Dallas Baptist coach says UTSA still belongs in the NCAA at-large conversation

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Before leaving the ball park on Sunday afternoon, Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner had a couple of interesting takeaways from his team’s three-game sweep of the UTSA Roadrunners.

First of all, he praised his players for rising to the challenge and seizing the regular-season title in the program’s first year in Conference USA. Next, he said the Patriots helped themselves in regard to the merits on whether they deserve to be one of 16 hosts of an NCAA tournament regional.

But, most interesting, he said he believes the Roadrunners still belong in the discussion to reach the 64-team NCAAs even if they come up short of the C-USA tournament title.

“I think without a doubt they’re still in the mix,” he said Sunday after his team completed an 11-7, 11-9 and 9-6 weekend sweep at Roadrunner Field.

By Monday morning, it became apparent that the Roadrunners will need to play extremely well in their last four regular season games and in the conference tournament to gain an at-large bid.

And, quite possibly, the only sure way for the Roadrunners to play in an NCAA regional this season would be to win C-USA postseason title in Houston, which would yield an automatic bid.

UTSA’s precarious position became evident when the NCAA Division I baseball ratings percentage index was published overnight following last weekend’s games. The latest NCAA RPI has Dallas Baptist as the C-USA’s top-rated team at No. 15, which is up 10 spots. The latest listing for UTSA is at No. 60, which is down six spots.

Last year, UTSA was 37th after grinding all the way through to the C-USA postseason championship game, where it lost to Louisiana Tech. On the next day, a 38-win UTSA team was not in the 64-team NCAA field despite winning twice on the road in the C-USA tournament against the regular-season champion and top 15 Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

Right now, the Roadrunners can point to a 2-1 record this season against RPI top-50 programs. Namely, a road victory over RPI No. 39 Texas A&M and a 1-1 split against RPI No. 47 Texas State. Also, they have been as consistent in the regular season as anyone in the nation, going 11-1-1 in weekend series.

On top of that, they’re 36-15 and 19-7 in conference, failing to win on the weekend at Charlotte and Dallas Baptist at home. Moreover, they’ve been in the top 25 in various media polls since the first week of April.

Last week, the DI Baseball poll had them at No. 22. On Monday morning, the DI poll dropped UTSA out of the Top 25, while moving Dallas Baptist up one notch to No. 17.

Still looming on UTSA’s schedule are four road games, Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. The C-USA tournament is set for the following week, from May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston.

At present, Heefner insisted that UTSA still belongs in the discussion for an at-large bid.

“Yes, for an at large,” he said. “They’ve been really consistent all season long. Obviously, I feel like we have a really good team. (Also), they’ve still got their Tuesday game, they got next weekend (at LA Tech) and the conference tournament. They’re a talented team and they’ve put themselves in a really good position.

“I think if they finish well, they have a very deserving shot at an at=large bid.”

UTSA was 25-5 at home before Dallas Baptist arrived, making the Patriots’ sweep all the more noteworthy. Heefner said he hopes his team’s performance at Roadrunner Field will aid in its desire to host an NCAA regional.

“That’s a thing for the (NCAA) committee, but that’s a goal we have as a program. We’ve done it before, and we schedule in a way that we’re going to really challenge ourselves in a non-conference schedule standpoint, because we do want to put ourselves in that position. I think our guys have done a great job and have been pretty consistent.

“You know, we had one little stretch at the very beginning of the year, and then ever since then, we’ve played really well. I think we’ve played like a (first-weekend) host team.”

Dallas Baptist clinches C-USA title by sweeping UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Give the Dallas Baptist Patriots some credit. On a weekend that featured a few late-night lightning storms in San Antonio, they brought the the thunder to Roadrunner Field.

The Patriots clinched the Conference USA title Sunday with a 9-6 victory, their third straight in a historic three-game series.

It was the first time in UTSA school history that two teams entered a weekend series on campus nationally ranked. Both lived up to the billing, too, though 18th-ranked Dallas Baptist made more plays and produced more key hits when it counted.

No. 22 UTSA had no reason to hang its head, though. The Roadrunners battled it out to the end in all three games and, moreover, they drew close to 1,000 fans to see a Friday night doubleheader and another 487 on Sunday.

After the school song was played, a fan seated high in the aluminum bleachers stood up and delivered a message to players on the field.

“Good job, guys,” he said. “Thanks for bringing baseball back to San Antonio.”

At least two Roadrunners said later that they heard the comment, a welcome message to a group that held the lead in the C-USA standings for half the season, only to see another team clinch near the end of the campaign on their home field.

“It’s cool to see the impact we’re having in San Antonio,” catcher Josh Killeen said. “It’s pretty neat what we’ve already accomplished. (But) we still have a chance. Conference tournament (is coming up). So, we’re not going to hang our heads here. Obviously, we wanted to pull out a game this week. But it just didn’t go our way.”

