Feeling the opening-night blues: UTSA rally falls short, 10-9, to UT-Arlington

Caleb Hill (15) hit two home runs. 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

Caleb Hill (15) hit two homers to highlight a two-for-five performance with three runs scored and four RBIs against the UT Arlington Mavericks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second game of the the season can’t come soon enough for the UTSA Roadrunners.

Why? Because, in the opener on Friday night, the Roadrunners made a few too many mistakes early, got burned by three home runs and fell behind by nine on two different occasions.

In the end, the Roadrunners scored eight unanswered runs in a spirited rally led by Caleb Hill and Mason Lytle, only to fall in a heartbreaker, 10-9, to the UT Arlington Mavericks.

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

UTSA starting pitcher Robert Orloski, a freshman, worked 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs – four of them earned. He also walked only one and struck out five. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With Hill homering twice and Lytle making a grand UTSA debut by hitting a high-arc blast into the screen over the left field fence, the team nevertheless tasted defeat on what had been billed as a day of celebration, when officials welcomed fans into a remodeled Roadrunner Field.

The game just started off on a sour note all the way around for the Roadrunners, who watched as the Mavs built leads of 9-0 and 10-1.

They didn’t quit, though. A crowd announced at 785 started to generate noise when the home team erupted with three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, three more in the seventh and one in the ninth.

Hill sparked the uprising by crushing a line drive to right center for a three-run homer in the fifth. Not to be outdone, Lytle hit a solo shot in the sixth. He nearly homered again in the seventh but it was caught at the wall for a sac fly RBI. In addition, Hill scorched a sky-scraper that landed well beyond the right field wall to lead off the ninth.

“It was good but it wasn’t enough,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “We just didn’t play very good (early). We got to play better. We looked hesitant and passive way too often, which can happen, especially in the first game of the season, with the nerves.

“I’m sure it was nerves, but you got to get over it,” the coach said. “I was disappointed in the way we played and I was disappointed in the way I coached. I need to be better, too.”

The Mavericks were just too good for the Roadrunners in the early innings. With UTSA giving the ball to highly-touted freshman pitcher Robert Orloski to start the opener, Arlington made him pay by smashing two home runs.

Orloski yielded six runs, four of them earned, in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss. Against Orloski, Ryan Black delivered a one-out homer in the first inning to make it 1-0. In the second inning, Parker Airhart led off by belting one out of the yard to make it 2-0.

Isaiah Walker. 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

Isaiah Walker batted leadoff, stroked two hits and scored twice in the season opener against UT Arlington . – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the third, Orloski was still throwing well but the game started to get away from him. Black, swinging from the left side, laced an RBI double down the left field line. A relay throw to the plate from UTSA shortstop Zane Spinn was overthrown, allowing Black to take third base on the play.

He scored a few moments later on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.

Fans who watched the Roadrunners win 38 games in each of the last two seasons seemed a bit stunned at the outburst, but the Mavericks weren’t finished.

Lifting Orloski with two outs and two runners on base in the fourth, the Roadrunners called on junior Ryan Beaird, and Garrison Berkley greeted him with a three-run blast to break the game open. Like Orloski, Beaird was throwing well and firing hard. But he grooved one, and Berkley smashed it over the wall for a 7-0 lead.

Later in the frame, the Mavs tacked on two more runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Hallmark said he wasn’t displeased at all with the first outing for Orloski, who at this time last year was pitching in high school in Middleton, Idaho.

“He was OK,” the coach said. “The kid on their team, the (No.) 2 hole hitter, Black, is good. We knew he was good. The whole report was that this kid’s their best hitter, and he looked like it. So, I wasn’t disappointed in him getting hits off Rob.”

Not shy about throwing a high fastball, Orloski at times was impressive by inducing the Mavs into futile swings and misses. And yet other times, a couple of his mistakes proved costly. In the end, he pitched 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs — four of them earned — while he walked one and struck out five

“Rob can pitch better,” Hallmark said. “I bet his strike percentage was somewhere around 58 percent, which is a little low. But he didn’t pitch poorly at all. I wasn’t disappointed at all with Rob. He was fine. He’ll be back out there.”

