By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay
Relief ace Simon Miller and the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners survived a ninth-inning scare Sunday morning, forcing a ground ball to the mound for the final out in a 9-8 victory over the FIU Panthers in Miami.
The teams started play early Saturday afternoon but had to leave the field in the evening because of a weather delay. Ultimately, the game was suspended in the seventh inning Saturday night, with the Roadrunners leading 9-6.
With the re-start taking place on Sunday morning, the Panthers seized the opportunity to stage a comeback, and they almost pulled it off. They scored twice in the eighth inning and had the potential tying run at third and winning run at second in the ninth, before Miller retired Mike Rosario to end it.
Ruger Riojas (4-0) was awarded the victory after pitching 3 and 1/3 innings to the point that the game was suspended on Saturday night. Miller worked the final 2 and 2/3 for his eighth save. For Pat Hallmark, the win was his 100th in four seasons as coach of the Roadrunners.
UTSA won the opener of the series Friday night, 22-8. With the two victories, the Roadrunners have clinched the series and have maintained a hold on first place in Conference USA. The teams are scheduled play the third game of a C-USA series after a scheduled half-hour break.
UTSA at FIU, Sunday, 11 a.m. (central time)
UTSA 30-9, 14-2
FIU 15-24, 3-14
UTSA 14-2, 30-9
Dallas Baptist 15-3, 31-9
The second game of a Conference USA baseball series resumed Sunday morning at 9:15 (central time) in Miami, with Simon Miller on the mound for the UTSA Roadrunners. With UTSA leading 9-6, one out and nobody on base, Adrian Figueroa stepped into the box for the FIU Panthers. Figueroa grounded out and Henry Wallen flied out to end an inning.
UTSA came to bat in the top of the eighth against lefthander David Eckaus. Eckaus retired the first two batters before yielding a single to Leyton Barry. He steadied himself and struck out Taylor Smith. In the bottom half, with Miller starting his first full inning, FIU opened with an infield single by Roney, and then Perez reached on an error by Roadrunners second baseman Leyton Barry.
At that point, Miller struck out Rosario. But FIU continued to battle, with Dante Giarardi reaching on an infield single, loading the bases. Miller fanned Alec Sanchez for the second out, bringing up Ruben Carpio, who had five hits against UTSA in the last two days. Carpio promptly singled through the right side for two RBIs, with Giarardi going to third.
With Miller working to Guida and the Roadrunners’ lead trimmed to 9-8, a ground ball force out ended the inning.
Emboldened, FIU’s Eckaus worked to the heart of UTSA’s batting order in the top of the ninth. It didn’t take long for him to strike out Antonio Valdez, Matt King and Caleb Hill. As a result, the Roadrunners took the field in the bottom half, with the Panthers trailing by a run but feeling some momentum. It was Miller’s job to shut it down.
Figueroa, the first batter, struck out. Drama ensued as Miller walked Henry Wallen, putting the tying run aboard. Brendan Roney promptly singled to right, moving Figueroa to third. With Noel Perez at bat, Roney stole second. But Miller got tough, fanning Perez for the second out. Mike Rosario stepped to the plate with the potential tying run at third and the winning run at second. Rosario grounded to the pitcher for the final out of the game.
The Roadrunners survived.