The Roadrunners fell behind 8-0 with the Patriots roaring out of the gates with three runs in the first inning and five more in the second. But in keeping with their mindset all season, they kept grinding, scoring two runs in each the fifth and sixth innings to pull within 9-6.

In the end, the Patriots’ defense rose up to meet the challenge.

The Roadrunners left three men on base in the seventh when left fielder Grant Jay robbed Leyton Barry of extra bases on a tumbling catch.

In the eighth, they had another opportunity shut down when third baseman Kodie Kolden stretched out to spear a line drive off the bat of Caleb Hill, who was thinking extra bases when he hit it.

Hill just shook his head and credited the Patriots for making the plays, but he also commented on how the Roadrunners may have sparked a change in attitude in terms of baseball appreciation on campus.

“I think Friday, I realized how many people we had (in the park) at the doubleheader, at both games,” he said. “That’s what I’ve noticed, that the fan base has grown. It just really means a lot that everyone’s been so supportive this year.

“The weekend didn’t go the way we wanted it, but it was a really fun, competitive series.”

The Patriots won 11-7 and 11-9 in two nine-inning games played Friday. Officials decided to play two on the opening day to allow for impending stormy weather. In each game, the newcomers in the conference clubbed three home runs in each game and hit both of UTSA’s best pitchers hard.

After taking Saturday off because of wet grounds, the teams took to the field Sunday under mostly sunny skies. The Patriots took advantage of a leadoff walk in each of the first two innings and four overall during that stretch to jump out to a big lead.

Nathan Humphreys, named last week as the national hitter of the week by one service, clubbed a two-run double in both the first and second innings.

Trailing 8-0, the Roadrunners finally got on the board in the bottom of the second when Killeen barreled a ball over the left field fence for a solo homer.

Killeen also homered in each of the first two games of the series, including a memorable eighth-inning grand in Game 2 that tied the score.

UTSA has some issues to iron out before they conclude the regular season Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. Killeen’s swing, however, is not one of them.

Killen said he “was on the attack” in each at-bat against the Patriots.

“I felt really good with being free with my hands,” he said. “And, yeah, they gave me some good pitches to hit.”

“They’re a very good program,” he said. “They’re good on the mound. They’re very good at the plate, and they play really good defense. They kind of hit every facet of the game really well, so hats off to them, to what they did this week. Yeah, they’re a good program and we hope to see them again at the conference tournament.”


Dallas Baptist 23-4, 40-12
UTSA 19-7, 36-15

Coming up

UTSA at Abilene Christian, Tuesday
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Thursday through Saturday
UTSA at Conference USA tournament, in Houston, at Rice University, May 24-28

C-USA standings

x-Dallas Baptist 23-4, 40-12
UTSA 19-7, 36-15
Western Kentucky 15-12, 30-22
Charlotte 14-12, 25-25
Florida Atlantic 14-13, 30-22
Middle Tennessee 14-13, 25-24
Louisiana Tech 14-13, 26-27
FIU 7-20, 20-31
Rice 7-20, 18-34
UAB 7-20, 16-34

x-clinched regular-season title

High-stakes duel: Dallas Baptist takes two from UTSA on a six home-run night

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

At one point late Friday night, it appeared that the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners might rise up and steal the second game of a doubleheader from the No. 18 Dallas Baptist Patriots.

But after a dramatic eighth-inning grand slam by UTSA’s Josh Killeen tied the score, the Patriots retaliated with two runs in the ninth to close out a long day in which it secured 11-7 and 11-9 victories in front of nearly 1,000 fans at Roadrunner Field.

The third and final game of the series is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Grant Jay highlighted the decisive two-run ninth for the Patriots with a long home run into the screen above the left field wall, his second homer in the game and the sixth for hard-hitting Dallas Baptist in the two games combined.

Pitcher Kyle Amendt, who gave up the grand slam to Killeen, steadied himself to close out the victory.

After a 30-minute weather delay chased away most of the spectators, the Patriots returned to the field, and Amendt did his job. He retired the last two batters in order, giving his teammates the upper hand in the Conference USA title race.

“That,” Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner said of Amendt’s performance, “was really big.”

At the height of the drama between C-USA title contenders, a crowd announced at 935 made for a festive atmosphere on the grounds of UTSA’s humble home ball park.

Fans were seated in lawn chairs and under canopies on the right field berm. Others were camped under trees along the left field side. Fans who wanted a closer look at the action were seated in three sections of aluminum grandstands.

It was clearly a pro-UTSA crowd.