Hallmark tipped his cap to an old friend, Clay Van Hook, the UT Arlington coach who is in his second season with the Mavs. Years ago, both worked together as assistant coaches at Rice University under the Wayne Graham. Hallmark is also friends with Arlington assistant Mike Taylor.

“Mike and I go way back,” Hallmark said. “We played against each other. Both of them, they’re good baseball people. They bounced back last year. They won a bunch more games last year than they did the year before. He’s doing a good job. Clay knows baseball.”

Coming up

Saturday — UT Arlington at UTSA. Doubleheader. First game starts at noon.
Sunday — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m.

Mason Lytle. 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

Mason Lytle made his UTSA debut a memorable one by smashing a high-arc home run into the screen over the left field wall. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Damaged playing surface at Roadrunner Field forces first official practices off campus

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA baseball team opened practices off campus for three days last weekend as work progressed on a project to upgrade Roadrunner Field.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark. 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 coach Pat Hallmark says his team held its first official practices last weekend off campus after Roadrunner Field was damaged in efforts to lay underground cable. – File photo by Joe Alexander

The project includes a new press box and a new grandstand behind home plate that will include chair-back seating. Dugouts also are being expanded.

Fifth-year coach Pat Hallmark said in an interview on Monday morning that recent work to lay underground cable for television went awry and left the field unplayable in different areas.

“They did something under the ground,” Hallmark said. “… and they damaged the field in multiple places. So that’s got us practicing somewhere else.”

Explaining the situation, Hallmark said “a drill powered by air and water” was in use, “and somehow it backed up, and everything came up,” leaving the field wet and mushy in parts of the infield and the outfield.

“It was like a water bed when you walked on it,” the coach said.

The portion of the infield that had been soggy is now dried and just needs “patching up,” Hallmark said, but the outfield area in shallow center remains an issue.

“It’s more of a mess,” the coach said. “I guess there’s more moisture under there. I don’t know exactly (why). But it’s not even dry yet (and) we’ve had three good days of dry (weather). Anyway, I don’t know even all the details. I just know we can’t play a game on our field.”

After off-campus workouts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, players had Monday off. Come Tuesday, the plan called for them to work at Roadrunner Field because there is no intrasquad game scheduled. “You can control practice better when there’s no intrasquad game,” the coach explained.

Hallmark acknowledged that the uncertainty with the playing surface on the team’s home field is “a little bit” of a distraction with the regular-season opener looming on Feb. 16.

“Some of these high schools and their (baseball) programs have been very gracious, to let us on their fields,” he said, noting that the team has practiced at Antonian, Central Catholic and Cornerstone.

Added Hallmark, “We’re getting our work in. Like I said, we’ve played 23 innings, which is what we had planned, whether it was here or (elsewhere). So, (we) adapt and move on.”

Hallmark is in the initial stages of preparing to build on back-to-back 38-win seasons. Last spring, the Roadrunners started out sizzling with a 28-8 record, soaring into the national top 25 for most of April and May.

After a few key players suffered injuries, their momentum was slowed significantly.

Even then, the Roadrunners still had a chance to win the Conference USA title going into their last home series.

But in the end, the Dallas Baptist Patriots swept three straight games at Roadrunner Field to clinch the regular-season title. UTSA finished in second place and bowed out of the C-USA tournament in two straight games.

Transitioning into the American Athletic Conference this season, UTSA has been picked to finish third even though standouts such as Simon Miller, Luke Malone, Antonio Valdez, Taylor Smith, Leyton Barry and Josh Killeen have moved on in their careers.

Hallmark, speaking to a reporter in his office at the Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence on Monday morning, shrugged off the AAC preseason poll by saying that it doesn’t mean much.

“It doesn’t matter, to be honest,” he said. “Whether we were first, third or last, we still got to go out there and play good ball. Throw strikes. Play defense. Fight at the plate. That’s what I’m hoping we do.”

Notable

UTSA opens with a home series against UT-Arlington on Feb. 16.

Top returning position players for the Roadrunners include Matt King, who has moved from shortstop to play third base, outfielder Caleb Hill and infielder/outfielder Isaiah Walker. King has been named to the preseason all-AAC team. UTSA’s most productive returning pitchers would include Ulises Quiroga and Ruger Riojas.

