American conference expected to send two teams to the NCAA baseball tournament

The American Athletic Conference is expected to send two teams to the NCAA Division I baseball tournament.

The Tulane Green Wave and the Wichita State Shockers will play one game for the title in the American Baseball Championship on Sunday in Clearwater, Fla. The winner will claim the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA’s 64-team field.

The East Carolina Pirates are expected to be an NCAA at-large selection based on their strong showing in the regular season.

Tulane and Wichita State emerged from the semifinals to claim spots in the American title game.

The Green Wave advanced in only one game in the semifinal round, dispatching the Florida Atlantic University Owls, 13-1, in seven innings on the run rule. It took two games for the Shockers to eliminate the Pirates.

East Carolina claimed a 5-4 victory in a wild one, when Dixon Williams stole home with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap a three-run rally. The win forced a second game between the teams, in which the Shockers rebounded to win 12-2 in eight innings on the run rule.

American Baseball Championship semifinals are underway in Clearwater

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The field in the American Baseball Championship has been trimmed to four, with the tournament semifinals set to commence today in Clearwater, Fla.

The Wichita State Shockers will play the top-seeded and regular-season champion East Carolina Pirates at 9 a.m. Central, followed by the Tulane Green Wave and the Florida Atlantic Owls 47 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

As many as four games could be contested today because the Pirates and the Owls will need to win twice to knock out their opponents.

East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin will be serving the second of a two-game suspension. If the Pirates win, he will be able to come back in the re-match.

The title game in the six-game conference tournament is set for Sunday at 11 a.m. at the BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater.

Today’s matchups

East Carolina (42-14) vs. Wichita State (31-27) – The Shockers enter the semifinals with tournament victories over the UAB Blazers (8-2) and the Pirates (14-4). Wichita State caught fire with a regular-season series win at UTSA has now won nine of its last 10 overall. The Shockers will need to win Saturday and again Sunday in the American title game to secure an NCAA tournament bid. The Pirates, based on their strong regular season, are likely a lock to make the national field. East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin will be serving the second game of a conference-mandated suspension.

Florida Atlantic (28-28) vs. Tulane (33-24) – The Tulane Green Wave look to be in good shape coming into the semis with four straight victories and a day’s rest. On top of that, the Tulane pitching hasn’t had to work quite as hard as some others this week after beating FAU 14-2 in seven innings on the run rule Tuesday. The Green Wave downed Charlotte 7-5 on Thursday. Both the Owls and the Green Wave will need to win the tournament in Clearwater to secure an NCAA automatic bid.


Both once-beaten East Carolina and Florida Atlantic stayed alive with victories on Friday.

Playing without All-American Trey Yesavage (injury) and Dixon Williams (one-game suspension), and also without coach Cliff Godwin (suspension), the Pirates beat Rice 8-7 Friday to stay alive. They opened the tournament by beating Rice, 12-4, on Tuesday and then losing to Wichita State, 14-4, on Thursday. Godwin was suspended for his actions in the 14-4 loss.

Florida Atlantic’s season has also been on the brink all week.

Sixth-seeded FAU took a 14-2 loss to Wichita State on opening day on Tuesday before bouncing back the next day to down the UTSA Roadrunners, 12-5. With new life, the Owls surged into a seven-run lead on the Charlotte 49ers Friday and then held on as Danny Trehey pitched shutout innings in the eighth and ninth to secure a 10-8 victory.

American tournament drama: Charlotte surges past UTSA, 9-5, in 12 innings

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If the UTSA Roadrunners hope to reach the title game in the American Baseball Championship, they’re going to have to go through the losers’ bracket to get there.

Carson Bayne crushed a three-run homer to cap a four-run 12th inning Tuesday night, lifting the Charlotte 49ers past the Roadrunners 9-5 on opening day.

The game was a study in heartbreak for the Roadrunners. Also frustration, as they left 18 runners on base. They fell behind by four runs when the 49ers scored four in the top of the sixth, and then they rallied in the bottom of the eighth with four of their own to tie it.

Second-seeded UTSA seemed to have the game won a few times in extra innings and couldn’t finish off seventh-seeded Charlotte. In both the 10th and the 11th, they loaded the bases with one out and couldn’t score.

In the top of the 12th, the 49ers finally broke through against Daniel Garza.