But DBU, a traditional power in NCAA baseball, held its own by bringing in a vocal red-and-white clad cheering section. Near the end of the night, after officials warned of lightning in the area, players were waved off the field and most of the fans left the premises, never to return.

Later, at the conclusion of about seven hours of C-USA baseball, Heefner talked about the charged atmosphere at the game site, and he praised his players for taking what essentially were two huge steps toward the conference’s regular-season championship.

“I thought they handled the delay outstanding, but I thought they handled the entire day (well),” Heefner said. “UTSA is an outstanding ball club. They’ve had a great season. It was a big series. (It was) really cool. This is kind of college baseball at it’s finest, to have first- and second-place teams able to play each other at the end of the year.”

Because of the weekend weather forecast, officials altered the schedule. They decided to play two games in the three-game series on Friday, so that they could be reasonably sure that they could get the third game in sometime during the rest of the weekend.

It made for an interesting situation, with so much on the line late in the conference race, two games pitting 18th-ranked Dallas Baptist against No. 22 UTSA. DBU entered the day a half game ahead of UTSA in the C-USA race. After it was over, Heefner’s team held a 2 and 1/2-game lead in the race with four to play.

“We’ve been following them the whole year,” Heefner said. “I’m sure they’ve been following us. Just like the last game ended, we had the lead (and) they hit a grand slam to tie it. You know, that’s pretty exciting stuff. And then to see how our guys responded, having the delay, thinking we were probably done for the night. And of a sudden, (the weather) clears up and we’re able to go out (to play) again.

“And then to get those last two outs, was really big.”

The Patriots held a commanding 9-5 lead entering the bottom of the eighth. In response, UTSA’s Leyton Barry drew a leadoff walk and, one out later, Antonio Valdez reached on a hit by pitch. At that point, the Patriots pulled pitcher Alec Baker in favor of Amendt, the team’s standout closer.

Entering the game with a 1.35 earned run average, Amendt promptly allowed the Roadrunners to generate an epic rally. He hit Caleb Hill with a pitch to load the bases, and then he grooved one to Killeen, who struck a ball high and far over the right field wall for a grand slam, tying the score at 9-9.

As a result, Roadrunners fans roared their approval.

UTSA’s momentum didn’t last long. With one out in the top of the ninth, Jay scorched his 18th homer of the season high into the net above the left field wall. Moving in front by one run, the Patriots added to it with a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly for the eventual two-run margin of victory.

In the bottom of the ninth, UTSA’s Sammy Diaz opened by lining out to right field for the first out. But just as Diaz was taking a seat on the bench, a UTSA facilities official walked out to notify umpires that lightning had been detected in the area, necessitating the delay.

The Roadrunners went back to their dressing room, while the Patriots filed out of the ballpark, headed for the team bus.

Unbeknownst to some fans, the visitors weren’t leaving. They were just waiting out the delay. At Roadrunner Field, there is no visitors’ dressing area, so players went to the bus to pass the time. During the break in action, Amendt did his best to stay ready.

“It was just a (matter of) keeping the body hot,” Amendt said. “Honestly, just talking to the coaches, moving a little bit and staying locked in.”

After the final out of the night, Roadrunners players were downcast and quiet. In the dugout, one sat on the bench, holding his head with both of his hands. Coach Pat Hallmark was busy making notes to prepare his team for the series finale.

“We didn’t play wonderful,” Hallmark said. “But we didn’t play terrible. Mostly (we) just tip our hat to the hitters on their team. I didn’t like our third inning (in the second game). There were three walks in the five-run third inning.22-4, 39-12 You know, the first game, they just hit us. That can happen.

Without the big fastball, we can give up some hits. Unfortunately today, they were home runs. In Game One, the home runs hurt us. I can’t fault out pitchers if we give up base hits. I was a little frustrated with the third inning of the second game. Other than that, I didn’t think we did too much wrong.”


Dallas Baptist 22-4, 39-12
UTSA 19-6, 36-14

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at Abilene Christian, Tuesday, 4:05 p.m. (non conference)

Home-run memories

Game One featured three home runs by the Patriots (Nathan Humphreys, Ethan Mann and George Specht) and one by the Roadrunners (Josh Killeen). In Game Two, the Patriots also hit three homers (two by Jay, a freshman, and one by Mann), while the Roadrunners (Leyton Barry and Killeen) added two.

Grand slams altered the course of each game. Specht hit his slam in the fifth inning of the first game off UTSA senior Luke Malone, allowing DBU to open an 8-3 lead. In Game Two, Killeen launched his off DBU relief ace Kyle Amendt, tying the score at 9-9.


In one day, UTSA experienced two unpleasant firsts for the season — losing consecutive games for the first time and also losing a weekend series. The Roadrunners were 11-0-1 in three- and four-game weekend series coming into the weekend. A road series at Charlotte ended in a rain-shortened 1-1 tie.