Righthander Braylon Owens, who went 3-2 in 2022 but struggled last year, pitched well last weekend as the team played 23 innings intrasquad.

A couple of newcomers to watch are fleet outfielder Mason Lytle, a transfer from Oregon, and freshman pitcher Robert Orloski.

Lytle sat out most of last season with the Ducks with an injury, but in previous years he was .339 hitter in his career at San Jacinto College. Lytle played in high school at Pearland in the Houston area. Orloski, an Idaho native who completed high school last spring, was drafted in the 20th round in July by the Boston Red Sox. He did not sign and elected to play for the Roadrunners.

Simon Miller, a righthanded reliever, is expected to report to training camp with the Cincinnati Reds in coming weeks.

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.”

Records

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

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.”

Records

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

Notable

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.

Records

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

Notable

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.

UAB Blazers shut down UTSA 4-2 in opener of three-game series

Backing the strong pitching of Brooks Walton, Logan Braunschweig delivered a two-run single in a four-run fourth inning Friday night as the UAB Blazers downed the 25th-ranked UTSA Roadrunners 4-2 in Conference USA baseball.

Walton went the nine-inning distance, yielding only four hits. Two were solo home runs by Leyton Barry and Caleb Hill. The 6-foot-5 righthander struck out three and walked three.

Records

UTSA 31-11, 14-4
UAB 14-27, 5-14

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 15-3
UTSA 14-4
Charlotte 12-6

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Saturday and Sunday, at noon each day.

Notable

The Rice Owls were leading the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Houston when officials announced a weather delay and later said the game would be suspended for the night and completed on Saturday. The re-start is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Reckling Park, with the second game of the series to follow. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky defeated third-place Charlotte, 8-4.

Nail biter: Roadrunners win 5-4 to sweep a C-USA home series against Middle Tennessee

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders would not quit on Sunday afternoon. Despite falling behind early and trailing by five runs, they kept playing hard and applying the pressure until the final out.

The Blue Raiders scored twice in the eighth and twice more in the ninth, before relief ace Simon Miller escaped the jam, allowing the UTSA Roadrunners to win 5-4 and sweep a three-game series in Conference USA.

“I mean, sweeping any team is obviously pretty hard, and they’ve been pretty hot,” UTSA left fielder Caleb Hill said. “We knew coming into this weekend that we had to play our best and I feel like lately, we’ve been doing that. We’re trying to just control what we can control. Coach talks to us about that all the time.”

After swinging hot bats in 13-5 and 12-4 victories on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the defense sparkled at sun-splashed Roadrunner Field behind starting pitcher Ulises Quiroga, who earned his second win of the week.

On one play, right fielder Dalton Porter fired a sizzling strike into the catcher to keep one run off the board early. Later, Hill made a leaping catch of a drive at the left field fence, crashing into the wall and then falling to the ground for the last out in the fifth.

Not to be outdone, freshman center fielder Tye Odom, inserted into the game earlier in place of injured Shane Sirdashney, made a terrific running catch of a drive into the right/center gap. Quite obviously, a “Win on Sunday” mantra that the Roadrunners adopted earlier this spring, was in play once again.

“Some teams would come in here on Sunday and drop that third game. But I feel like, coming in, we knew we had to stay focused in this game. You know, one pitch at a time,” said Hill, a junior in his first year at UTSA out of Grandview High School, Nicholls State University and Temple Junior College.

Quiroga (6-1) enjoyed a solid start featuring 72 pitches, 51 of them for strikes. On Tuesday, he started and worked the first two innings in a 5-1 victory at Texas A&M.

On Sunday, he pitched six scoreless, gave up only five hits and didn’t walk anyone, while striking out four. As good as Quiroga was, however, the defense may have been better. Defenders in the field made all the routine plays — and all the others, as well.

Hill’s catch of a drive off the bat of Middle Tennessee’s Eston Snider was certainly one for the memory banks.

“When he hit it, I kind of knew it was drifting away from me,” Hill said. “It actually had a little more carry than I thought. I thought the wind was going to kill it a little bit. But it just kept going. I knew the wall was going to stop me, so I just kept going (into the fence).”