Thad Ector opened the inning with a single to right field. Noah Furcht followed with a grounder to shortstop for what appeared to be a certain force play at second. But the throw was wild and both runners were safe.

At that point, one of the veterans of Charlotte’s 2023 Conference USA tournament title team came through in the clutch. Brandon Stahlman hit an RBI single to left. Ector scored from second base, racing across home plate to make it 6-5.

Bayne then did his part to put the game out of reach. He re-directed a 1-0 pitch from Garza, sending it over the wall in left for a three-run homer to account for the final runs of the game. It was the fifth hit of the night for Bayne, a 5-11 junior from Jacksonville, Fla.

In the bottom of the 12th, the Roadrunners picked up a couple of hits but left them stranded when 49ers freshman Joseph Taylor struck out Olivo to end the game. For the game, UTSA hit only 4 for 26 with runners on base and only 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

As a result, UTSA will play sixth-seeded Florida Atlantic in the losers’ bracket Wednesday. Tulane defeated FAU 14-2 in seven innings on the run rule late Tuesday night.

Despite scoring only once in the first seven innings, the Roadrunners erased a four-run deficit with a spirited four-run rally in the eighth. Caleb Hill led off with a single, and Isaiah Walker and Alexander Olivo followed with RBI doubles to make it 5-3.

Charlotte changed pitchers twice before the end of the inning as UTSA surged. With Tony Rossi on the mound, Diego Diaz walked with the bases loaded to force in one run. Lorenzo Morresi followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it.

With two runners aboard, Rossi fanned UTSA’s Matt King to end the uprising.


Charlotte 24-32
UTSA 32-23


Earlier in the afternoon, the game turned in a span of about 25 minutes from the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth innings. In the fifth, the Roadrunners had a baserunner at first with two of their best hitters at the plate.

First, Mason Lytle smashed a line drive to right field, but Charlotte’s Noah Furcht was in position to make an easy catch. Next, King drilled a ball high and far to center. He didn’t quite get all of it as Reid Haire angled toward the walk and gathered it in to end the inning.

In the sixth, with one out, the 49ers put together a one-out rally against Fischer Kingsbery and Ruger Riojas. The rally started innocently enough, with Brandon Stahlman and Carson Bayne hitting singles in front of the UTSA outfielders.

At that point, Dante DeFranco roped a double to right that scored Stahlman and sent Bayne to third. The Roadrunners thought they had thrown out DeFranco at second, but the umpire’s call was upheld.

UTSA, trailing 2-1, called on Riojas to try to squelch the threat. But Kaden Hopson, one of the returning 49ers’ starters from last year’s Conference USA tournament title team, worked the count to 3-1 before he unloaded with a ball that sailed over the fence in right-center.

The home run boosted the 49ers into a commanding 5-1 lead.

Early games

The top-seeded East Carolina Pirates rallied for 12 runs in the eighth inning and went on to record a 12-4 victory over the No. 8 Rice Owls on opening day of the American Baseball Championship.

Misplays on two Joey Berini fly balls into right field and an infield error on a potential inning-ending double play grounder doomed the Owls in the eighth. Jacob Starling capped the outburst with a two-run homer.

In the tournament opener, fourth-seeded Wichita State downed the mistake-prone No. 5 seed UAB Blazers, 8-2.

Tuesday’s results

Game 1: (4) Wichita State 8, (5) UAB 2
Game 2: (1) East Carolina 12, (8) Rice 4
Game 3: (7) Charlotte 9, (2) UTSA 5, 12 innings
Game 4: (3) Tulane 14, (6) Florida Atlantic 2, 7 innings

Wednesday’s schedule

Game 5: UAB vs. Rice, noon
Game 6: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic. 47 minutes after Game 5

Thursday’s schedule

Game 7: Wichita State vs. East Carolina, noon
Game 8: Charlotte vs. Tulane, 47 minutes after Game 7

AAC baseball: Surging East Carolina takes a half-game lead on UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The East Carolina Pirates swept a doubleheader on Saturday and moved into a half-game lead in the American Athletic Conference baseball race over the UTSA Roadrunners.

The ninth-ranked Pirates won 11-7 and 11-4 on their home field to sweep a three-game series from the Wichita State Shockers.