Another concern centered on the team’s top two pitchers, Simon Miller and Luke Malone.

Miller was hit on the knee by a hard-hit ground ball in the sixth inning of the second game. After attention from the trainer, he was allowed to continue, but he suffered the loss in his worst outing of the year, yielding six runs (five of them earned) in 4 and 1/3 innings. In the first game, Malone, a Friday-night starter all season, pitched in relief. He also took the loss, giving up 10 runs (all earned) in 6 and 2/3 innings.

Dallas Baptist hit two home runs off Malone in the first game, one by Ethan Mann and another, the grand slam, by George Specht. The Patriots added two off Miller in the second, one by Mann and another by Jay. Jay has 18 home runs for the season and Mann has 16.

With five games left in the regular season, UTSA needs three victories to tie and four to break the school record for wins in a season. The record is 39. Of course, UTSA will get another chance to win a few more games at the C-USA tournament, set for May 24-28 in Houston at Rice University’s Reckling Park.

It’s looking increasingly like UTSA might need to win the C-USA tourney in Houston to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. Winning in Houston would give UTSA the conference’s automatic bid.

The only other route would be through an at-large bid, with national RPI playing a role in that calculation. With UTSA’s RPI at 54 coming into the weekend, the team clearly needs to pick up some victories down the stretch. UTSA came up short of an at-large bid last year with a season-ending RPI of 37.

C-USA showdown: Dallas Baptist hits three home runs to down UTSA, 11-7

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Opponents have little room for error when they face the explosive Dallas Baptist Patriots.

Two or three mistakes in a nine-inning game, and the Patriots can bury a team in a deep hole in a hurry. That is pretty much what happened to UTSA on Friday afternoon at Roadrunner Field.

Luke Malone. UTSA played Dallas Baptist in the opener of a Conference USA baseball series on Thursday, May 12, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Luke Malone, pitching in relief, yielded 10 runs on nine hits in 6 and 2/3 innings to take the loss against Dallas Baptist. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Ethan Mann, George Specht and Nathan Humphreys homered as 18th-ranked Dallas Baptist rolled to an 11-7 victory over No. 22 UTSA, solidifying its hold on first place in Conference USA.

Mann belted a three-run home run in the third inning. In the fifth, George Specht socked a grand slam over the centerfield wall to highlight a five-run outburst. Humphreys belted a two-run shot in the eighth.

The outburst gave Dallas Baptist, one of the best home-run hitting teams in NCAA Division I, 92 homers in 50 games this season.

With stormy weather in the forecast, the teams are scheduled to play the second game of a doubleheader Friday night. A third game would be played, weather permitting, on either Saturday or Sunday.

Dallas Baptist got the jump on UTSA in the series and increased its lead on UTSA to a game and a half despite three hits each from Dalton Porter and Garrett Poston and two RBIs each from Leyton Barry, Antonio Valdez and Josh Killeen.

Killeen hit a two-run homer for the Roadrunners in the bottom of the ninth to account for the final runs of the game The Roadrunners had two runners on base when the Patriots retired Barry and Taylor Smith to end it.


Dallas Baptist 21-4, 38-12
UTSA 19-5, 36-13

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA, Friday, 6:30 p.m. (second game of a doubleheader)
Dallas Baptist at UTSA, TBA, either Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting

From Cape Cod to San Antonio: Friends traveled to see Luke Malone pitch for UTSA

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone posed for a picture on May 5 at Roadrunner Field with friends from Massachusetts who visited for the weekend. Joe Miller and Karen White (at left) hosted Malone in their home in Falmouth, Mass., last summer when Malone pitched in the Cape Cod League. Miller and White were joined on their trip to Texas by (on Malone’s right) friends Wes, Kim and Geoff Morneau. – Photo by Jerry Briggs

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone made quite the impression on a family that hosted him last year in Falmouth, Mass. When Malone traveled to play summer ball in the prestigious Cape Cod League, he was assigned to stay with Karen White and Joe Miller.

White and her husband were so taken by Malone, they promised him that they would come to visit in San Antonio during his senior year. The reunion happened last weekend when White, Miller and three other friends arrived to cheer on Malone and the Roadrunners against the Rice Owls.

“We’ve been hosting for 15 years,” White said. “He’s one of our favorites.”

In a brief conversation with White on May 5 at Roadrunner Field, I started to see and hear some things that made me realize why Malone has been sort of a one-of-a-kind player on the UTSA roster for the past four seasons, and why the team likely will miss him when he’s gone.

For one thing, it was easy to spot his friends at Roadrunner Field. They were the ones wearing T-shirts saying, ‘From Cape Cod to San Antonio,’ with Malone’s mug shot on the front.

