Baseball America: UTSA projected as last team in the NCAA field

UTSA is projected by Baseball America as “the last team in” the NCAA tournament’s 64-team bracket.

The magazine’s website has UTSA pegged to start play this weekend in the Austin Regional against the Texas State Bobcats.

The NCAA will announce the bracket Monday morning at 11 a.m. If the Roadrunners make it, they would become the first team in school history to receive an at-large bid to the national tournament.

That would include men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, softball and baseball. UTSA has reached the NCAA baseball tournament only three times, in 1994 and 2005 out of the Southland Conference and in 2013 out of the Western Athletic Conference.

According to the magazine, the “last four in” include UTSA at No. 64, along with Dallas Baptist at 63, Rutgers at 62 and Coastal Carolina at 61.

On the flip side, the magazine lists the “first four out” as No. 65 Liberty, followed by Wofford at 66, Old Dominion at 67 and West Virginia at 68.

The Roadrunners stated their case for qualification at the Conference USA tournament. At the C-USA event, they beat Florida Atlantic in their opener and followed that with back-to-back victories over 14th-ranked Southern Mississippi.

Southern Miss was the tournament host and the C-USA’s regular-season champion.

In downing the Golden Eagles by scores of 7-6 on Friday and 11-2 on Saturday, the Roadrunners vaulted up the national ratings percentage index into the 30s and made a strong case as an at-large candidate for the NCAA field.

On Sunday, they had a chance to earn the C-USA’s automatic bid, but they lost 9-8, falling to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on a ninth-inning single.

Conference USA hopes to get four teams in the NCAA field. The RPI standings after Sunday’s games had Southern Miss at No. 18, Louisiana Tech at No. 34, UTSA at 38 and Old Dominion at 41.


UTSA 38-20

Streaking UTSA hammers three home runs and downs Rice, 9-2

The UTSA Roadrunners on Friday backed the pitching of Luke Malone with three home runs, rolling to a 9-2 Conference USA baseball victory over the Rice Owls.

As Malone pitched into the seventh inning, the Roadrunners’ offense hummed with homers from Jonathan Tapia, Chase Keng and Shane Sirdashney on the home field of their C-USA rivals.

As a result, the Roadrunners (23-11, 8-5) won their fourth straight game. They also improved to 10-1 in their last 11.

Meanwhile, the Owls (10-25, 3-10) will try to turn it around in the second game of the series Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Houston, at Reckling Park. The series finale is Sunday at 1 p.m.

For Rice, Guy Garibay produced three hits and two RBIs. But the UTSA pitching duo of Malone and Braylon Owens held the upper hand. Malone (5-1) allowed only two runs on five hits in 6 and 1/3 innings.

Owens, a freshman, worked 2 and 2/3 scoreless to finish the game. He gave up two hits and walked three, but he also struck out four.

In addition, the Roadrunners’ defense played error-free baseball in winning for the sixth time in their last seven C-USA games.

Tapia led the offense with a three-for-five day and three RBIs. UTSA’s leadoff man supplied the big blow with a three-run homer in a four-run second inning.

Keng and Sirdashney were also three for five in a 13-hit attack.

Keng, from Deer Park High School, hit a solo home run in the third inning and Sirdashney, also a Houston area player from The Woodlands, added solo blast in the eighth.

Defense sparks victory as UTSA sweeps No. 23 Charlotte

Returning home from the East Coast a week ago, the UTSA Roadrunners had lost two of three at Florida Atlantic and eight of their last 11 overall.

But after getting back to town, the Roadrunners found something.

They started with a 6-4 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night at Incarnate Word, followed by a 12-8 road win at 12th-ranked TCU on Wednesday. Finally, they completed a five-games-in-six-days stretch with three straight wins at home against the 23rd-ranked Charlotte 49ers.

The Roadrunners capped the sweep of the defending C-USA regular-season champions with an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon. The game was shortened to seven innings because of time constraints on a travel day for Charlotte.

In the aftermath of an exhausting stretch, UTSA emerged with an 18-10 record, a 5-4 mark in the conference and perhaps a rising level of confidence.