In the top of the ninth, the game nearly got away from Miller and the Roadrunners.

JT Mabry opened with an infield single and took second base on a one-out fielder’s choice. On the play, pinch-hitter Jared Vetetoe chopped a ball to the right side. Fielding it on a high hop, first baseman Garrett Poston flipped to Miller covering the bag at first for the second out of the inning.

From there, the Blue Raiders dug in and refused to fold. Luke Vinson drew a walk and then Snider followed with a double off Miller that bounced into the left field corner, scoring two runs.

Suddenly, what had been a five-run game was a one-run game. Also surprising was that Miller, one of the top pitchers in the nation, had given up two earned runs in an inning for the first time all season. In keeping with his bulldog mentality, though, he steadied himself and got the last out.

UTSA shortstop Matt King fielded Brett Coker’s ground ball cleanly and fired to first, ending the game and keeping the Roadrunners a half game ahead of the Dallas Baptist Patriots in the C-USA title race.

Asked later what he was thinking, with two out and the potential tying run at second base in the last inning, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark grimaced a bit and replied, “To be real blunt, I was mad at myself.”

Hallmark was thinking about a decision that he made early in the game.

“I made a mistake in the second inning, and right when I made it, I thought to myself, ‘That’s the kind of mistake that on a day like this can come back to hurt you,’ ” he said.

At the time, UTSA held a 4-0 lead and had runners at first and second with no outs.

On a single to right field by Antonio Valdez, the UTSA coach waved Josh Killeen around third and sent him home, where a throw from Snider, the right fielder, was on the money. Catcher Briggs Rutter secured the ball in his mitt and slapped the tag on Killeen for the out.

The next two batters were retired in order, leaving UTSA scoreless in an inning when it could have done some serious damage.

Records

Middle Tennessee State 17-17, 8-7
UTSA 28-8, 12-2

Coming up

Texas State at UTSA, 6 p.m.

Notable

UTSA has won 14 games in a row at home. UTSA’s last home loss came on March 3, when the Utah Utes won 5-3 at Roadrunner Field.

JB’s video replay

Hill sparks Cane Cutters past the Flying Chanclas, 3-1

Caleb Hill produced two hits, scored twice and generally made a nuisance of himself Thursday night as the Acadiana Cane Cutters downed the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, 3-1, at Youngsville, La.

The loss was the second in two nights for the Chanclas at the hands of the Cane Cutters at Fabacher Field.

Acadiana no-hit San Antonio in a 5-0 victory on Wednesday. Three Cane Cutters pitchers — Bailey Holstein, Tyler Booth and Matthew Adams — spaced out nine hits for the victory in the series finale.

Hill’s two-out triple highlighted the fourth inning for Acadiana. Later, he scored the first run of the game on a single by Ethan Lege.

Newcomer Bryan Aguilar sparked an uprising that allowed the Chanclas to tie the game. Aguilar doubled, stole third and came home to knot the score at 1-1 in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom half, two Chanclas errors helped the Cane Cutters regain the lead.

Hill opened the inning with a bunt and would up on second courtesy of a miscue by catcher Nick Wolff. Hill scored when Peyton LeJeune reached on a single and an error on right fielder Jordan Thompson.

The Cane Cutters struck again in the eighth. Logan McLeod singled, stole second and moved to third on a hit by Trace Henry. Hill followed with an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.

The Chanclas had a chance to tie it in the ninth but came up short. With two outs, Thompson singled and Ryan Flores doubled to put runners at second and third. Adams got out of it by striking out Kyte McDonald to end the game.

San Antonio entered the series in Louisiana on a four-game winning streak, including three wins at Wolff Stadium against Acadiana.

The scheduled opener of the Texas Collegiate League series in Youngsville wasn’t played Tuesday because of poor field conditions, reducing the series to two games. By losing the last two nights, the Flying Chanclas fell to 1-4 on the road this season.

Runs-hits-errors

San Antonio 1 – 9 – 2
Acadiana 3 – 12 – 1

Please click the link Thursday night’s box score.

Records

San Antonio 4-4
Acadiana 3-5

Coming up

Round Rock at San Antonio, Friday, 7:05 p.m. San Antonio at Round Rock, Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Round Rock at San Antonio, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.