Dallas Baptist clinches C-USA title by sweeping UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Coming up

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

C-USA standings

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

x-clinched regular-season title

UTSA beats Rice, 6-5, and wins a Conference USA road series, two games to one

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA righthander Daniel Shafer retired one batter in the eighth inning and three straight in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon as the streaking UTSA Roadrunners won a Conference USA road series, downing the Rice Owls, 6-5.

With the victory, the Roadrunners (20-5, 5-1 in the C-USA) improved to 12-2 in their last 14 games and maintained a hold on first place early in the conference race.

Powered by three home runs, the Owls (12-12, 4-2) rallied into a 3-2 lead early in the game and came back again to tie 5-5 in the late innings.

But behind the relief pitching of Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery and Shafer, the Roadrunners captured the series against the Owls at Reckling Park in Houston. Leyton Barry doubled in the eighth inning for an RBI and a 6-5 lead for the Roadrunners.

UTSA won the series opener on Friday, claiming a 4-3 victory in 11 innings. Rice responded Saturday, exploding past the visitors from San Antonio, 13-8.

In response, the Roadrunners came back on Sunday, played error-free baseball and emerged with their second one-run victory on the weekend and their third of the season.

Kingsbury worked two scoreless innings without allowing a hit to earn his first victory. He is 1-0. Shafer struck out one and cruised to his second save in the series and his team-leading fifth for the season. Blake Brogdon was the losing pitcher, falling to 1-2, despite striking out six in 3 and 1/3 innings.


UTSA 20-5, 5-1
Rice 12-12, 4-2

Coming up

UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

UTSA at Rice baseball
Game 3 summary

Capitalizing on Rice starter Tom Vincent’s control problems, the Roadrunners took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Vincent set the UTSA rally in motion when he hit Sammy Diaz with a pitch. Vincent walked three more in the inning.

Both Shane Sirdashney and Isaiah Walker worked the count to 3-2 before they drew bases-loaded walks to drive in the first two runs of the game. With the bases loaded, UTSA had a chance to do more damage, but Leyton Barry grounded out to end the threat.

Down by two runs early for the third straight day, the Owls retaliated with three runs in their next at bat against UTSA starter Zach Royse.

The surge came suddenly, as the three runs scored on two swings of the bat. First, Royse walked the leadoff man. Next, Aaron Smigelski clubbed a two-run homer. On the next pitch, Ben Royo hit a solo shot.

Given the one-run lead to protect, Vincent couldn’t get it done. After UTSA’s Antonio Valdez led off the third and reached on an error, Sammy Diaz belted a two-run homer, and the Roadrunners once again assumed the lead, 4-3.

The Owls, in response, replaced Vincent. His day was done. Right-handed reliever Tyler Hamilton took the mound and retired three of the next four batters.

In the bottom half of the third, the Roadrunners also made a pitching change, going to freshman righthander Ruger Riojas, who promptly started his day by retiring three straight.

Riojas continued to throw strikes and find success in the fourth. After yielding a two-out double to Aaron Smigelski, the first-year player from Wimberley High School came off the mound, fielded a ground ball and threw out Ben Royo to end the inning.

With Riojas finding his groove, Valdez stepped up on offense to create more momentum for the Roadrunners. He led off the top of the fifth by pulling a pitch and drilling it for a solo homer over the right field wall. Valdez’s eighth homer of the year boosted UTSA’s lead to 5-3.

After Josh Killeen followed with a one-out double to deep right, Rice elected to stay with Hamilton, who promptly walked Matt King. At that point, Rice coaches had seen enough, and Blake Brogdon entered as the Owls’ third pitcher. Brogdon closed the door on UTSA, getting Taylor Smith on a long fly ball to center to end it.

As the game reached the middle innings, Riojas emerged as a force for UTSA. A freshman from Wimberley, Riojas cruised through the third, fourth and fifth by retiring nine out of 10 Rice batters. He struck out two in the bottom of the fifth as UTSA maintained its two-run lead.

With Brogdon throwing well for Rice and shutting out UTSA in the top of the sixth, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark didn’t hesitate — he sent Riojas out for his fourth inning on the day.

Nonetheless, the Owls exploded again. First, Guy Garibay Jr. singled up the middle, and then Connor Walsh belted a two-run home run. As Walsh crossed the plate, Rice had tied the game, 5-5. It was Rice’s third homer of the day and its fifth in the series.

UTSA’s Fischer Kingsbery, a junior from Leander, replaced Riojas and finished the inning, walking one but retiring Ben Royo on a pop up to the infield.

In the top of the eighth, UTSA’s Taylor Smith led off with a single and moved to second on a ground ball.

As Brogdon exited the playing field with two outs, Jack Ben-Shoshan came in to pitch for the Owls. The first batter, Leyton Barry, greeted him with an RBI double to give UTSA a 6-5 lead. Next up, Valdez smoked a ball to right field but it was caught, ending the inning.

In the bottom half, Hallmark had some choices to make. First and foremost, how long should he stay with Kingsbery? Well, Kingsbery did his job, retiring two straight. From there, Hallmark lifted him for Daniel Shafer, who ended the inning with one pitch. Walsh, who had homered in his last at bat, flied out to right.


On Friday, the Roadrunners won the opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Freshman Tye Odom delivered the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th with an RBI single. Simon Miller pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of relief for the victory, and Daniel Shafer got the last two outs for the save.

On Saturday, Manny Garza and Paul Smith drove in three runs apiece as the Owls bounced back from the series-opening loss for a 13-8 victory. In a game that featured three lead changes, Rice pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of eight UTSA walks to even the best-of-three at one win apiece.