With UTSA preparing to host the UAB Blazers in a series finale in San Antonio on Sunday, here are the updated AAC standings:

American Athletic Conference
Baseball standings

East Carolina 11-4, 31-8
UTSA 10-4, 23-16
Charlotte 8-7, 19-21
Florida Atlantic 7-7, 20-16
South Florida 7-7, 21-18
Wichita State 7-8, 21-20
Tulane 6-8, 21-18
Memphis 6-9, 18-22
UAB 5-9, 17-20
Rice 5-9, 14-25

Baseball: UTSA wins inaugural AAC series against 10th-ranked East Carolina

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Mason Lytle ignited the offense early. Daniel Garza and Ruger Riojas pitched with a purpose at the end. As it turned out, the UTSA Roadrunners claimed a 6-5 victory Sunday over the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates

In their first weekend of play as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the Roadrunners won two of three off the defending champions. It is the first time in the history of the program that UTSA has won a series against a Top-10 opponent.
In Game 1 on Friday night, freshman Rob Orloski combined with Riojas to pitch the Roadrunners to a 4-2 victory over East Carolina and All American Trey Yesavage. On Saturday, the Pirates bounced back, winning 14-10 behind a 16-hit attack.

UTSA claimed the rubber match on a cool and cloudy Sunday afternoon at Roadrunner Field despite four home runs by the hard-hitting visitors from Greenville, N.C.

East Carolina kept pounding away all day with homers by Justin Wilcoxen, Dixon Williams, Joey Berini and Ryan McCrystal.

The Roadrunners took charge early, leading 2-0 after one inning and 4-1 after two as centerfielder Mason Lytle and catcher Broc Parmer led the way.

In the top of the first, Parmer back-handed a ball on a pitch that hit the turf. He came up and threw out Clark Cunningham trying to take second base to end the inning. Later, Lytle ignited the offense with a one-out single and a stolen base.

To cap the bottom of the first, Parmer doubled to left and drove in a run to make it 2-0. Thanks to the pitching and the defense, the Roadrunners would hold on to the lead for the remainder of the afternoon.

A pitching threesome of Ulises Quiroga, Garza and Riojas got the job done. Quiroga started and worked four innings. Though he gave up three runs, he also kept the Roadrunners in the game with a sharp breaking pitch. He struck out four.

Garza entered in the fifth inning and worked into the eighth. Pounding the strike zone and walking none, he seemed to be in full control to all but two batters. Perini touched him for a two-out solo homer in the sixth. Later, McCrystal launched a solo shot of his own to lead off the eighth.

After the McCrystal blast cleared the wall in left and pulled East Carolina to within 6-5, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark called on Riojas, his ace, who threw 41 pitches in a three-inning save Friday night. Riojas promptly registered two strikeouts and induced a ground ball to end it.

In the ninth, the Pirates threatened again when Cunningham delivered a two-out double into the left-center gap. Riojas finished the game by getting Jacob Jenkins-Cowart to bounce a ball to shortstop Matt King, who fired to first for the third out.

Riojas, in all, worked two scoreless innings, allowing only a hit, while striking out two. In the process, he lowered his earned run average to 1.44.

Lytle, a transfer from the University of Oregon, continued his strong play. He finished the game two for four to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and raise his batting average to .371. He stole three bases and scored twice.

Defensively, Lytle made a diving catch in center in the second inning for his second gem of the weekend.

Parmer, one of three newcomers to play catcher for the Roadrunners this season, is making a bid for the lead role. He made multiple stops on pitches that were difficult to handle, including one when the Pirates had a runner at third base. At bat, he finished three for four with two doubles, lifting his average to .358.

Alex Olivo and Zane Spinn also had two hits in the Roadrunners’ 10-hit attack. Olivo delivered an RBI single in the first. Spinn had an RBI double in the second and later scored on a Caleb Hill sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.


East Carolina 16-6, 1-2
UTSA 12-12, 2-1

Coming up

UTSA at Baylor, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
AAC – UTSA at Tulane, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
AAC – UTSA at Tulane, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
AAC – UTSA at Tulane, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Pirates rough up Roadrunners’ pitching in 14-10 victory

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates exploded for 16 hits Saturday afternon en route to a 14-10 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners in the American Athletic Conference.

Tye Odom crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning to bring the Roadrunners to within two runs of the lead.

But the Pirates, who had scored six runs of their own in the eighth, answered with two more in the top of the ninth to put the game away.

Reliever Danny Beal shut down UTSA in its last at bat to secure the victory.

