Friday-night expectations? UTSA’s Orloski embraces the challenge

Starting pitcher Robert Orloski. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Nineteen-year-old freshman Rob Orloski is expected to get the ball to pitch tonight for the UTSA Roadrunners. UTSA opens a three-game series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Chapman Field. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Hit hard in his first two starts as a collegian, UTSA freshman pitcher Rob Orloski showed signs last week that he can handle the Friday-night expectations.

Whether he starts or enters in long relief tonight at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the 19-year-old righthander hopes to build on last Friday’s performance, when he carried the load in a 12-0 victory at home over Grand Canyon University.

Fischer Kingsbery, Orloski and Cooper Hrbacek combined to limit the explosive Lopes to four hits in the first shutout by Roadrunners pitching since 2022.

Orloski, the player of the year in Idaho in 2022, worked six innings from the third through the eighth, allowing only three hits.

Facing a good offensive ball club, the 6-foot-4 righthander struck out seven and walked two and allowed a baserunner to reach third only once.

Afterward, his teammates gave him the game ball in the locker room.

“That was awesome,” Orloski said. “I mean, I got to thank God and the coaches for giving me the opportunity to keep pitching on Friday. To give me the opportunity to go out and prove myself. It’s a surreal moment.

“It’s something that you dream of, just, getting the opportunity to pitch on Friday as a freshman and getting the win and helping the team win.”

Securing his first victory in the combined shutout was meaningful for him.

“Fish started off the game great (with) two clean innings,” Orloski said. “Then, me going in there and having some help from the defense. And then Cooper being able to shut it out, it was a great game for the team.”

Orloski’s transition from high school to college has been bumpy at times.

Named to start in UTSA’s season opener, he yielded six runs and was tagged with the loss in a 10-9 setback to UT-Arlington. In his second start, the Roadrunners beat the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 7-6 at the Sugar Land Classic, but Orloski once again gave up six runs on six hits.

Combined, Arlington and SFA unloaded on him for five home runs.

At the same time, UTSA coaches weren’t really sweating it because while his pitch location needed improvement, his raw talent was obvious. Through three starts, Orloski has shown that he likes to challenge hitters, utilizing a fastball that seems to have late explosion.

He has struck out 20 in 15 innings of work.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark’s assessment of Orloski in the days leading into the season opener seem to be holding up. “Eventually,” Hallmark said at the time, “Rob’s going to be a very good college pitcher, so we might as well start finding out when right now.”

For Orloski, a baseball journey that started with major league games he would watch on television in his Idaho home has been quite the experience, already.

In many ways, it’s been a quintessential American experience, starting with a dream and then with a question to his father.

“Dad, do you think I could pitch?” he would say, in not so many words.

Robert Orloski, the pitcher’s father, has been supporting his son in his diamond ball field pursuits ever since.

“He’s been my coach from 8- to 12U,” Orloski said Tuesday afternoon, outside the dugout at Roadrunner Field “He even helped (me) in high school. So he’s always been there coaching.

“Just, step by step. Teaching me to just be strong on the mound. Always attack. Just have that mentality on the field.”

Orloski’s demeanor on the mound? A lot of it comes from years of conversations with his father at the kitchen table, in the car, or on the lake fishing for bass.

“He’s just been able to teach me the basics,” Orloski said. “I’ve had good coaches all the way (up), teaching me more of the advanced stuff. But he’s really been the one to teach me my mentality on the field.”

In 2022, Orloski reached a pivotal moment in his career. He was named player of the year as a junior at Middlegton High School in his home state and then started fielding inquiries from college coaches.

“I had a few other options up in the Northwest, in the Oregon area (and) the Washington area,” he said. “Main reason I came down here was because of the coach. Coach Hallmark, coach (Zach) Butler and (Ryan) Aguayo. I had family down here. So it was an easy move. An easy decision for me, I think.”

After completing his high school career in 2023, Orloski came to another crossroads. The Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 20th round in July.

“It was a pretty awesome call,” Orloski said. “I mean, I was super ecstatic about it. (It’s) still a surreal moment for me knowing that I got drafted by the Red Sox. I couldn’t be happier to be here right now, but it’s still awesome.”

Orloski acknowledged that he gave serious thought to the idea of going straight from high school baseball into the pros.

“Tough decision,” he said. “It was a tough road. It was stressful at times. But when it all came down to it, after getting drafted and knowing the situation, I knew I wanted to come down here (to UTSA).

“Getting an education … has always been a goal of mine. Getting a diploma and everything. So I think school and coming here has been a great choice for me. I don’t regret a thing.”

For Orloski, making the move from Idaho to Texas came with a twist. He wasn’t the only one in his family making it. His parents — Robert and Angela — have since moved into the area, as well.

They’re living in the Canyon Lake area.

“It’s nice to be able to be with them and go do stuff” Orloski said. “Like, going fishing at Canyon Lake. It’s been fun. Going there with my dad and my uncle. It’s been fun. An easy transition.”

UTSA coaches would agree that it’s been fun to watch Orloski develop as a player, although from another standpoint, the largemouth bass at Canyon Lake may not be completely thrilled with his move into the area with a rod and reel in hand.

“I haven’t gone too much,” Orloski said. “But it’s been fun when I’ve gone. Caught three or four each time.”

Coming up

Three-game series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Chapman field, starting tonight at 7. Series continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.


UTSA 7-6
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 7-8

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