“We played good baseball,” Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark said. “I actually did not think we played very good on Tuesday (at UIW). But we persevered, and we won. The other four games, we played good. The defense was the key.

“You know, hitting comes and goes, and we’re still young on the mound. So, we’re going to be up and down (with the pitching). Hopefully in a couple of years, we’re much more consistent there.

“But the (pitchers) we’re relying on are young. They’re doing a good job. The key to me this week was the defense. From Wednesday to Sunday, those four games, we really defended very well.”

A play in the top of the fourth on Sunday stood out in Hallmark’s mind.

With UTSA leading 3-0, Charlotte had a runner aboard at first with nobody out when 49ers star Austin Knight roped a pitch from Braden Davis deep into the gap in right center.

Roadrunners’ center fielder Shane Sirdashney sprinted to his left, traveled a long way, and made a running catch.

As it turned out, the play saved at least one run. One out later, Charlotte’s Cam Fisher unloaded by slicing a two-run homer to left.

Davis got out of it with only two runs allowed. In the bottom half, the Roadrunners pushed across a run on a Jonathan Tapia sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

“Dash is pretty good,” Hallmark said of Sirdashney’s play in the field. “The jump is the key for him. He reads the ball good off the bat. He has those long strides. He made it look pretty easy. But he was running when he caught it. It’s not that easy.

“Just because he didn’t dive doesn’t mean it’s an easy play. He ended up tweaking something, too. We ended up taking him out of the game. Not sure what it was. Groin or (hamstring) or what.”

After the series at Florida Atlantic, the season for the Roadrunners had a chance to go downhill — and fast. But it didn’t. Now, it’s headed on a different trajectory.

“They’re hungry,” Hallmark said. “But, what’s the alternative? I know it seems like a coach answer. But if you don’t come hungry and ready to play, the alternative is not good.

“The guys understand. Guys like Tapia, they’ve been around. Chase Keng. They’ve been around. You don’t have to motivate ’em. I might coach ’em mechanically on something every now and then but there’s no motivational talks with these guys.

“Some of the young guys, they’re learning how to do it. We might coach those guys a little more. But Ian Bailey, Leyton Barry, they’ve been around. The alternative to not being ready is … we don’t even go there.”

The experience factor came into play on the last play of the game. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh, Knight hit a grounder toward the hole on the left side of the infield.

Tapia, playing third, gloved the ball but lost his footing. Then, somehow, he threw from his knees to second base for a force play. Game over. Sweep completed.

“The ball was hit with a lot of over spin,” Hallmark said. “The little subtleties of the game, with a natural surface field in South Texas, this field’s always hard. So any ball hit with over spin is tricky and nasty.

“Those are the ones you see bounce up on infielders. He over-committed a little. It cost him the footing. But, like you’re saying, the experience allowed him to recover. It was a fantastic play by an experienced player … a terrific play.”

At the end of the week, Tapia’s finger prints were all over the five-game streak. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, the senior from O’Connor had three hits apiece in those victories. That all came before Sunday, when he secured the victory with his glove, and his poise.

“He’s really good,” Hallmark said. “He held us together last year (with his versatility) and he’s doing it again.”


UTSA 18-10, 5-4
Charlotte 17-10, 4-5

Coming up

Wednesday — Stephen F. Austin at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 5 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Old Dominion, 11 a.m.


Junior right-hander Daniel Shafer completed the seventh inning to earn his second save in two days. For the week, he was 1-0 with the two saves in three appearances. Since Tuesday, Shafer pitched 4 and 1/3 innings scoreless, allowing only two hits and one walk. He struck out one.

The Roadrunners are 5-0 this season against ranked opponents, including a 6-5, 10-inning home victory against Stanford on Feb. 28, a 12-8 win at TCU last Wednesday and then 13-3, 8-7 and 8-5 victories over Charlotte. All three ranked opponents played in the NCAA tournament last year.

