. In its last two C-USA series, the Eagles have dropped two of three both at UAB and at home against Old Dominion.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-6
UTSA 16-8
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
Charlotte 14-10
Middle Tennessee 14-10
Old Dominion 13-11
UAB 11-13

Coming up

Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.
May 19 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 20 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 21 — UAB at UTSA, noon

Southern Miss falls 4-1 to Ole Miss as UTSA series looms

The Ole Miss Rebels held Southern Miss scoreless for the last seven innings Wednesday night, downing the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles, 4-1.

In the wake of the loss, coming at home in Hattiesburg, Miss., Southern Miss will turn its attention to a weekend series in which it will host the UTSA Roadrunners.

The series starting Friday will go a long way toward determining the Conference USA regular-season championship.

The Golden Eagles (36-13, 18-6) lead the conference, followed by the second-place Roadrunners (32-16, 16-8).

Louisiana Tech and Florida Atlantic (both 15-9 in the C-USA) trail the Roadrunners by one game.

UTSA closes the regular season with three games at home against the UAB Blazers. The series is set for May 19-21.

Teams have six games to play in the regular season before the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled May 25-29, also in Hattiesburg.

UTSA, a C-USA member in baseball since 2014, has never won either the regular-season or the tournament title.

The Roadrunners have never won more than 17 C-USA games or finished higher than fifth in the standings. UTSA finished fifth in both 2015 and 2018. The Roadrunners went 17-13 in 2015.

Mid-week schedules

In San Antonio, the Roadrunners had Monday and Tuesday off for final exams before they staged a workout on Wednesday. They were scheduled to travel to Hattiesburg Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday night at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field, Ole Miss’ Drew McDaniel started and pitched five innings, allowing the only run of the game in the second, for the victory.

Jackson Kimbrell, Josh Mallitz and Brandon Johnson finished with shutout relief. All told, the Rebels held the Golden Eagles to five hits.

Records

UTSA 32-16, 16-8
Southern Miss 36-13, 18-6

Recent struggles

UTSA has lost three of its last five games overall, and the Roadrunners are hitting only .206 in that stretch. Southern Miss has dropped five of its last eight. In its last two C-USA series, the Eagles have dropped two of three both at UAB and at home against Old Dominion.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-6
UTSA 16-8
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
Charlotte 14-10
Middle Tennessee 14-10
Old Dominion 13-11
UAB 11-13

Coming up

Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.

Pitching

Edge: Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles have relied on their pitching all season. Entering the week, the Tanner Hall-led staff was second in the nation in both earned run average (3.07) and WHIP (1.12).

Hall (7-1) is the presumed starter for Southern Miss on Friday night. He was undefeated before he took the loss in a 4-1 setback last week against the Monarchs. Regardless, Hall enters the UTSA game with a 2.31 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 78 innings. Hall is sixth in the nation in strikeouts.

Last week, Southern Miss used Hall, grad student Hunter Riggins and sophomore Hurston Waldrep, in that order, in a three-game series against Old Dominion. UTSA went with sophomore Daniel Garza, junior Luke Malone and sophomore Drake Smith.

Hitting

Edge: UTSA

UTSA’s calling card is offense. The Roadrunners, with 393 runs scored in 48 games, are patient at the plate and usually don’t strike out much. They’re 28th in the nation with a .300 batting average and 29th in on base percentage at .401. In most games down the stretch, they’ve have started lineups with six or seven players at .300 or better.

That said, Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark has been concerned about the hitting of late. UTSA is only 32 of 155 at the plate in its last five.

Shane Sirdashney (.360) and Josh Killeen (.341) have the highest averages on the team, though they aren’t listed atop the statistical leaders. Leyton Barry, Sammy Diaz, Jonathan Tapia, Chase Keng and Garrett Poston are all hitting .300 or better. Home run leaders include Ian Bailey (with 12) and Ryan Flores (eight). RBI leaders include Keng (50), Bailey (44), Flores (41) and Tapia (40).

UTSA is breathing easier after Sirdashney’s walkoff winner

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Two weeks ago, a high and inside heater from a Florida International pitcher caught UTSA’s Shane Sirdashney squarely in the ribs.

It was a brutal sequence of events in the April 24 game in San Antonio, with Sirdashney coughing up blood and then going to the hospital to see if he had suffered a fracture.

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

Shane Sirdashney went 2 for 4, scored a run and drove in the game winner with a one-out, RBI single in the ninth inning. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Luckily for Sirdashney, the X-rays were negative.

“There were no fractures,” he said. “I was just kind of doing breathing exercises for a week, just doing nothing, just trying to get my lungs back. I felt like I was ready to go this weekend, and I played.”

Sirdashney’s comeback was well timed. It was just about as well timed as his walk-off RBI single on Sunday, which completed a two-run, ninth-inning rally and lifted the Roadrunners to a 5-4 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd.

