By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez drilled a three-run homer to highlight a four-run uprising in the top of the ninth inning, and then relief ace Simon Miller closed the door in the bottom half Saturday afternoon as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners downed the UAB Blazers, 6-5, in Birmingham.
With the victory, UTSA evened the three-game Conference USA series at one victory apiece. The finale is set for Sunday at noon.
UTSA’s Leyton Barry led off the game with a solo homer. It was his second homer in two days in Birmingham. Later in the inning, Josh Killeen ripped a run-scoring single, lifting the Roadrunners into an early 2-0 lead.
In response, UAB rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second, before adding single runs in the fourth and the fifth innings for a 5-2 lead. Darryl Buggs led the Blazers with four hits, including a home run and a double.
Trailing by three runs going into the top of the ninth, UTSA called on pinch-hitter Clark Henry, who drew a leadoff walk from Tyler O’Clair.
At that point, UAB elected to take out O’Clair, who had been effective in four plus innings of work.
Blazers reliever John Luke Martin promptly walked Barry, putting runners at first and second, and UTSA’s Taylor Smith followed with a single up the middle, which loaded the bases.
Caleb Hill brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly to deep left, trimming the UAB lead to 5-3. Then, with two runners still aboard, Valdez hit a 2-1 pitch off of Martin for a three-run blast, giving UTSA a one-run cushion. It was the ninth homer of the season for Valdez.
Given a one-run lead, UTSA coaches brought in Miller, one of the top relief pitchers in the nation.
Miller retired the first batter of the inning, Tyler Waugh, on a ground ball. From there, however, things got interesting as Christian Hall doubled into the gap in right center.
Brayton Brown, who had two doubles on the day, grounded to shortstop for the second out and moved Hall over to third base.
Henry Hunter, the potential winning run, stepped to the plate and flied out to center to end it. For Miller, it was his ninth save of the season.
For UTSA, it was the team’s second victory of the week after trailing going into the ninth inning. On Tuesday, playing at home, the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Houston Christian, 9-8, in non-conference play.
UTSA 32-11, 15-4
UAB 14-28, 5-15
UTSA at UAB, Sunday at noon
Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Dallas Baptist 17-3, 33-10
UTSA 15-4, 32-11
Charlotte 12-7, 22-20
Middle Tennessee 11-9, 22-20
Louisiana Tech 10-10, 21-23
The 19th-ranked Dallas Baptist Patriots have won the first two games of a series against the Rice Owls, pushing their lead over the Roadrunners to one and a half games. The Patriots (17-3 in conference, 33-10 overall) won 8-6 in 12 innings and 10-3 at Rice’s Reckling Park in Houston.
Playing in Birmingham, the Roadrunners (15-4, 32-11) were defeated by the UAB Blazers 4-2 on Friday night and then bounced back to beat the Blazers 6-5 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the third-place Charlotte 49ers (12-7, 22-20) have lost twice at Western Kentucky and fourth-place Middle Tennessee (11-9, 22-20) has split a pair at home with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
This is the 𝘼𝙉𝙏𝙊𝙉𝙄𝙊 𝙑𝘼𝙇𝘿𝙀𝙕 show
He launches a three-run jack as UTSA takes a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth!!! #BirdsUp 🤙 |#LetsGo210 | @_AntonioValdez3 pic.twitter.com/J8gCmfVhVz
— UTSA Baseball ⚾️ (@UTSABSB) April 29, 2023