Texas State’s Tristan Stivors reflects on a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience

Texas State closer Tristan Stivors has struck out 23 while walking only one in 13 innings this season. He fanned three and earned the save in the Bobcats’ 6-4 victory Wednesday over the top-ranked Texas Longhorns. — Photo by Jill Slaughter, courtesy of Texas State athletics

SAN MARCOS — Fourteen games into his senior season with the Texas State Bobcats, 6-foot-4 righthander Tristan Stivors has developed into one of the unquestioned leaders on the team’s pitching staff.

If a game is on the line late, everyone knows who is getting the ball.

It’s Stivors, who throws breaking pitches so nasty that hitters’ knees sometimes buckle as the ball darts into the strike zone. For some, swinging at shadows might produce more success.

In eight appearances with the Bobcats this spring, Stivors has struck out 23 and walked only one in 13 innings.

The former multi-sport standout at Medina Valley High School also has fashioned 1-0 record, an 0.69 earned run average and four saves.

One of the saves came in the biggest of moments Wednesday night when the 17th-ranked Bobcats upset the top-ranked Texas Longhorns, 6-4, in Austin.

With runners at first and second base, Stivors pitched out of trouble in the ninth inning when he struck out UT star Ivan Melendez to end the game. Melendez was frozen on a breaking pitch that bit hard and caught the inside corner.

When the home plate umpire called strike three, a packed house of nearly 7,500 fell mostly silent except for a vocal group of Bobcats fans who cheered wildly.

“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Stivors said Thursday afternoon before practice. “It’s something that I will never forget.”

With the win, the Bobcats improved to 11-3 on the season, including a 6-2 record against power conference programs and 1-1 against the Longhorns.

This weekend, Texas State hosts three games with the Southern University Jaguars, starting with the series opener at 3 p.m. Friday. Single games are also set for Saturday and Sunday.

Next week, the Bobcats will host the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Tuesday night, and next weekend, the team’s Sun Belt Conference schedule commences in a three-game road series at Arkansas State.

The conference season looks promising for the Bobcats right now, given that they have won three games at home against the Ohio State Buckeyes, two of three on the road at Arizona and now have split two against UT.

Texas won in San Marcos, 9-8, on Tuesday night to spoil a night in which a Texas State-record crowd of 3,283 attended. The Bobcats returned the favor 24 hours later in Austin at UFCU Disch-Falk Field even after falling behind by three runs early.

Trailing 3-0, Texas State found a spark when John Wuthrich hit a three-run home run in the third inning to tie the score. The Bobcats scored two more before the inning was over on miscues between the UT pitcher and catcher.

In the fourth, Isaiah Ortega-Jones belted a solo home run, lifting Texas State into a 6-3 lead. Texas, in response, added one run in the fifth to make it 6-4. But, remarkably, a Texas State team that lost 36 games last year held the lead to the end.

Crazier still, Bobcats’ pitching notched strikeouts for the last six outs, including three by Levi Wells in the eighth and three more by Stivors in the ninth.

Stivors, who was warming in the bullpen in the eighth, heard all the groans from Longhorns’ fans as Wells fanned three in a row.

Moments later, he heard a thunderous roar of disapproval when the home plate umpire ejected UT coach David Pierce, apparently for arguing balls and strikes.

“Another time I noticed it was really loud was when I was stepping on that mound,” Stivors said. “I actually looked around and I saw how many people were (in the ball park), and I just took it all in. I made sure just to stay in the present moment.”

On Tuesday, Stivors had pitched the top of the ninth inning in the UT series opener. That night, his mission was to keep the game close. He succeeded, blanking the Longhorns while striking out two.

But the Bobcats, trailing by one, eventually lost in agonizing fashion. In their last at bat, they left the potential tying run at third. On Wednesday, it was the Longhorns who came up empty in the ninth, courtesy of Stivors and his newfound swagger after a so-so 2021 season.

“He’s been really good and really lights out for us,” Texas State coach Steve Trout said. “And, I think more importantly, he’s just rolling right now with some confidence. He knows he’s got the stuff to get anybody out, and he wants the ball in that moment.”

