UTSA run ends in CUSA title game; NCAA tournament probably up next

UTSA's Ryan Flores, shown in a May 29 home game, homered in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. - file photo

UTSA’s Ryan Flores, shown in a May 29 home game, homered in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. – file photo

(Editor’s note: Updated with all-tournament team members)

Louisiana Tech edged UTSA 9-8 in a back-and-forth game in the Conference USA baseball tournament title game Sunday in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The Bulldogs ended the Roadrunners’ quest for the tournament title and the NCAA tournament automatic bid that goes with it.

UTSA (38-20) has never received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but that is expected to change this week. The Roadrunners’ credentials for an at-large bid this season include 11 victories over nationally ranked teams and a strong showing in the CUSA tournament. The NCAA tournament teams will be announced Monday at 11 a.m.

UTSA won its first three games of the CUSA tournament to reach the title game. Lousiana Tech was playing its third game in three days, including a loss to Old Dominion on Saturday.

The Roadrunners came from behind multiple times in the game. UTSA’s Ryan Flores led off the top of the ninth with a home run to tie it 8-8. Louisiana Tech’s Steele Netter singled down the right-field line with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to drive home the winning run.

After Louisiana Tech retook the lead 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth, UTSA went in front 7-6 in the top of the seventh on a two-run homer by Ian Bailey, his team-high 16th blast of the season. Louisiana Tech immediately answered and took the lead 8-7 with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

That set the stage for the dramatic ninth inning.

Louisiana Tech took an early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first.

UTSA went in front with a four-run fourth inning that saw the Roadrunners go from three runs down to a 4-3 lead in the stretch of three batters. UTSA got the rally going with a leadoff walk by Josh Killeen, a double by Chase Keng and then Bailey was hit-by-pitch. Garrett Poston broke the scoring ice with a two-run, bases-loaded double. Groundball outs by Matt King and Jonathan Tapia brought in a run each to tie the game and then put UTSA in front.

Records:

UTSA 38-20
Louisiana Tech 42-19

Notable:

– Louisiana Tech had nine hits in the title game, to seven for UTSA. No UTSA batter had more than one hit.

– UTSA used seven pitchers. Ulises Quiroga had the longest stretch on the mound. He went 2 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed one hit with two strikeouts and one walk.

– Braylon Owens pitched the eighth and nine innings and took the loss.

– UTSA’s Flores, Keng, Poston and Luke Malone were named to the 2022 CUSA all-tournament team.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

Game 1: Old Dominion 18, Middle Tennessee 7 (7 innings)

Game 2: Louisiana Tech 4, Charlotte 0

Game 3: Southern Miss 4, UAB 3

Game 4: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic, postponed until Thursday, 9 a.m.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

Game 4: UTSA 6, Florida Atlantic 4

Game 5: Charlotte 22, Middle Tennessee 0

Game 6: Louisiana Tech 7, Old Dominion 2

Game 7: Florida Atlantic 11, UAB 1 (7 innings)

Game 8: Southern Miss vs. UTSA, postponed until Friday, 10 a.m.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6

Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4

Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Game 11: Old Dominion 9, Louisiana Tech 6, 13 innings

Game 12: UTSA 11, Southern Miss 2 (Southern Miss eliminated)

Game 13: Louisiana Tech 8, Old Dominion 7 (Old Dominion eliminated)

SUNDAY’S GAME

Game 15: Championship – Louisiana Tech 9, UTSA 8

UTSA rolls into CUSA tournament title game; Hallmark said Roadrunners are NCAA worthy

UTSA's Daniel Garza pitching against Marshall on May 6, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Daniel Garza, shown in a May 6 home game, pitched eight innings in relief Saturday as the Roadrunners clinched a spot in the CUSA tournament championship game – file photo.

(Updated with late Louisiana Tech-Old Dominion game)

UTSA is headed for the Conference USA tournament championship game – and probably the NCAA tournament as well.

The Roadrunners stayed unbeaten in the conference tournament with an 11-2 beatdown of top-seeded Southern Miss on Saturday afternoon.

UTSA will play Louisiana Tech in the tournament title game Sunday at 1 p.m. in Hattiesburg, Miss. Louisiana Tech beat Old Dominion 8-7 in Saturday’s late game to advance.

The Roadrunners have 11 victories this season over nationally ranked teams – including two this week against 14th ranked Southern Miss.

UTSA was projected to need two victories in the conference tournament to have a good shot at an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Roadrunners not only have three wins this week, they are one win away from winning the CUSA tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark was asked in a postgame interview on ESPN+ if UTSA had done enough to earn an NCAA tournament berth. He answered unequivocally.

“Yes, sure. No doubt,” Hallmark said. “Look who we’re beating. That’s an unbelievable team. We come into their place and beat them twice. Look at everybody else we beat. We beat Stanford, TCU. We beat everybody they put in front of us. So yes, no doubt.”

UTSA took an early lead on Garrett Poston’s two-run homer in the second inning. They added two runs in the third and took control with a six-run outburst in the top of the eighth.