With the win, the Pirates rebounded from a 4-2 loss to the Roadrunners Friday night and evened the American Athletic Conference series at one win apiece.

The series finale is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Roadrunner Field.


East Carolina 16-5, 1-1
UTSA 11-12, 1-1

Coming up

Series finale: East Carolina at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Baseball: UTSA knocks off 10th-ranked East Carolina, 4-2

UTSA’s Matt King singles off East Carolina ace Trey Yesavage to drive in Mason Lytle in the first inning. – video by The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With a gusting wind blowing into the hitters’ faces all afternoon and into the evening, the elements seemed to favor the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates and All-American pitcher Trey Yesavage.

The odds seemed to be stacked heavily against the home-team UTSA Roadrunners in their debut game in the American Athletic Conference.

Rob Orloski. UTSA beat 10th-ranked East Carolina 4-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, March 24, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Rob Orloski allowed one run in six innings to earn the victory, improving his record to 3-2 on the season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Yesavage, after all, came into the AAC opener for both teams undefeated at 4-0, with a 1.20 earned run average.

Undeterred, UTSA played its finest game of the season and defeated Yesavage and the Pirates, 4-2, on Friday night at Roadrunner Field.

“It feels great,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “You know, their pitcher is really good. I’m impressed (with) and proud of our hitters, on a night the wind’s blowing in. If we won, I thought the score would be 2-1 or 3-2. We didn’t score a ton. But it’s hard to score four runs on that guy with the wind blowing out.”

Two nights after losing 14-13 at Texas State on a night when UTSA walked 11 batters, the Roadrunners’ pitching stood tall against the four-time defending regular-season champions in the AAC.

Freshman Rob Orloski (3-2) pitched six innings for the victory and relief ace Ruger Riojas worked the final three for his second save.

“It’s a great feeling,” Riojas said. “So far since I’ve been here, it’s the best game I’ve been involved with. It’s very motivating to beat what I would say is the best mid-major (team) in the country.”

While Orloski allowed nine hits and one run in his six innings, he was solid in throwing strikes when he needed them. He walked only one and struck out two.

Riojas, in turn, was electric. The sophomore from Wimberley seemed content in throwing fastballs at a team with a .299 average, and he proved successful, allowing only three hits and an unearned run.

Ruger Riojas. UTSA beat 10th-ranked East Carolina 4-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, March 24, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA relief ace Ruger Riojas limited East Carolina to three hits and an unearned run in three innings to pick up his second save. – Photo by Joe Alexander

He walked one and struck out four.

The top of the eighth inning yielded high drama for the fans. With the Pirates at bat, trailing by three runs and facing Riojas, they started a rally when Jacob Jenkins-Cowart led off, smashing a ground ball that went through the legs of UTSA second baseman Diego Diaz for an error.

Next, Riojas seemed a little rattled and walked Jacob Starling, putting runners at first and second base with nobody out.

From there, though, the UTSA righthander became extremely tough. Pitching to the next man, Justin Wilcoxen, Riojas threw inside on a pitch that sounded as if it might have hit something just before it zipped into the catcher’s mitt.

The umpire’s call was a ball and not a hit by pitch, so, in response, East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin called for a video review.

The review was lengthy, with Riojas throwing at least five or six times to keep warm, before home plate ump Doug Williams returned and confirmed the original call.

Even with the delay, Riojas seemed unruffled, and he responded by striking out Wilcoxen. Next, he fanned Bristol Carter. Nearly out of the inning, Riojas was stung when Ryan McCrystal fisted one into center for an RBI single, trimming the UTSA lead to 4-2.

Matt King. UTSA beat 10th-ranked East Carolina 4-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, March 24, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Shortstop Matt King made all the plays in the field and also went two for three at the plate with an RBI. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With runners still aboard at first and second, Joey Berini stepped into the box and bounced a weak grounder to first for the third out.

In the ninth, Riojas retired the Pirates in order to secure the victory.

Afterward, the sophomore addressed the media and acknowledged that his memory of the details in the game were a bit of a blur.

“I don’t remember much,” Riojas said. “I just remember Rob being on his game. He was executing every pitch and taking advantage of them. He threw amazing. Like, we couldn’t have done this without him, 100 percent.

“Outfield, too. Outfield had a lot of range tonight. I think it was good. Especially with the wind coming in, playing those fly balls. I think they did their part. The infield, they did their job.”