“We’re so lucky to have been a part of (Cape Cod League baseball) for all these years,” White said. “We’ve hosted dozens of boys. We’ve watched some make it to the majors. Others not. But Luke is a special kid.”

This weekend, UTSA hosts the Dallas Baptist Patriots in three games with Conference USA title implications. Because of weather forecasts, two games will be played Friday and the Roadrunners’ home finale on either Saturday or Sunday.

Before the home finale, UTSA will honor 14 UTSA seniors, including the likes of Malone, Leyton Barry, Antonio Valdez and Taylor Smith.

Malone, a righthander from Round Rock, came to UTSA as a transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2020 and played as a walk-on before working his way into the starting rotation over the past two seasons.

At UTSA, he’ll be known as one of the lynchpins of a team that won 38 games a year ago and 36 (so far) this season. White said in an interview on May 5 at Roadrunner Field that Malone was different from some of the athletes she has hosted over the years.

“He was just very family oriented,” she said. “He was open to (experiences away from the field). We like to show them around. We took him to Fenway Park. Did a Red Sox game. He loved it. He was open to whatever we wanted to do.

“That isn’t always the case with the college boys. Sometimes they just want to hang with each other. He loved hanging with us. So we loved that.”

Players in the Cape Cod League have a rigorous schedule just in terms of what they are required to do for their respective teams.

“They put in long hours, at least six days a week,” White said. “What we liked about Luke, was, they run special clinics for young kids. Luke would go and work the camps in the morning early, about 6 or 7 a.m., have lunch and go back to the field. So his work ethic was wonderful.”

White said on most days she and her husband didn’t really see him much.

“We’d have breakfast in the morning and then he’d scoot off to the field and help teach the kids,” she said. “Come back home. Eat quick. And then he’d be gone (to team activities) from 2 to 10 every night. It’s a rigourous schedule.

“But when we had time off, that’s the difference with his maturity, when they had a day off, he was very open to us. He took advantage of every single activity.”

Malone said in an interview on Thursday that he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the host family last summer.

A trip to see the Red Sox. A drive over to Martha’s Vineyard. A day off to see Plymouth Rock. Just hanging around the family’s home in Falmouth was an experience. Out the back door, he could see the ocean.

The beach was just a short walk away. And the home cooking? How about lobster enchiladas? Lobster ravioli?

“I have so much respect for them, hosting players,” Malone said. “Sometimes (players) leave and you have another one come in. That’s what happened with us. They had a pitcher there, and after about a week, he left and I stayed the rest of the summer.

“I love that family. It’s basically like a second family. They had a grandbaby, so I was, like, their last player for awhile, because they’re going to be busy.”

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA in a three-game series with Conference USA title implications. First two are scheduled for Friday, with the first pitch at 3 p.m. at Roadrunner Field. Second game to follow 45 minutes after completion of the first. Third game to be played either Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting.


Dallas Baptist 37-12, 20-4
UTSA 36-12, 19-4

Senior appreciation

UTSA will recognize 14 seniors and 15 graduates through the weekend. Senior Day ceremony is scheduled approximately 30 minutes prior to the third game of the series. The seniors include:

Antonio Valdez
Josh Killeen
Leyton Barry
Robbie Maldonado
Garrett Poston
Josh Salinas
Shane Sirdashney
Drake Smith
Nick Crespo
Taylor Smith
John Chomko
Luke Malone
Daniel Shafer
Sammy Diaz

Roadrunners power past Owls 11-6 to complete a series sweep

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If you’re looking for the most important storyline for UTSA in its sweep of the Rice Owls this weekend at Roadrunner Field, it would have to center on championship-caliber resilience and inner toughness. In winning three straight, the team had to come from behind each day.

On Friday, the Roadrunners erased deficits of four and three runs.

Saturday, on a day prolonged by a two-hour weather delay, they were down five runs twice early and came back to win again. Finally, in the finale on Sunday, they took a big early lead themselves, lost it momentarily, and then rumbled to score six runs in the sixth en route to an 11-6 victory.

Senior Leyton Barry capped the big inning with his eighth homer of the season and the first grand slam of his career.

As a result, the Roadrunners registered their fifth series sweep of the season, claimed their 36th victory — three shy of the school record — and seized significant momentum leading into next weekend’s Conference USA showdown against the Dallas Baptist Patriots.

“It feels great,” Barry said. “Any time you can get a sweep, it feels fantastic. Especially this weekend, because we came back in all three games. Especially the first two, when we were down by multiple runs. So to come back and win all those games, it feels even better than the other sweeps, just because we had to fight for these wins.”