Last year, Stivors was 2-3 with a 5.34 earned run average. He struck out 39 in 28 and 2/3 innings. But he was prone to streaks when he couldn’t command his pitches, and he walked 13 on the season.

This year, by contrast, his command is much better. Particularly, his command on his fastball. Stivors throws it with “tilt” and keeps it low and away to righthanders. By doing so, he sets up his breaking pitches, including both a slider and a curve.

Trout said the curve is definitely the “dirtiest” pitch in Stivors’ arsenal.

“That’s his most confident pitch,” the coach said. “He threw a really good one (on a 3-2 count against Melendez) and won the game for us. What a clutch pitch, and, you know, he was battling with everything. The fans. The energy (in the stadium). Everything. Everything that was going on.

“That just shows you his mental toughness, to be able to execute that pitch in that moment.”

It also shows you why Stivors has earned the dual roles of both closer and leader for a team on the rise.

What cold weather? UTSA stays hot with its third straight victory

For the third time in two days, UTSA played a game in weather better suited for outdoor hockey than baseball. Only this time, a light rain greeted the team when it showed up Saturday morning for a noon start against the Seattle Redhawks.

“We had some bad weather this morning,” Roadrunners catcher Josh Killeen said. “Light drizzle. Really cold. To get loose, it takes awhile. We got here early to run around and get our legs moving, to get our arms moving so we could feel good for the game.”

With his motor running, Killeen stepped up to the plate in his first at bat and drilled a long home run into the screen in left field.

“Felt great,” said Killeen, a sophomore from Reagan. “I knew, right off the bat (that it was a homer). It was first pitch. I was ready for a fastball, and he came in with it. I just did what I did.”

After UTSA scored twice in the first inning and once in the second off Killeen’s first home run of the season, the pitching took over, with Ulises Quiroga, Simon Miller, Grant Miller and Ryan Ward combining on a four-hit shutout in an 11-0 victory.

UTSA blew it open with six runs in the seventh inning en route to a 5-1 start to the season and a 3-0 start to the first homestand. The Roadrunners will finish the four-game home series against Seattle Sunday at noon, before nationally-ranked Stanford comes in Monday for a 1 p.m. game.

“Feels good to start off right,” Killeen said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve stepped up, even guys off the bench. So, we’re excited. Just trying to keep this momentum going into tomorrow. And then it’s a big week ahead, with Stanford. So we’re excited and ready to get after it.”

After winning 7-3 and 3-2 on Friday, the Roadrunners left the park feeling a little bit uneasy about their performance.

“I didn’t think we played very good yesterday and we won two,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “That’s what the message to the team was. We were fortunate, lucky a little bit, maybe. Also, the message was, how good can we be if we play good. Right? You win two and you don’t play good, it’s kind of a good sign.

“But we were better today. We pitched well. We hit well, and we ran the bases well. We did not run the bases well yesterday. Anyway, we were better.”

Last year, pitching haunted the Roadrunners in a 22-26 season. Their ERA was 5.92. Teams scored almost eight runs per game against them. They lost so many leads late in games, it felt like collapses were almost inevitable.

Now they’re three games into their first homestand, and they’ve given up only five runs in 25 innings against the Redhawks. For the season, they’ve really only had one clunker of a pitching outing in a 12-1 loss at Tarleton last week.

On Saturday, the Roadrunners walked too many batters. They walked 12, which will not be good enough when they face the best hitting teams later in the season. But for the second day in a row, UTSA pitchers were good enough to buckle down and throw good stuff with men on base.

“It was good to see Simon Miller pitch as well as he did,” Hallmark said. “We need him, because he’s got the stuff to beat good teams. You know, the Southern Miss of the world. He’s got the stuff to do it. He just needs experience and (to throw) the strikes.”

Miller pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to earn the victory. He seemed to get stronger as he threw more and more pitches. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore from Canton didn’t allow a hit and struck out five, though he did walk four.

“He got the breaking ball going,” Hallmark said. “He’s got a good breaking ball. He found the strike zone with it. He can be tough when he does that.”