Outfielder Mason Lytle, with two hits, two runs scored and a run-saving catch in center field in the fifth, emerged as another key component in UTSA’s second Top 10 victory at home in the past three seasons.

With a baserunner at third and two outs in the top of the fifth, Carter Cunningham drilled a line drive that started hooking, carrying it away from Lytle, who was running in and veering off to the side.

He left his feet, dove and made the catch while sliding on his chest and stomach, prompting even some of the East Carolina fans to cheer the play.

“Those plays are like home runs,” Hallmark said. “They’re great plays, but people don’t equate them to home runs. Because it takes a run off the board for them. You know, and they’d still be batting. One run would score and they’d still be batting, so it was huge.”

Pat Hallmark. UTSA beat 10th-ranked East Carolina 4-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, March 24, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA, under coach Pat Hallmark, has scored two Top 10 victories at home in the past three seasons. The first came in 2022 when the Roadrunners beat the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal, 6-5, in 10 innings. The second came Friday night in a 4-2 win over the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In 2022, UTSA defeated No. 2 Stanford, 6-5, in 10 innings at Roadrunner Field. This time, in contrast, the victory over East Carolina may have meant more simply because it came in the program’s inaugural game in the AAC.

Also because they beat Yesavage, who is considered one of the top pitching prospects going into the 2024 draft. An ESPN television commentator said he counted 18 pro scouts at the game.

All the attention seemed to motivate the Roadrunners, who nicked him for four runs on eight hits in five innings. The 6-foot-4 righthander from Boyertown, Pa., walked one and struck out five.

The Roadrunners scored one run in the first inning and three more in the third off Yesavage, who seemed to be having problems locating pitches, particularly his breaking ball.

In the first, the East Carolina ace yielded consecutive one-out singles to Lytle, Alex Olivo and Matt King. With runners at first and second, King drilled a ball in the hole between third and shortstop to score Lytle, making it 1-0.

In the third, Lytle and Olivo set the table again, with Lytle smacking a single and Olivo drawing a walk. King executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, and then Broc Parmer and James Taussig rifled back-to-back RBI singles through the right side of the infield.

With runners at first and third, Tye Odom sacrifice bunted to the right side of the pitcher’s mound, allowing Parmer to score from third to make it 4-0.

East Carolina finally broke through to score off Orloski in the sixth inning, with Bristol Carter supplying the RBI single. Jenkins-Cowart, who started the rally with a leadoff single, came home from third to score the Pirates’ first run.


East Carolina 15-5, 0-1
UTSA 11-11, 1-0

Coming up

Second game of a three-game series, East Carolina at UTSA, Saturday at 2 p.m. The finale is Sunday at 1 p.m. Both at Roadrunner Field on the UTSA campus.

Rob Orloski. UTSA beat 10th-ranked East Carolina 4-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, March 24, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

In Rob Orloski’s last two outings as a pitcher, the UTSA freshman from Idaho has allowed two earned runs on 13 hits in 11 innings. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Mason Lytle continues lineage of Houston-area center field talent at UTSA

Mason Lytle. UTSA beat UT-Arlington 2-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA centerfielder Mason Lytle has contributed with his bat, glove and speed in the first 21 games of the season. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA baseball fans seem to have found another favorite to cheer in center field. Mason Lytle is his name, and while he has played center for the Roadrunners only for a little more than a month, it is arguable that his skills match up with some of the best at the position in the history of the program.

In a breezy interview Thursday, he talked about a number of topics: Among them, an older brother being an inspirational figure when he was a kid learning the game. His background as a ball player from talent-rich Pearland in the Houston area. And a shoulder injury at the University of Oregon last spring that temporarily derailed his career.

Also, Lytle expressed his feelings about a historic weekend looming for the Roadrunners, who play their inaugural American Athletic Conference games at home over the next few days against the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “it’s super exciting. We’re getting prepared. We’re working hard. Watching video to get ready. Working hard in the (batting) cages to get our swings right. New conference. New opponents, and they’re ranked pretty high. So, it should be fun. It should be exciting.”

The East Carolina-UTSA series opener is set for 6 tonight at Roadrunner Field. The matchup will continue Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by a Sunday finale starting at 1 p.m.