For the second time in the tournament, the Roadrunners got a big relief performance from a pitcher who has experience as a starter. Daniel Garza entered the game in the second inning and held Southern Miss scoreless until the seventh.

Garza, a starter or longer-innings pitcher most of the season, went in with a runner on base and no outs in the second. He got Southern Miss to hit into double plays in the second and third innings. He finished the game, allowing two runs in eight innings and throwing 113 pitches.

UTSA outfielder Garrett Poston batting against Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Garrett Poston, shown earlier in the season, hit a two-run homer Saturday to give UTSA a 2-0 lead. – file photo

UTSA got the early 2-0 advantage when Poston hit a home run with Josh Killeen on base in the second inning. It was the second blast of the season for the sophomore from League City.

UTSA added on two runs in the top of the third. Jonathan Tapia led off with a walk and Leyton Barry singled to second. An error left runners on second and third with no outs. Shane Sirdashney’s sacrifice fly brought in Tapia to make it 3-0. Killeen’s one out bunt scored Leyton from third to make it 4-0.

Southern Miss scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 4-2. UTSA answered forcefully. Ian Bailey walked and Poston, King, Tapia, Barry, Sirdashney and Flores strung together hits in the top of the eighth as the Roadrunners scored six runs to pull away.

UTSA, the top hitting team in CUSA for the season, finished the game with 15 hits.

“It’s high,” Hallmark said of the Roadrunners’ confidence at the plate. “But we’re a pretty good hitting team. We led the league in average and some other stuff. Top three in pretty much everything. They’ve been confident all year. They’re good baseball players.”

Records:

UTSA 38-19

Southern Miss 43-16

Notable:

– UTSA had pitchers turn in eight or more innings in relief in two of its three games in the tournament. Luke Malone went nine innings and 107 pitches on Thursday and Garza went eight innings and 113 pitches on Saturday.

“Both of them have guts and they’re pretty good pitchers too,” Hallmark said. “We love their guts.”

– UTSA got production from the bottom of the order. Poston batted eighth and had two hits including his home run. King batted ninth and had two hits and two RBI.

– Flores stayed hot at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. He batted .684 (13-for-19) in five games against Southern Miss this season:
May 13 – 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB
May 14 – 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
May 15 – 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, HR
May 27 – 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
May 28 – 3-4, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 BB
Total – 13-19, 8 RBI, 5 R, 5 BB, 3 HR

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

Game 1: Old Dominion 18, Middle Tennessee 7 (7 innings)

Game 2: Louisiana Tech 4, Charlotte 0

Game 3: Southern Miss 4, UAB 3

Game 4: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic, postponed until Thursday, 9 a.m.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

Game 4: UTSA 6, Florida Atlantic 4

Game 5: Charlotte 22, Middle Tennessee 0

Game 6: Louisiana Tech 7, Old Dominion 2

Game 7: Florida Atlantic 11, UAB 1 (7 innings)

Game 8: Southern Miss vs. UTSA, postponed until Friday, 10 a.m.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6

Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4

Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Game 11: Old Dominion 9, Louisiana Tech 6, 13 innings

Game 12: UTSA 11, Southern Miss 2 (Southern Miss eliminated)

Game 13: Louisiana Tech 8, Old Dominion 7 (Old Dominion eliminated)

SUNDAY’S GAME

Game 15: Championship – UTSA vs. Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m.

UTSA knocking on door of NCAA tournament after win over Southern Miss

UTSA's Ryan Flores homered in the ninth inning for the winning run against Southern Miss in the Conference USA tournament on Friday, May 27, 2022. - file photo

UTSA’s Ryan Flores homered in the ninth inning for the winning run against Southern Miss in the Conference USA tournament on Friday, May 27, 2022. – file photo

(Updated with result of Game 9 and 10)

Expectations around UTSA were that the Roadrunners needed two wins in the Conference USA baseball tournament to be in strong position to earn an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

The ultimate outcome from UTSA’s standpoint would be to win the CUSA tournament and the automatic bid that comes with it.

UTSA claimed its second CUSA tournament win Friday morning in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Roadrunners beat top-seeded Southern Miss 7-6 in the winners bracket.

The Roadrunners (37-19) advanced to Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. CUSA tournament quarterfinals with a chance to advance to Sunday’s championship. They will face Southern Miss one more time.

A back-and-forth game came down to a solo home run by UTSA’s Ryan Flores in the top of the ninth. That broke a 6-6 tie. It was his third home run against Southern Miss this season – all on the Golden Eagles’ home field.

“Clearly he likes to hit here,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said in a postgame interview on ESPN+. “We played here two weeks ago. He hit the ball well here and they’ve got the best pitching staff in the league and one of the best staffs in the country. Flo just likes hitting here I guess so I hope he stays hot.”

Simon Miller (4-3) pitched the final 2 2/3 innings for UTSA to earn the win. He allowed one run on two hits.

The Roadrunners scored one or two runs in each of the last four innings in a game that stayed close the whole way.