After being limited to eight hits in Friday night’s second game, the Roadrunners rebounded with 10 hits, including four for extra bases. Leyton Barry, Chase Keng and Killeen had two hits apiece. Led by Barry, who is hitting .409 on the season, the Roadrunners have six players batting better than .300.

After going 2 for 5, Killeen boosted his average to .278. He said he is feeling good after hurting his thumb and playing as the No. 2 catcher behind Nick Thornquist last year. Killeen broke a thumb in his wrist area in the preseason and just wasn’t right physically.

He emerged fromm it all as one of the team’s best hitters in the fall. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Killeen said. “I knew I had put in all the work. Now it’s just God’s gift to me, blessing me. (Just) hoping it continues.”

Coming up

Sunday — Seattle at UTSA, noon
Monday — Stanford at UTSA, 1 p.m.

Roadrunners win two on a chilly opening day at home

Luke Malone. The UTSA baseball team playing Seattle in Game 2 on opening day Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Luke Malone pitched into the eighth inning Friday night as the UTSA Roadrunners downed the Seattle Redhawks 3-2 to sweep a doubleheader. UTSA won the opener, 7-3. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners talked in days leading into the new season about their hopes for an improved pitching staff. They feel pretty good about the results after the first five games.

UTSA improved its record to 4-1 after downing the Seattle Redhawks 7-3 and 3-2 Friday in 40-degree weather at Roadrunner Field.

Coming up

Saturday — Seattle at UTSA, noon
Sunday — Seattle at UTSA, noon
Monday — Stanford at UTSA, 1 p.m.

First day at home

On the first day at home for the Roadrunners this season, the pitching wasn’t perfect. But it seemed to hold together in the tough moments.

Leyton Barry. The UTSA baseball team playing Seattle in Game 2 on opening day Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA second baseman Leyton Barry plays the field on a cold day at Roadrunner Field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the first game, the Roadrunners fell behind 3-0, only to have relievers Ryan Beaird and Reece Easterling shut out the Redhawks on no hits in the final 4 and 1/3 innings.

In Game 2, Luke Malone started and worked into the eighth inning with a 3-0 lead. After Seattle scored twice in the eighth, reliever Allen Smith struck out two batters to end the threat.

When the Redhawks rallied again in the ninth, Daniel Shafer entered to get the last two outs to preserve the victory. The Redhawks had the tying run at third base, but Shafer induced a ground ball by Connor O’Brien to end the game.

Malone might have been the story of the day. He was strong. He worked 7 and 1/3 innings and yielded only one run on three hits, striking out seven and walking just one.

Last week, UTSA opened its season on the road against the Tarleton State Texans and won two out of three largely on the strength of their offense. They won 21-5 and 12-8 and then lost in the finale, 12-1.

Ian Bailey. The UTSA baseball team playing Seattle in Game 2 on opening day Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ian Bailey, a senior from Stevens, leads the Roadrunners with a .450 batting average through five games. He has nine hits. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Through five games combined against Tarleton and Seattle, two programs affiliated with the Western Athletic Conference, UTSA’s pitching staff ERA is 5.40, down slightly from last year’s 5.92.

In addition, UTSA pitching is holding opponents to a .259 batting average. Last year, teams hit .277 against the Roadrunners.

Tapia says UTSA pitching could be ‘the heart of the team’

Fifth-year UTSA senior Jonathan Tapia is projected to start in center field tonight at Tarleton State but also is also expected to play this season in the infield. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Jonathan Tapia, a fifth-year UTSA senior from O’Connor High School, will lead the Roadrunners into Stephenville tonight as they open the college baseball season on the road against the Tarleton State Texans. Tapia, a preseason pick on the all-Conference USA team, has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and is working on his master’s in business. I met Tapia earlier this week for an interview at Roadrunner Field.

How do you think the team looks?

The team looks good. It’s the first weekend, and, you know, we’re going to see how the first weekend goes. We’re going to look to sweep. But Tarleton is a good team. So, they’re going to come out and give us (their) best shot.

What about for the long term? What do you think is this team’s potential?