When Lytle first stepped on the outfield grass for the Roadrunners earlier this season, fans could see his speed and ability to chase down balls in the gap. Also they watched as he put pressure on the defense running out routine grounders and stealing an occasional base.

And, by the way, he is now 9 for 9 in that category.

What has raised eyebrows lately, though, has been his ability to make contact at the plate and then utilize his speed to create havoc for opposing defenders.

Currently, Lytle (.359 average, .576 slugging percentage) is riding a seven-game hitting streak and has recorded multiple hits in his last four games.

“Mason has stepped up,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “Plays really good defense. From a talent standpoint, I knew he belonged on the field. I didn’t expect he’d hit this (well). To hit .350 (is not easy) and he’s done it.

“He’s hitting in the clutch a little bit, too, which is nice to see, and he runs the bases well.”

With Caleb Hill on an even greater tear and making contact with the ball at a high level at the top of the batting order, Hallmark has used Lytle anywhere from second to fifth recently.

The two also complement one another in the outfield, with Hill in left and Lytle in center.

“It’s hard to find that at the mid-major level, a guy that can defend, that can hit for a little power and can steal a base,” Hallmark said. “Those two guys can do all that. We’re very excited to have ’em.”

At UTSA, fans have had the good fortune to see some talented centerfielders. Many of them, like Lytle, have come from the Houston area.

Michael Rockett, for instance, and his younger brother, Daniel Rockett. From the late-2000s to the early 2010s, one or the other routinely would run down balls hit into the gap. Most recently, Shane Sirdashney from The Woodlands.

He, too, could hit for average and power and could do just about everything.

Last weekend, at home against Northwestern, Lytle continued the show for UTSA fans. He hit eight for 11 at the plate and rang up 17 total bases.

Lytle also hit an inside the park home run. The ball caromed off the batter’s eye in center field, and by the time it was retrieved, he had a full head of steam that allowed him to score.

Last time he hit an inside-the-park four-bagger?

“I actually had two at San Jac, in the same weekend,” he said, smiling, referring to his three-year run at San Jacinto College through 2022.

Lytle said he’s been working with coaches on getting back to basics with his swing.

“Not thinking too much, simplifying the swing. Getting the foot down. Seeing the ball. Back to the roots,” he said. “It’s been paying off. It’s been working.”

Defensively, the UTSA outfield is in good shape at the moment, with Hill in left, Lytle in center and Tye Odom, recently returning to form after an injury, playing in right.

“It’s nice to have three centerfielders out there in the outfield playing, at all three positions,” Lytle said. “We’re all quick. We’re all fast. We can all get to any ball. It’s nice to be able to trust the left fielder and the right fielder. It works good.

“I think our pitchers are happy we’re all out there.”

If not for a shoulder injury that cut short Lytle’s one and only season at Oregon around this time last year, he might not be at UTSA.

“I got surgery, the season was ending (for me),” he said. “The team was good. It was a fun team to be around. But it just didn’t work out in my favor. Ended up here. Couldn’t be … happier.”

Lytle’s hometown of Pearland is synonymous with the game of baseball. Former major leaguers Clay Hensley, Robbie Weinhardt, Craig Smajstrla, Jeff DeWillis and Kirk Dressendorfer all played in the area just south of Hobby Airport.

“It’s where my family grew up,” Lytle said. “It’s nice to have those roots there. A lot of baseball talent coming out of there. Especially right now, they’re pretty good. One of the top (high school) teams in the nation. It was good to be surrounded by some other good ball players. Helped me grow tremendously.”

When UTSA’s current centerfielder was growing up, his older brother, Hunter Lytle, was the man.

“My older brother played sports,” he said. “He was pretty athletic. He didn’t play as far as I did. But, he definitely had the talent. He was good, and he pushed me to my limits.”

Lytle acknowledged that his brother attended Texas State University, UTSA’s I-35 rival in athletics, with a particularly heated rivalry in baseball. Texas State on Tuesday night knocked off UTSA 14-13, a game in which Mason Lytle had three hits.

Reporters at Thursday’s media day didn’t even have to ask whether the older brother supported his younger brother’s team a few nights ago, or his own alma mater.

“He he was rooting for us,” Mason Lytle said.

As for how the Roadrunners keep coming up with high-caliber center field talent out of the Houston area, Hallmark said he hadn’t thought about it in those teams.

