Opening day: UTSA baseball coach on the lookout for ‘hunger and determination’ in his players

UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners will open a new baseball season at home today against the UT Arlington Mavericks. First pitch is at 4 p.m. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Over the past few seasons, baseball players at UTSA didn’t always match up in talent with the players they were tasked with defeating.

The one thing they did have was a core of leaders that embraced competition so eagerly and so completely, that the Roadrunners won 38 games in each of the past two years.

With that, UTSA athletes also won the undying respect of their coach, Pat Hallmark.

In retrospect, Hallmark will tell anyone who will listen that those two intangibles — a hunger to compete and a determination not to lose — are foundational to any winning program.

Two years ago, players such as Johnny Tapia and Ryan Flores just didn’t want to concede defeat. Same thing last year. With Luke Malone and Simon Miller and others, the Roadrunners found inspiration to play at a higher level.

With a new UTSA baseball season dawning today, all four of those players and others have moved on in their lives and in their careers, which is a bit unsettling for the coach.

Why? Because even though he knows he will have quite a bit of talent at his disposal this weekend against UT Arlington and in the coming months, he doesn’t know for sure whether his new players will have the essentials.

In other words, the hunger and the determination.

“We’ve certainly seen some signs of that,” Hallmark said a few days ago. “But until you get someone with a different color uniform that kind of hates your guts and wants to take something away from you, you don’t really know. So, we’ll find that out starting Friday.”

“It’ll take a little time to figure that out, who likes that confrontation.”

Through fall practices and conditioning, the coach said he can’t always tell who will bring the intangibles to the table.

“We’re about to play some people that don’t want the best for us,” he said. “And, likewise. We need to find 10, 11 guys that enjoy that (confrontation). That’s what we’ve had the last couple of years.”

Will it manifest itself today? The coach will be watching.

Coming up

Game 1 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 4 p.m. today.
Games 2 and 3 — UT Arlington at UTSA, doubleheader, with the first game at noon on Saturday.
Game 4 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m. Sunday.


Pitching rotation: For UT Arlington — Zach Norris (2-2, 4.63 ERA last season) today. On Saturday, it’s Aaron Calhoun (0-1, 8.16 last season at Oklahoma) in the first game and then Caylon Dygert, a freshman, in the second game. Sunday’s starter is TBA. For UTSA — Freshman Robert Orloski today. On Saturday, Ruger Riojas (5-0, 4.11) in the first game and then Zach Royse (0-1, 9.58). On Sunday, TBA.

Outfielder Mason Lytle, a University of Oregon transfer, has opened eyes with his athleticism. But he’s not the only outfielder on the UTSA roster with speed and ability. Both Isaiah Walker and Tye Odom can run and track the ball, as well.

James Taussig. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

James Taussig is expected to bring some home-run power to the Roadrunners this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I would say this is a very athletic outfield,” third baseman Matt King said. “We have depth, whether it’s starters or the guys coming off the bench. I think they’re all athletic. They’re all going to make some plays. They can all play defense. So, yeah, outfield defense is something we should not have to worry about.”

Who will have home-run power? Among the newcomers, keep an eye on first baseman / designated hitter Alexander Olivo, infielder/outfielder James Taussig and infielder Zane Spinn. Also, among returning players, both King and Caleb Hill have both shown the ability to send the ball out of the yard.

Olivo may be the one to watch in the power department. He produced 13 homers and a .706 slugging percentage last year at Texas Southern. In addition, Taussig is known around the batting cage for exit velocity of more than 100 mph, tops on the team.

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