Matt King and Jonathan Tapia hit back-to-back doubles in the top of the eighth – King scoring on Tapia’s hit to put UTSA in front 6-5. Southern Miss scored in the bottom of the inning to even it at 6-6.

“I’m a little flustered,” Hallmark said. “We didn’t play great. We made some mistakes. I think we played really hard.

“They’re (Southern Miss) tough. They’re playing at home. They got the crowd. Then we turned it back around.”

UTSA scored twice in the seventh. The Roadrunners took advantage of a two-run error. That set up a run by Leyton Barry from third on a ground ball and a run by Shane Sirdashney on a Josh Killeen hit.

The Roadrunners got a run in the sixth when Garrett Poston doubled in Chase Keng.

UTSA got on the board first with two runs in the top of the third. King scored from third on a fielder’s choice and Killeen singled in Barry.

RYAN FLORES VS. SOUTHERN MISS

UTSA has played Southern Miss four times in 2022 – all on the Golden Eagles’ home field in Hattiesburg. Flores had hits in all four games including home runs in three of four:

1st game – 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB
2nd game – 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
3rd game – 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, HR
4th game – 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, HR
Totals – 10-15, 8 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB, 3 HR

NOTABLE:

UTSA awaits the winner of Friday’s 5 p.m. elimination game. As of now, that could set up yet another meeting with Southern Miss, which faces Florida Atlantic.

UTSA had 12 hits including two each from Tapia, Barry, Flores, Killeen and King. The Roadrunners recorded three doubles.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

Game 1: Old Dominion 18, Middle Tennessee 7 (7 innings)

Game 2: Louisiana Tech 4, Charlotte 0

Game 3: Southern Miss 4, UAB 3

Game 4: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic, postponed until Thursday, 9 a.m.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

Game 4: UTSA 6, Florida Atlantic 4

Game 5: Charlotte 22, Middle Tennessee 0

Game 6: Louisiana Tech 7, Old Dominion 2

Game 7: Florida Atlantic 11, UAB 1 (7 innings)

Game 8: Southern Miss vs. UTSA, postponed until Friday, 10 a.m.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6

Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4

Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 11: Lousiana Tech vs. Old Dominion, 9 a.m.

Game 12: UTSA vs. Southern Miss, 12:30 p.m.

Game 13: TBD, if necessary, 4 p.m.

Game 14: TBD, if necessary, 7:30

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 15: Championship, 1 p.m.

Roadrunners win again, pull to within two games of first place

The UTSA Roadrunners continued their hot roll on offense Saturday afternoon, pounding out 15 hits and two home runs in a 12-4 Conference USA road victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

With the win, the surging Roadrunners pulled to within two games of the first-place Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the C-USA standings.

Earlier in the afternoon, the UAB Blazers beat the Golden Eagles, 3-2. Coming into the weekend, Southern Miss had won 15 straight. Now, the Golden Eagles have dropped two straight to the Blazers in Birmingham, a development that has allowed the Roadrunners to sneak into the title chase.

Meanwhile, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., UTSA won its second game in two days against Middle Tennessee and its sixth straight overall. Over its last 20 games, UTSA has won 17 of them. Also in the last 20, the statistics indicate that the Roadrunners are winning with hitting, averaging .324 in that stretch.

UTSA finished 15-for-43 at the plate against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Josh Killeen stood out by smashing a third-inning grand slam to highlight a 4-for-5 performance. Killeen finished the day with 4 RBIs. Not to be outdone, Ian Bailey added a three-run homer in the ninth, as UTSA scored four runs in the final frame to put the game away.

Luke Malone (7-1) pitched 6 and 2/3 innings for the victory. He gave up three runs and nine hits along the way, but he also got some big outs. Malone fanned five. Peyton Wigginton (5-4) took the loss for the Blue Raiders. He gave up eight runs, seven of them earned, in 4 and 2/3 innings.

Jackson Galloway went 5-for-5 for Middle Tennessee, which had won five consecutive C-USA series coming into the weekend. Entering the series, Middle Tennessee had the second best RPI in the conference at 48th, while UTSA, in 51st, was third.

UTSA has won the first two games in dominant fashion, 13-2 and 12-4. The Roadrunners have hit six home runs combined in two days at Reese Smith Jr. Field. The finale of the three-game series is set for Sunday morning, with the first pitch at 11 a.m.

Records

UTSA 30-13, 14-6
Middle Tennessee 21-19, 11-9

Notable

The Roadrunners are 236 for 727 at the plate as a team (.324) over their last 20 games. They’ve also scored 195 runs (9.75 per game) during that stretch. In terms of power, they have hit 20 home runs over their last 20. But, in essence, most of their long-ball damage has been done recently, with 11 round-trippers in their last six outings.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 16-4
UTSA 14-6
Louisiana Tech 13-7
Florida Atlantic 12-8
Middle Tennessee 11-9
Old Dominion 11-9

Coming up

Sunday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee, 11:30 a.m.

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.