Asked if he thought the baseball gods owed him the good fortune given his recent misfortune, which knocked him out of the lineup for five games, Sirdashney smiled.

“I think so,” he said. “I was just glad that we got the W. We needed this win bad. Just the way it came out at the end there was awesome.”

The implications of the two games to one series victory were equally compelling for the Roadrunners, who will move into the final two weeks of the season with a chance to claim their first Conference USA regular-season title.

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

Leyton Barry takes a tumble after he scores the game-tying run in the ninth inning. In a head-first slide, he collided with Marshall catcher Ryan Leitch, who was shaken up on the play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It will be an uphill battle, for sure.

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles lead the conference, with the Roadrunners alone in second place, two games behind. Both teams have six to play, including three straight, head-to-head, at the Golden Eagles’ home park next weekend.

How do they like their chances?

“I’m glad we’re in the picture,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “That’s all you want … as a coach. Obviously, in two more weeks, I want to be on top. I really don’t mind being in second place right now, because, we’re the hunter. But, we got to play good ball.

“This weekend (against Marshall), I don’t think we played bad. But we’re not hitting as sharp as we could. I think we’ve set a real high expectation, because we have hit all year. So, it seems easy … But, it ain’t that easy to hit. The pitches are not that easy. They’re not laying ’em in there.

“So, we got to stay positive with the guys. We didn’t hit as well as we could (this weekend). Clearly, I think we only had seven hits (today). But we’ll keep working at it. The guys have hit well all year. It’s not uncommon to go through slumps. So, we’re going to keep working at it.”

Zac Addkison, a Marshall sophomore from San Antonio and TMI Episcopal, struck out five in six innings Sunday. He left with a 4-3 lead, and observers said later his fastball hit 94 mph on the radar gun. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Both Marshall and UTSA had a lot of motivation to win this week. The Thundering Herd were trying to set themselves up to get into the eight-team, C-USA tournament field. The Roadrunners wanted to keep winning to put pressure on the Golden Eagles.

“It was huge,” Sirdashney said, “for them and us. This puts us in good position going into Southern Miss next week. It’s going to be a huge series. We get a series win there and it’s going to be huge for our RPI and also maybe winning the conference.”

Sirdashney said he likes the Roadrunners’ chances to overtake Golden Eagles, who have been in the top 10 nationally for the last few weeks.

“I hope we take this momentum (all the way),” he said. “I know everyone’s finishing finals this week. We’re going to be all focused on baseball after finals, and then when we go to Southern Miss, we’re going to be ready to play.”

Records

Marshall 20-26-1, 9-15
UTSA 32-16, 16-8

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

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said it’s fun to participate in the C-USA title race, but in order to win it, he said the team will need to swing the bats better in the last six games of the season. UTSA will play three at Southern Miss next weekend and then three at home against UAB from May 19-21.- Photo by Joe Alexander

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-6
UTSA 16-8
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
x-Six games to play in the regular season

Coming up

Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 1 p.m.

Notable

Elsewhere in the conference on Sunday, Southern Miss downed the Old Dominion Monarchs 5-4 in 10 innings to avoid getting swept at home this weekend. The seventh-ranked Golden Eagles (36-12) won on a bloop single by Danny Lynch that scored Christopher Sargent. Also, the FAU Owls beat the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 5-2, to win two of three in Ruston.

Ninth-inning dramatics

Ryan Capuano opened the ninth inning on the mound for the Thundering Herd Sunday, hoping to protect a 4-3 lead. Capuano struck out Sammy Diaz looking. Next batter up, Leyton Barry, drew a walk. Austin Ochoa, a pinch hitter, followed with a single up the middle, moving Barry to second. From there, with Jonathan Tapia at the plate, Capuano threw a wild pitch. As a result, Ochoa took second and Barry scampered to third.

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

Austin Ochoa figured prominently in the ninth-inning comeback with a one-out, pinch-hit single. He later scored the winning run on Shane Sirdashney’s RBI single. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not wanting to deal with Tapia in that situation, Capuano intentionally walked him to load the bases. Josh Killeen stepped in. Killeen lifted a pop fly into shallow right field. Barry beat the throw to the plate with a head-first slide to tie the game, 4-4. The collision shook up Marshall catcher Ryan Leitch, but after conferring with the Marshall staff, he stayed in the game. After the delay, Sirdashney stroked an 0-1 offering into center field, bringing in Ochoa for the game winner.

Quotable

Asked how he liked the finish to the game, Hallmark said, “I liked the finish. I didn’t love the rest of it.” Then he laughed.

And, what did he see on the play when the tying run scored? “I thought the slide was awesome,” Hallmark said. “I thought he slid straight in and hard. Really, really hard. He slid so hard, head-first hard, it was a little dangerous. But he went for it. I don’t know if he knocked the ball out or not, but the ball came (out of the catcher’s glove).