I really think our (pitching) staff is going to be good. The heart of the team. We’re going to have guys coming out of the pen. Four or five guys coming out of the pen. So, we’re going to have that. Hitting’s going to come along, too. Hitting comes and goes. You got to have pitching to win games.

What about the pitching staff makes you so optimistic?

We got a lot of new guys. New faces. Guys with good stuff. Guys with velo.

What about from your vantage point. You’re starting in center on Friday night. What do you see in terms of the defense up the middle?

Defense is going to be solid. That’s going to be one of our strong points. Our infield coach emphasizes that defense wins games. I really think that’s going to be our emphasis this year.

Shortstop Kody Darcy is a new face. What do you see from Kody?

I love Kody. Kody’s a good guy. He’s going to be in our lineup every day. He brings a good (skills at) shortstop and a good bat as well.

I see from watching this practice today that he’s got a lot of range.

Yeah, we need that up the middle.

Are you going to be all over the place this year, defensively? I saw you played center today. A little at third. A little at second?

Per usual. I’m going to be utility. I like that. You got to keep the mind guessing. Is what I like to say.

A friend of mine says he saw you shifted from third base to second in one inning last year.

I think it was in the Rice series I did that. I was at third, and then when a lefty (hitter) would come up, I’d go to second. It’s interesting in the scorebook, because (a ground ball to second) will be a 5-3 putout in the book.

Do you like having that multi-faceted role with the team?

I enjoy it. I think it brings versatility to our team and also to me. I’m pretty confident, wherever I play. Coach asks me where I want to play. I say, I just want to play. I just want to help the team, honestly.

What do you remember most about last season?

Last season? Last season was kind of a blur, honestly. As a team, I really think we swung the bat really well. And I think this year’s going to be the same thing. Like I said, hitting comes and goes. We might struggle, but in the next game, it’ll come back.

You went to C-USA tournament in Ruston last year and lost two games in extra innings. Two one-run games in extra innings. How long did it take you to get over that?

Yea, man, it was tough. Obviously, we played a good LA Tech team. Losing to them by one run in extra innings. We played them the week before and lost to them in extra innings, as well. It just shows that we can hang with the big dogs up there.

How do you feel about this being your last ride with the Roadrunners?

I’m going to go out there and give it all I got, like I’ve done all four years. Just going out with the guys and having fun. I mean, that’s all you can do. It’s just a game. I mean, you got to have fun playing baseball.

What about your academics? You’ve been honored by the conference a few times. Do you want to brag about your academics a little?

I don’t really like to brag about myself. I mean, I just … school’s hard, as it is. That’s why I’m going to school. Playing baseball and going to school, my family and everybody just keep me on top of everything. Especially our advisor. Beth Noteware. She always helps us with everything that we need.

You study kinesiology, right. Have you graduated already?

I’ve already graduated. I’m doing my master’s in business right now. I’m doing that right now. I’ll finish that up next fall.

What do you hope to do with kinesiology, plus business?

Evidently, I want to open up my own business. A baseball-related business. Kind of like the D-1s that you see in Boerne. All of that stuff. I kind of want to do that. There’s a lot of things I could do right now with a masters in business degree. That’s kind of what I want to do.

Are you going to try to play some pro ball next year?

Yes sir. That’s the No. 1 goal right now, (although, and) I forgot who told me this. But, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t go play pro ball. I gave it all I got all five years (here). That’s all I can ask for.

Play ball! New season dawns for San Antonio area talent

Jace Jung, a Texas Tech sophomore from San Antonio MacArthur High School, headlines our list of players from the local area in NCAA Division I baseball. — Photo, courtesy of Texas Tech athletics, by Elise Bressler

Good morning, all.

With the college baseball season opening today, I tried to track down the names of everyone from the San Antonio area that I could find on Division I rosters.

I’ve been working on the list for a few days now and, admittedly, might have overlooked a few guys. But I did my best and, for now, here it is. I’ll update through the season if more names come to light.

Special thanks to Matt Burkholder at Texas Tech University. Matt was kind enough to email photos of slugger Jace Jung, a Red Raiders sophomore from San Antonio’s MacArthur High School.

