Friday-night expectations? UTSA’s Orloski embraces the challenge

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

Nineteen-year-old freshman Rob Orloski is expected to get the ball to pitch tonight for the UTSA Roadrunners. UTSA opens a three-game series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Chapman Field. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Hit hard in his first two starts as a collegian, UTSA freshman pitcher Rob Orloski showed signs last week that he can handle the Friday-night expectations.

Whether he starts or enters in long relief tonight at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the 19-year-old righthander hopes to build on last Friday’s performance, when he carried the load in a 12-0 victory at home over Grand Canyon University.

Fischer Kingsbery, Orloski and Cooper Hrbacek combined to limit the explosive Lopes to four hits in the first shutout by Roadrunners pitching since 2022.

Orloski, the player of the year in Idaho in 2022, worked six innings from the third through the eighth, allowing only three hits.

Facing a good offensive ball club, the 6-foot-4 righthander struck out seven and walked two and allowed a baserunner to reach third only once.

Afterward, his teammates gave him the game ball in the locker room.

“That was awesome,” Orloski said. “I mean, I got to thank God and the coaches for giving me the opportunity to keep pitching on Friday. To give me the opportunity to go out and prove myself. It’s a surreal moment.

“It’s something that you dream of, just, getting the opportunity to pitch on Friday as a freshman and getting the win and helping the team win.”

Securing his first victory in the combined shutout was meaningful for him.

“Fish started off the game great (with) two clean innings,” Orloski said. “Then, me going in there and having some help from the defense. And then Cooper being able to shut it out, it was a great game for the team.”

Orloski’s transition from high school to college has been bumpy at times.

Named to start in UTSA’s season opener, he yielded six runs and was tagged with the loss in a 10-9 setback to UT-Arlington. In his second start, the Roadrunners beat the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 7-6 at the Sugar Land Classic, but Orloski once again gave up six runs on six hits.

Combined, Arlington and SFA unloaded on him for five home runs.

At the same time, UTSA coaches weren’t really sweating it because while his pitch location needed improvement, his raw talent was obvious. Through three starts, Orloski has shown that he likes to challenge hitters, utilizing a fastball that seems to have late explosion.

He has struck out 20 in 15 innings of work.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark’s assessment of Orloski in the days leading into the season opener seem to be holding up. “Eventually,” Hallmark said at the time, “Rob’s going to be a very good college pitcher, so we might as well start finding out when right now.”

For Orloski, a baseball journey that started with major league games he would watch on television in his Idaho home has been quite the experience, already.

In many ways, it’s been a quintessential American experience, starting with a dream and then with a question to his father.

“Dad, do you think I could pitch?” he would say, in not so many words.

Robert Orloski, the pitcher’s father, has been supporting his son in his diamond ball field pursuits ever since.

“He’s been my coach from 8- to 12U,” Orloski said Tuesday afternoon, outside the dugout at Roadrunner Field “He even helped (me) in high school. So he’s always been there coaching.

“Just, step by step. Teaching me to just be strong on the mound. Always attack. Just have that mentality on the field.”

Orloski’s demeanor on the mound? A lot of it comes from years of conversations with his father at the kitchen table, in the car, or on the lake fishing for bass.

“He’s just been able to teach me the basics,” Orloski said. “I’ve had good coaches all the way (up), teaching me more of the advanced stuff. But he’s really been the one to teach me my mentality on the field.”

In 2022, Orloski reached a pivotal moment in his career. He was named player of the year as a junior at Middlegton High School in his home state and then started fielding inquiries from college coaches.

“I had a few other options up in the Northwest, in the Oregon area (and) the Washington area,” he said. “Main reason I came down here was because of the coach. Coach Hallmark, coach (Zach) Butler and (Ryan) Aguayo. I had family down here. So it was an easy move. An easy decision for me, I think.”

After completing his high school career in 2023, Orloski came to another crossroads. The Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 20th round in July.

“It was a pretty awesome call,” Orloski said. “I mean, I was super ecstatic about it. (It’s) still a surreal moment for me knowing that I got drafted by the Red Sox. I couldn’t be happier to be here right now, but it’s still awesome.”

Orloski acknowledged that he gave serious thought to the idea of going straight from high school baseball into the pros.

“Tough decision,” he said. “It was a tough road. It was stressful at times. But when it all came down to it, after getting drafted and knowing the situation, I knew I wanted to come down here (to UTSA).