“It was a great slide. You got to go in low and hard. That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s not dirty. It’s just hard. I’d actually rather him go feet first. But, he’s doing everything he can to get there.”

Saving the day

UTSA right fielder Chase Keng has been one of the team’s hottest hitters during the team’s 25-game ride of 19 victories against only six losses. During the streak, he has hit for both average and for power. On Saturday, he blasted a three-run homer to boost his team-leading RBI total to 50. On Sunday, Keng made one of the best defensive plays of the season, captured deftly by photographer Joe Alexander.

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

UTSA right fielder Chase Keng makes a sensational catch against the wall in the sixth inning. After the catch, Keng fired to second to double off Daniel Carinci to end the inning. The play likely prevented one run, and possibly two, from scoring. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Marshall wins 9-6 to stall UTSA’s charge up the C-USA standings

UTSA's Chase Keng hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Marshall beat UTSA 9-6 in Conference USA baseball on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Chase Keng belted a three-run homer in the sixth inning, boosting his team-leading RBI total to 50 on the season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Marshall Thundering Herd built an eight-run lead in the early going Saturday and then held off UTSA, 9-6, in Conference USA baseball at Roadrunner Field.

In winning, the Herd evened a three-game series at one win apiece, kept alive their hopes for a C-USA tournament bid and stalled the Roadrunners’ charge toward the top of the standings.

Southern Miss leads the conference by two games over both UTSA and Louisiana Tech and by three over fourth-place Florida Atlantic. The UAB Blazers hold eighth place and the last playoff spot, two games ahead of Marshall.

Everyone has seven games to play in the regular season, with UTSA set to play Marshall at home on Sunday, followed by three at seventh-ranked Southern Miss next weekend and then three more at home against UAB from May 19-21.

On a hot Saturday in San Antonio, with temperatures in the 90s, UTSA arrived at Roadrunner Field 18-5 in its last 23 games and 13-3 in its last 16 in the conference. Marshall had struggled with an under .500 record for most of the season.

But the Herd, undeterred, broke loose with a big game on offense, collecting 13 hits, including six for extra bases. Leadoff man Travis Sankovich was a pain all day, stroking four hits.

In addition, both Kyle Schaefer and Geordon Blandon hit home runs off UTSA ace Luke Malone, who lasted only 3 and 1/3 innings and took the loss. Malone (7-2) gave up five runs on seven hits. Patrick Copen (3-3) pitched six innings and emerged as the winner.

He left the game with the Herd leading 9-4 and likely felt some anxiety down the stretch as the Roadrunners chipped away at the lead.

UTSA scored three runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and one in the eighth. In the ninth, Marshall’s Ryan Capuano retired three straight to complete a two-inning save.

Chase Keng and Sammy Diaz homered for the Roadrunners.

Records

UTSA 31-16, 15-8
Marshall 20-25-1, 9-14

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 17-6
LA Tech 15-8
UTSA 15-8
FAU 14-9

Coming up

Sunday — Marshall at UTSA, 11:30 a.m.

Notable

In other games involving C-USA leaders Saturday, the first-place Southern Miss Golden Eagles stumbled at home for the second day in a row. The Old Dominion Monarchs claimed a 4-3 victory over the Eagles in Hattiesburg. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs made up some ground with an 11-6 victory at home over the FAU Owls.

Second-place UTSA wins to tighten the C-USA baseball race

Josh Killeen’s three-run double highlighted a four-run second inning, and the UTSA Roadrunners bounced back from two straight losses with a 6-3 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd Friday night to stoke their Conference USA title hopes.

Ian Bailey added a solo home run in the third inning for the Roadrunners, who picked up a game in the C-USA race and moved to within two games of first place with eight to play. After Friday’s games, Southern Miss, UTSA and Louisiana Tech are 1-2-3 in the standings.

The Roadrunners arrived at the ball park having lost two straight, falling 2-1 at Middle Tennessee last Sunday and then returning home, only to get blown out 12-1 on Tuesday in a non-conference game against UT-Rio Grande Valley.

In the opener of a C-USA series against Marshall, they built an early lead and then tacked on a run in the eighth to make it 6-2. But in the top of the ninth, the Thundering Herd rallied, loading the bases with no outs against freshman Braylon Owens.

Simon Miller replace Owens to try and put an end to the uprising. Miller yielded an RBI single by Luke Edwards, pulling the Herd to within 6-3. At that point, he responded by striking out Ryan Leitch and Kyle Schaefer. Christian Lucio flied out to center to end the game.

With the win, UTSA improved to 18-5 in its last 23 games and to 13-3 in its last 16 in conference.