Jung was the Big 12 player of the year and earned All-American honors as a freshman last season. He hit .337 and led the conference with 21 homers.

Here are some other names to keep an eye on:

Coleson Abel, Texas Tech, LHP, freshman from Kerrville Tivy

Bryan Aguilar, Tarleton State, INF, senior from East Central, also Hill JC and Marshall University

Ian Bailey, UTSA, OF, grad senior from Stevens

Zane Badmaev, Tarleton State, RHP, sophomore from Boerne

Rody Barker, Texas A&M, OF-C, graduate transfer from Kerrville Tivy, New Mexico Junior College

Jalen Battles, Arkansas, SS, senior from Madison and McLennan Community College

Ryan Beaird, UTSA, RHP, freshman from Reagan

Brandon Beckel, Texas Tech, P, sophomore from Antonian

Luke Boyers, TCU, OF, sophomore from Boerne Champion

Garrett Brooks, UTSA, OF, freshman from Smithson Valley

Porter Brown, TCU, OF, redshirt sophomore from Reagan

Clayton Chadwick, Sam Houston State, UTL, sophomore from La Vernia

Josh Coleman, Houston, LHP, freshman from Johnson

Preston Dallmeyer, Stephen F. Austin, OF, sophomore from Poth and Ranger College

Zach DeLeon, UT Rio Grande Valley, RHP, senior from Hondo and UTSA

Nathan Dettmer, Texas A&M, P, sophomore from Johnson

Garrett Egli, Abilene Christian, RHP, grad transfer from Smithson Valley, Sam Houston State

Cohen Feser, TCU, P, freshman from Reagan

Ty Fontenot, Baylor, LHP, redshirt freshman from Brandeis

Douglas Hodo III, Texas, OF, redshirt sophomore from Boerne

Jace Jung, Texas Tech, 2B, sophomore from MacArthur

Josh Killeen, UTSA, C, redshirt sophomore from Reagan and Wichita State

Alex Magers, Texas A&M, P, sophomore from D’Hanis

Cal Martin, Stephen F. Austin, UTL, sophomore from Reagan

Zack May, Incarnate Word, RHP, grad student, from Smithson Valley, and McNeese State, Hill College

Matthew Nicholas, Texas State, RHP, New Braunfels Christian Academy

August Ramirez, Texas State, C, redshirt sophomore from O’Connor

Julio Riggs, Abilene Christian, INF-OF, sophomore, Boerne and Paris College

Dalton Shuffield, Texas State, INF, senior from Johnson

Travis Sthele, Texas, P, redshirt freshman from Reagan

Tristan Stivors, Texas State, P, senior from Medina Valley and New Mexico JC

Austin Stracener, Texas A&M, INF, freshman from New Braunfels Canyon

Jonathan Tapia, UTSA, INF/OF, senior from O’Connor

Jordan Thompson, Texas A&M, OF, junior from Boerne Champion, Incarnate Word, Grayson College

Sam Walbridge, Texas, P, redshirt sophomore from Saint Mary’s Hall

Ryan Ward, UTSA, RHP, sophomore from Clemens

Zac Vooletich, Texas Tech, INF/OF, junior from Brandeis and Navarro College

Isaiah Zavala, Incarnate Word, RHP, junior from Southwest

Cold weather for baseball? Just how the Roadrunners like it

Leyton Barry and the UTSA Roadrunners open their season Friday night in Stephenville against the Tarleton State Texans. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Two weeks ago, Pat Hallmark emerged from the clubhouse and walked out to the field, bundled up in a coat to ward off the cold from a low 40s-type day in South Texas. Some of his players sensed an opening to have some fun. A few of them remarked, “Hey coach, it’s just how we like it.”

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark says he feels good about the improvement of his pitching. — File photo by Joe Alexander

It’s a refrain heard often around Roadrunner Field this time of year. It’s a mindset that Hallmark, UTSA’s third-year coach, always tries to instill in his players when they’re pushing through practices in late January and early February in preparation for the start of the college baseball season.