“Getting an education … has always been a goal of mine. Getting a diploma and everything. So I think school and coming here has been a great choice for me. I don’t regret a thing.”

For Orloski, making the move from Idaho to Texas came with a twist. He wasn’t the only one in his family making it. His parents — Robert and Angela — have since moved into the area, as well.

They’re living in the Canyon Lake area.

“It’s nice to be able to be with them and go do stuff” Orloski said. “Like, going fishing at Canyon Lake. It’s been fun. Going there with my dad and my uncle. It’s been fun. An easy transition.”

UTSA coaches would agree that it’s been fun to watch Orloski develop as a player, although from another standpoint, the largemouth bass at Canyon Lake may not be completely thrilled with his move into the area with a rod and reel in hand.

“I haven’t gone too much,” Orloski said. “But it’s been fun when I’ve gone. Caught three or four each time.”

Coming up

Three-game series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Chapman field, starting tonight at 7. Series continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.


UTSA 7-6
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 7-8

Roadrunners baseball on the upswing leading into home game vs. Tarleton State

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Back-to-back losses at the Sugar Land Classic a few weeks ago left the UTSA Roadrunners searching for that missing something. A day after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Creighton Bluejays, they gave up five early runs to the Lamar Cardinals and lost 5-3 at Constellation Field.

All in all, a 3-5 record at that point wasn’t what anyone in the Roadrunners’ camp wanted or expected.

Not to worry. The Roadrunners turned it around last week with four victories in five games against solid competition, boosting them to 6-6 leading into a Wednesday night home game against the Tarleton State Texans.

The Roadrunners don’t have everything ironed out in their quest to generate early-season momentum. But in a road victory at the University of Houston and two wins in three days at home over the Grand Canyon University Lopes, they have displayed some of the toughness and resilience that Coach Pat Hallmark always likes to see.

“I didn’t think we were real tough initially,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We do look like we’re getting tougher. We do look like we’re still resilient and that we like to compete. Maybe another box we need to check is to play better defense and run the bases better. We’re starting to hit a little bit. I’m not disappointed in the pitching despite the total runs (allowed). I think we’re still pitching fine.

“The bats need to stay competitive, which they have been, but the next two boxes is that we need to shore up the defense a little bit. We’re pretty inconsistent there. And the baserunning, I got to look (as head coach) in the mirror on all of it. But if the team doesn’t run the bases good, certainly it could be some coaching there. So, we need to run the bases a little better.”

Coming up

Tarlton State at UTSA, Wednesday, 4 p.m.
UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Friday, 7 p.m.
UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sunday, 1 p.m.

A photographer’s eye view of the Roadrunners on opening night

Pat Hallmark. 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

Coach Pat Hallmark, in the blue shirt, pays a visit to the mound to make a point in Friday night’s season opener. – Photo by Joe Alexander .

The UTSA Roadrunners play the UT Arlington Mavericks in a doubleheader today, with a seven-inning game set for noon, followed by a nine-inning game that will start about 3 p.m. Arlington broke out to a couple of nine-run leads early in the season opener Friday night and then held on for a 10-9 victory. I wanted to share a package of photos by Joe Alexander. Here are some of his best images:

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek. 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

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek worked two scoreless innings in the opener to help the Roadrunners stay in the game. Hrbacek is from Abilene where he attended Wylie High School. He also played for McLennan College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hector Rodriguez. 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

Junior Hector Rodriguez joins the UTSA squad this season as a transfer from Galveston College. He played in high school at Houston Westside. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Zane Spinn. 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

Shortstop Zane Spinn hails from Holland, Tex. He’s played in college at Temple JC and at Sam Houston State. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Lorenzo Morresi. 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

Lorenzo Morresi, from Macerata, Italy, started at catcher for the Roadrunners. Morresi has played at New Mexico Junior College. He also represented Italy in the Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands. – Photo by Joe Alexander

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

Hard-throwing pitcher Rob Orloski comes to UTSA from Middleton, Idaho. The Boston Red Sox selected him on the 20th round of the draft last summer. He elected to play at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Alex Olivo. 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

Alex Olivo started in the opener as a designated hitter. Olivo also plays first base. He comes to UTSA from Texas Southern. He played previously at Deer Park HS and Ranger College. – Joe Alexander.

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

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

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

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, the hunger and the determination.

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.