Records

UTSA 31-15, 15-7
Marshall 19-25-1, 8-14

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 17-5
UTSA 15-7
Louisiana Tech 14-8
Florida Atlantic 14-8

Coming up

Saturday — Marshall at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday — Marshall at UTSA, 11:30 a.m.

How it happened

First, the Florida Atlantic Owls completed a 10-2 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Ruston. Then, the Old Dominion Monarchs knocked off the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 4-1, in Hattiesburg. Those two outcomes set the stage for the Roadrunners to gain ground in the C-USA race.

UT-Rio Grande Valley hits six homers and downs UTSA, 12-1

The UT-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros came into San Antonio on Tuesday evening ranked inconspicuously at No. 139 on the NCAA baseball ratings percentage index.

But with Bryan Sturges hitting two of the visitors’ six home runs, and with J.C. Ariza pitching six scoreless innings, the Vaqueros proved to be much better than the RPI indicated, routing the No. 44 UTSA Roadrunners, 12-1.

For Sturges, it was a sweet homecoming of sorts. He played in 73 games at UTSA over two seasons from 2019 to 2020. Sturges, from Houston Seven Lakes, played at Texas A&M last season. Against the Roadrunners, he went three for four and drove in four runs.

Ariza, a 6-foot-5 righthander from Belleville, N.J., allowed only two hits. He walked one and struck out five.

Sturges hit his first homer in the fourth inning, a two-run shot, and he added a solo blast in the ninth. It was one of three Vaqueros home runs in the inning.

Brandon Pimentel, Chris Mondesi, Jacob Sanchez and Isaac Lopez also homered for the Vaqueros, a Western Athletic Conference team based in Edinburg, Texas.

Coming off a Conference USA weekend road trip to Middle Tennnessee, the Roadrunners couldn’t get the bats going.

They managed only four hits on the night and avoided getting shut out when Jonathan Tapia hit an RBI double down the line in the eighth inning.

The Vaqueros exploded in the ninth for five runs on homers by Sanchez, Sturges and Lopez. The blow by Lopez off Reese Easterling was a three-run shot and accounted for the final score.

UTSA’s last two games have been something of a mystery.

Going into Sunday at Middle Tennesee, they had won 17 out of 20, a stretch in which they scored 195 runs on a .324 batting average. In losing Sunday and again on Tuesday, they have been limited to two runs while hitting just .131.

Records

UTSA 30-15, 14-7 in Conference USA
UT-Rio Grande Valley 27-18, 12-9 in the Western Athletic Conference

Coming up

A three-game, C-USA series
Friday — Marshall at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday — Marshall at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday — Marshall at UTSA, 11:30 a.m.

Middle Tennessee pitching cools off UTSA in 2-1 victory

Pitchers Jaden Hamm and Trent Seibert combined to shut down one of the most explosive offenses in Conference USA on Sunday afternoon in leading the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to a 2-1 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

UTSA was 26 for 79 at the plate and had scored 25 runs in winning the first two games of a C-USA series in Murfreesboro, Tenn. In response, Hamm and Seibert held the Roadrunners to 4 for 29 at bat and nearly combined for a shutout.

For the Roadrunners, their only run came in the top of the eighth when a Sammy Diaz sacrifice fly scored Jonathan Tapia from third.

With the score tied, the Blue Raiders broke through against Roadrunners’ reliever Ryan Beaird in the bottom half. Eston Snider singled and stole second and then scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Brian Dillingham.

The Roadrunners arrived at the ball park riding a six-game winning streak. They had won 17 of 20 games in one of their best stretches since they joined the C-USA in 2014. In seven previous games since April 19, they had scored in double figures five times.

In their last six games, they had belted 11 home runs.

Nonetheless, they couldn’t figure out Hamm, a 6-1 sophomore righthander from Columbia, Tennessee. Hamm, the starting pitcher, worked seven scoreless innings, allowed only three hits and struck out nine.

Even though the Roadrunners have won 17 of their last 21 games, the loss to the Blue Raiders dropped them in the C-USA standings back into a tie for second place. Southern Miss leads at 17-4, with UTSA and Louisiana Tech tied for second at 14-7.

Records

Middle Tennessee 22-19, 12-9
UTSA 30-14, 14-7

Coming up

Tuesday — UT-Rio Grande Valley at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — Marshall at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday — Marshall at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday — Marshall at UTSA, 11:30 a.m.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 17-4
UTSA 14-7
Louisiana Tech 14-7
Florida Atlantic 13-8
Middle Tennessee 12-9
Old Dominion 11-10
Charlotte 11-10
UAB 10-11

Notable

The Roadrunners are in reach of a school record for C-USA victories in one season. UTSA joined the C-USA in 2014. Its best finish came in 2015 when it finished 17-13. UTSA won 16 in both 2014 and 2018. The Roadrunners have three, three-game series remaining — against Marshall (at home), Southern Miss (on the road) and UAB (at home).