Some days, though, the cold just doesn’t allow for any type of workout. Such was the case a few weeks ago.

“That weekend, we didn’t (practice at all on Thursday) and we didn’t play intrasquad on Friday,” the coach said. “We basically got all the pitching in on Saturday and Sunday. We really didn’t miss anything. Just got pushed back a day.

“Last weekend, it sorted itself back out. (We played regularly-scheduled intrasquad games) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So we didn’t miss anything. It was just a little colder.”

The Roadrunners may need to break out the long sleeves again this weekend in Stephenville when they open their season with a three-game series against the Tarleton State Texans. Start times Friday and Saturday are at 6 p.m., with the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

On Friday and Saturday night, temperatures at the Tarleton State Baseball Complex could dip into the 40s, according to the forecast online at “Again, we’re prepared,” Hallmark said. “The guys are 100 percent ready.”

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Hallmark expressed optimism about his team’s prospects leading into the road trip to Tarleton, another game at TCU next Wednesday night and then the home-opening series starting Feb. 25. UTSA will host Seattle for four games from Feb. 25-27, followed by a matchup against Stanford on Feb. 28.

“You’re always hopeful and encouraged,” he said. “I think we’ll win some games here early. I think we’ll win some games throughout the year. But we’ve got to go do it, right. I would hope I would think that, (but) the pitching looks good.”

Last season, pitching problems haunted the Roadrunners as they finished 22-26 and got bounced out of the Conference USA tournament in two straight. Despite an offense that ranked as one of the best statistically in the nation, the pitching was among the least effective, with an earned run average of 5.92 and a WHIP of 1.62.

Sensing that the pitching would need an overhaul even before last season, Hallmark and his staff have added some talented young arms to mesh with some veterans who are throwing the ball better. “More days than not, the pitching seems to be winning,” Hallmark said. “It’s a good sign.”

On the first weekend, UTSA is expected to start senior righthander Jacob Jimenez on Friday, followed by lefty grad student Grant Miller on Saturday and freshman righty Braylon Owens on Sunday. The staff, as a whole, just seems to please the head coach.

“We’ve got a lot of new players on the mound,” Hallmark said. “And then, some of the returning players have improved. They just throw more quality pitches.”

Hallmark mentioned Owens, Ryan Beaird and Braden Davis as freshmen who have worked their way into the mix to pitch in games early this season for the Roadrunners. Also, junior college transfers Ulises Quiroga and Allen Smith have shown promise.

“At the end of the day, you just got to throw strikes and you got to create some hitting problems (for the opponent),” Hallmark said. “So we’ll be better able to do that this year, and some of it will be … you’ll see some plain ol’ new people out there.”

Hallmark, who started at UTSA in the 2020 season cut short by the Covid-19 crisis, is hopeful that his staff’s recruiting efforts will yield improved play on defense, as well.

“We’ve just tried to constantly improve the quality of the athlete on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “It’s not always that easy. Because they got to hit. You might be able to find seven or eight fast athletic kids. But if they can’t hit, you know, you got to be able to score, too. So that’s always a challenge.”

Opening-day starters Friday night are expected to be:

Pitcher — Jacob Jimenez
Catcher — Josh Killeen
First base — Ryan Flores
Second base — Leyton Barry
Shortstop — Kody Darcy
Third base — Austin Ochoa
Right field — Chase Keng
Center field — Jonathan Tapia
Left field — Ian Bailey
Designated hitter — Garrett Poston

As for the hitting? Batting stars Nick Thornquist, Griffin Paxton and Dylan Rock have all played out their eligibility. But it’s expected that the Roadrunners will score some runs, because Hallmark’s teams usually do.

Last year, Barry and Keng both hit better than .300 and slugged at nearly .600 for the Roadrunners. Darcy, a transfer from Xavier in Cincinnati, came in with the reputation as a defensive player but has also started to hit and hit with power under the tutelage of assistant coach Ryan Aguayo.

Hallmark also likes Garrett Poston’s bat. Poston is expected to hit in the leadoff spot Friday night.