As the weekend progressed, it was evident that power hitting would be a major factor. The Owls hit seven home runs, but the Roadrunners matched them with seven of their own. In the finale, Ben Royo and Guy Garibay Jr. powered balls out of the yard for Rice. UTSA answered with long balls by Antonio Valdez, Caleb Hill and Barry.

With UTSA trailing 6-5 going into its half of the sixth, Cristian Cienfuegos entered to pitch for Rice and Hill, one of the hottest hitters on the team, greeted him immediately with a solo homer. Matt King followed with a single and moved up 90 feet on a ground ball.

With Sammy Diaz at the plate, a key sequence unfolded. Diaz singled into right field, and when the throw came into the infield, it got away for an error. King scored easily to make it 7-6, while Diaz reached second base. The miscue seemed to rattle Cienfuegos, who promptly hit the next two batters with pitches to put three men on the bags.

At that point, Rice coaches lifted Cienfuegos, replacing him with Matt Linskey. But on the tall righthander’s first offering, Barry met it solidly and pulled it over the right field wall. In other words, four runs on one swing. As soon as he rounded the bases and met his teammates, he jumped up for the leaping arm-bump and took a seat. He was then greeted with a question.

“In the dugout, someone mentioned, ‘Hey, have you hit a grand slam before?’ Barry recalled. “I said, ‘You know, now that I think about it, I haven’t.’ So, that was pretty great.”

UTSA pitching had its ups and downs all weekend. Sunday was no different. Fischer Kingsbery started and worked two innings. He struck out three but yielded a long homer to Royo, his second of the series, which cleared the wall in center field. Uli Quiroga had a rough go of it, giving up five runs in the fourth inning, including a three-run homer by Guy Garibay, Jr.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, Ruger Riojas (5-0) was on his game. Entering in the fifth inning, he pitched all the way into the eighth. In 3 and 1/3 scoreless innings, he gave up five hits. Two came in the eighth, which prompted UTSA to replace him with Ryan Beaird, who got out of the inning on a deep fly ball by Aaron Smigelski. Beaird finished with 1 and 1/3 innings of shutout ball, yielding only one hit.

For Beaird, it was his second strong outing of the weekend. He pitched one shutout inning Friday night and earned the victory. Though his season has been marked with some inconsistency, the Roadrunners are happy to see him throwing well going into the last two weeks of the regular season.

“It feels good,” said Beaird, a sophomore from Reagan High School. “It’s nice to know that I have eight other guys playing for me, willing to put themselves on the line to play for me. Every single one of those guys out there, they’re playing hard. It’s nice to have that when you’re on the mound.”


Rice 17-30, 7-17
UTSA 36-12, 19-4

Series glance

Friday: UTSA beats Rice, 9-7…UTSA trailed 4-0 and 7-4 and then rallied.
Saturday: UTSA beats Rice, 10-8…Trailed 5-0 and 6-1 and, after a weather delay, rallied again.
Sunday: UTSA beats Rice, 11-6…Trailed 6-5 and scored six runs in the sixth.

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA, a three-game series starting Friday at 6 p.m.

C-USA standings

Dallas Baptist 20-4, 36-12
UTSA 19-4, 36-12
Charlotte 13-10, 24-23
Louisiana Tech 13-11, 24-25
FAU 12-12, 28-20
Western Kentucky 12-12, 27-21
Middle Tennessee 12-12, 23-23
Rice 7-17, 17-30
UAB 6-18, 15-31
FIU 5-19, 18-29


UTSA center fielder Shane Sirdashney, a .361 hitter and a standout defensively, is battling a leg injury that has kept him out for most of the last three weeks. Coach Pat Hallmark is hopeful but is uncertain if he’ll have him against Dallas Baptist.

Sirdashney played a few innings in the loss to Sam Houston State last week but wasn’t on the team’s 27-man roster this weekend against Rice. For the season, Sirdashney has 53 hits and has scored 41 runs, so his loss is significant.

“He’s continuing to get treated and has seen a couple of different doctors,” Hallmark said. “It’s a hamstring injury, and hamstrings are tricky. We’re doing well without him. But he’s such a good player, it’d be silly to say we’re fine without him.”

Hallmark said his team has been dealing with a series of injuries to key players over the last three weeks.

“The injuries are worrisome,” he said. “We’ve had ’em for three weeks. Shane and Isaiah (Walker) got the leg issues and (Tye) Odom’s got the back. (Antonio) Valdez is playing hurt. So, in the back of my mind, it’s worrisome, because those are really good players. But we’ve got guys stepping up … I’m proud of the whole team. Guys are doing everything they can to win.”