The Rockett brothers were recruited under a previous UTSA coaching staff into an area where their uncle, former Atlanta Braves shortstop Pat Rockett, grew up and attended high school. In Sirdashney’s case, Hallmark brought him to San Antonio, first to the University of the Incarnate Word and then to UTSA.

Lytle thought about the Houston connection and his own place in the lineage and said simply, “It’s a blessing to be out here and filling those shoes.”

Coming up

East Carolina at UTSA, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.


East Carolina 15-4
UTSA 10-11

East Carolina pitching to test UTSA’s hot hitters this weekend

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA, playing its inaugural weekend series as a member of the American Athletic Conference, will face one of the top teams in the nation Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Roadrunner Field.

The Roadrunners (10-11) will host the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates (15-4) in a series that promises some intriguing matchups.

For the Pirates, they placed six players on the AAC’s preseason all-conference team, including three pitchers in junior Trey Yesavage, sophomore Zach Root and senior bullpen ace Danny Beal.

Those three players lead a staff that ranks first in the conference in ERA at 3.60. The Roadrunners will counter with the No. 1 squad in batting average.

Paced by Caleb Hill, Mason Lytle and Alex Olivo, UTSA was hitting .302 to lead the American before stroking 14 hits and four homers Tuesday night at Texas State.

Yesavage is rated as one of the top pitchers going into the 2024 draft. UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said Thursday that the 6-foot-4 righthander throws four pitches, including a 93-to-97 mph fastball.

“It’s every bit of 93 to 97 mph,” Hallmark said. “Four pitches. Two different breaking balls. He can throw the righthanders a lot of sliders. He’s going to throw the lefthanders a lot o changeups. He’ll mix in some curveballs to both sides.”

Yesavage, from Boyertown, Pa., could be one of the most highly-regarded prospects that UTSA fans have ever seen.

“He’s the real deal,” Hallmark said. “Everything I read and everything I see, he’s a first-round draft pick. If he stays healthy he’ll probably pitch in the big leagues one day.”

Baseball: Roadrunners to open AAC play against the defending champion East Carolina Pirates

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. 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 and the UTSA Roadrunners will test the nationally-ranked East Carolina Pirates in a three-game series starting Friday at Roadrunner Field. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Defeated 14-13 on the road at Texas State on Tuesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners will prepare in the next few days for their historic first game in the American Athletic Conference. They’ll play Friday night at home against the 11th-ranked East Carolina Pirates.

East Carolina (15-4) will arrive at Roadrunner Field for a three-game series as the most accomplished baseball program in the AAC. The Greenville, N.C.-based Pirates have won four straight AAC regular-season championships.

Led by 10th-year coach Cliff Godwin, East Carolina has qualified for five straight NCAA tournaments, playing in the national event every year since 2018. During their streak, they stayed home only in 2020 when most of the season and the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

In the final analysis, the Roadrunners will have their hands full as they play their inaugural AAC weekend series following 10 seasons in Conference USA. While the Pirates have won eight straight games, the Roadrunners (10-11) have struggled to find consistency.

Matched against certain teams, their pitching has been vulnerable. Texas State, for instance, sent 16 batters to the plate and scored nine runs in the first inning Tuesday night in San Marcos. Roadrunners pitching walked 11 batters against the Bobcats.

The Roadrunners’ offense, in turn, always seems to give them a chance. Trailing by five runs after the first inning and by six runs after the third against the Bobcats, they battled back with 14 hits, including four home runs.

Tye Odom, Caleb Hill and Matt King sent balls over the fence in the second inning and freshman Diego Diaz added another in the ninth. A two-run blast by Diaz pulled the Roadrunners to within one run before the Bobcats shut down the rally.

Hill leads with a .419 batting average and seven home runs. Lytle, a transfer from Oregon, has made a major impact in his first season. Outside of starting in center field and leading the team in stolen bases with nine, he ranks among the team’s leaders in average (.359), home runs (four) and RBIs (19).

As a team, they’re hitting .305.


East Carolina 15-4
UTSA 10-11


The Pirates are ranked 11th in the nation by D1 Baseball and 12th by Baseball America. Pirates pitcher Trey Yesavage is the No. 36 prospect for the 2024 MLB draft, according to This season, the 6-foot-4 righthander, a second-team All-American last year, is 4-0 with a 1.20 earned run average. He has struck out 49 and walked nine in 30 innings.