UTSA comes from behind again to down Rice, 10-8

Caleb Hill celebrates with Antonio Valdez (3) after they both scored in the seventh inning. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Caleb Hill had three hits, including a home run, to ignite the UTSA Roadrunners Saturday in a 10-8 victory over the Rice Owls. The junior from Grandview has produced six hits in two victories over the Owls this weekend.- File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners moved to within a half game of the lead in Conference USA on Saturday, rallying from a couple of five-run deficits in a weather-delayed home game to down the Rice Owls, 10-8.

After a two-hour delay, the Roadrunners returned to the field trailing 5-0 in the top of the second inning. They were also down 6-1 to the Owls before mounting their second comeback of the series.

Caleb Hill, a 6-foot-1 junior from Grandview, ignited uprisings in both the fourth and sixth innings.

He had a two-run single as the Roadrunners scored four in the fourth. Hill hit a solo homer as UTSA added three more in the sixth. After picking up a run in the seventh, the home team led, 9-6, and appeared to be cruising to an easy victory.

But with UTSA relief ace Simon Miller in the game in the eighth, the Owls struck back. He yielded a one-out double and then a two-out, two-run home run by Drew Holderbach, as Rice pulled to within one. The Owls had runners at first and third before the Roadrunners finally got out of it, leading 9-8.

In a rapid response, UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez stroked a triple to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Later, Leyton Barry brought him home with a sacrifice fly, giving the Roadrunners a two-run cushion.

Rice made things interesting again in the top of the ninth against Miller. A two-out single by Manny Garza, the Owls’ second hit of the inning, put runners at first and second base with Pierce Gallo coming up.

Miller didn’t give in, catching Gallo with a called third strike on a breaking pitch to clinch UTSA’s 35th win of the season and their 11th weekend series victory. UTSA won the opener on Friday night, 9-7, after trailing 4-0 in the second inning.

On Saturday afternoon in Dallas, the Roadrunners received a gift. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders rolled to a 16-8 road victory against the C-USA’s first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots. After UTSA completed its victory over Rice, the Patriots led the C-USA at 19-4, with the Roadrunners at 18-4.

Both Dallas Baptist and UTSA close out their respective series at home on Sunday afternoon. Next week, the Patriots will play three games against the Roadrunners in San Antonio in a series with conference title implications.

From May 18-20, Dallas Baptist will close its regular-season schedule with three home games against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, while UTSA will finish its schedule with three on the road against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.


Rice 17-29, 7-16
UTSA 35-12, 18-4

Coming up

Series finale, Rice at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 19-4, 35-12
UTSA 18-4, 35-12
Louisiana Tech 13-10, 24-24
Charlotte 12-10, 23-23
FAU 12-11, 28-19
Middle Tennessee 12-11, 23-22
Western Kentucky 11-12, 26-21
Rice 7-16, 17-29
FIU 5-18, 18-29
UAB 5-18, 14-31


Caleb Hill is having a monster series against Rice with two three-hit games. He was three for five on Friday and three for four on Saturday. On Friday, he had a double and a triple. On Saturday, Hill added a home run. Going back a few weeks, he is on an eight-game hitting streak. During the streak, he is 16 for 31 for a .516 average.

UTSA’s single-season record of 39 victories is within reach. With eight games remaining, seven of them in conference — all before the conference tournament — the Roadrunners need four wins to tie and five to break the record. UTSA won 39 in both 1994 and 2008.

UTSA averts a second straight loss and rallies to beat Rice

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners felt the sting of their worst loss of the season for two long days before they even showed up to the ball park Friday afternoon to play the Rice Owls.

They aren’t into excuses, and so there weren’t any for what happened Tuesday night against the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Likewise, they viewed with level heads what was happening in the early innings against Rice at Roadrunner Field. They were getting beat — but only for only for awhile.

Taylor Smith (27) is congratulated at the plate by Antonio Valdez after Smith's home run in the seventh inning. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Taylor Smith (27) is congratulated at the plate by Antonio Valdez after Smith’s seventh-inning home run. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the end, the 22nd-ranked Roadrunners pulled it all together, rallied from an early four-run deficit and emerged with a 9-7 victory in the first game of a key three-game series in the Conference USA stretch drive.

“Obviously we got killed on Tuesday,” UTSA catcher Josh Killeen said of the 18-2 loss to the Bearkats. “It wasn’t a good feeling. But the big theme we hold onto as a team is, we believe in each other. We believe each player out there can do the job.

“I think that’s what we went back to. Just believing that the guy at the plate is a really good hitter and the guy on the mound is a really good pitcher, and we got good guys behind the pitchers who can defend. So, it’s just believing in each other and having faith that we are who we are.

“It’s just like, going back to early games during the season where we were really hot and jelling together. It’s just getting back to that kind of baseball and believing in each other.”

For UTSA, Ryan Beaird (4-1) pitched one scoreless inning to earn the victory. He fanned two, including the third out of the seventh with runners stranded at first and third base. All-American candidate Simon Miller, not to be outdone, fired two electrifying innings of shutout ball to earn his 10th save of the season. Retiring six straight, he didn’t allow a baserunner and struck out two. Rice’s Cristian Cienfuegos (2-1) took the loss.

UTSA reliever Ryan Beaird pitched a scoreless seventh inning. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Reliever Ryan Beaird pitched a scoreless seventh inning and struck out two to earn the victory, which kept the Roadrunners a game and a half behind the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots in the C-USA title race. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Offensively, multiple Roadrunners did their jobs when it counted. Both Taylor Smith and Antonio Valdez homered, and both Valdez and Caleb Hill had three hits apiece. Matt King produced two hits and three RBIs. For Rice, Jack Riedel had a three-hit game and freshman Ben Royo clubbed a three-run homer.

With the victory, UTSA stayed within a game and a half of the scorching-hot Dallas Baptist Patriots for the lead in the C-USA. In Dallas, the Patriots clobbered the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, 16-5, for their 15th straight conference victory. DBU improved to 19-3, with UTSA, not quite as hot, sitting at 17-4.

Both will finish a series at home this weekend — Rice at UTSA and Middle Tennessee at Dallas Baptist — before the two will meet for three games next week (May 12-14) in San Antonio. After playing a final non-conference game on May 16 at Abilene Christian, UTSA closes out the C-USA regular season with a series on the road (May 18-20) at Louisiana Tech.

UTSA (34-12) needs five wins to tie and six to break the school’s single-season mark for victories in a season.

UTSA reliever Simon Miller and catcher Josh Killeen celebrate after the final out. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller and catcher Josh Killeen celebrate after the final out. Miller pitched two scoreless innings for his 10th save, lowering his earned run average to 1.06. – Photo by Joe Alexander


Rice 17-28, 7-15
UTSA 34-12, 17-4

Coming up

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

C-USA standings

Dallas Baptist 19-3, 35-11
UTSA 17-4, 34-12
Charlotte 12-9, 23-22
Louisiana Tech 12-10, 23-24
Middle Tennessee 11-11, 22-22
FAU 11-11, 27-19
WKU 10-12, 25-21
Rice 7-15, 17-28
FIU 5-17, 18-27
UAB 5-17, 14-30

Digging out of a hole — twice

Twice on an extremely muggy Friday night in South Texas, UTSA seemed destined for defeat. The Rice Owls jumped all over UTSA starter Luke Malone for three runs in the first inning and then another in the second for a 4-0 lead. In response, the Roadrunners battled back with two in their own half of the second and two more in the third for a 4-4 tie.

Leading into the fifth inning, Malone seemed to have settled down. UTSA’s preseason all-conference pitcher had strung two scoreless innings together. His command was sound and his breaking pitch was hooking into the zone. Just as suddenly, Malone got into trouble in the fifth, allowing two baserunners before Owls freshman Ben Royo stepped to the plate. Royo hammered a ball over the left field wall to give the Owls a 7-4 advantage.

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning. Hill collected three hits, scored twice and had an RBI. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“There’s nothing to fault Luke for,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “You know, these other teams, the way we describe it, they practice hitting and they can hit. Luke’s always been a competitive overachiever. So, you’ve got to give the other team a little credit. I’m proud of (Luke) for sticking it out, really … He’s such a competitive kid. It’s wonderful to have him.”

It’s also a good thing to have veteran hitters who can turn it up a notch when adversity strikes. With Rice starter Parker Smith out of the game, the Roadrunners went to work against the Owls’ bullpen. In the seventh inning, they broke through with four runs on five hits. The big blows were a leadoff homer by Taylor Smith and a two-run single by Matt King against Justin Long.

In came Cristian Cienfuegos, who unraveled in short order, allowing Roadrunners to reach base twice on hit by pitches, sandwiched around a single by Josh Killeen. It all set the bases-loaded table for Isaiah Walker, who drew a walk on six pitches to force in the go-ahead run. UTSA’s 8-7 lead was its first of the day.

“We got some good hitters, some grown-up hitters,” Hallmark said. “We had some really, really tough at bats, where they take pitches that normally would get people out. But we take ’em and lay off tough pitches. That gets overlooked if you’re not a baseball person. You have to lay off the tough pitches and put yourself in a position to do damage.”

Antonio Valdez did just that in the eighth inning. The switch hitter, batting from the left side against Rice righthander Matthew Linskey, took the first pitch for a ball. fouled one off. Took another ball. Fouled off another pitch. Then on a fastball down the middle, he uncorked a big swing that resulted in a loud ringing sound, with the ball re-directed high and far toward the left field wall. It went out for a majestic, one-out solo homer and a 9-7 lead.

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