Roadrunners power past Owls 11-6 to complete a series sweep

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If you’re looking for the most important storyline for UTSA in its sweep of the Rice Owls this weekend at Roadrunner Field, it would have to center on championship-caliber resilience and inner toughness. In winning three straight, the team had to come from behind each day.

On Friday, the Roadrunners erased deficits of four and three runs.

Saturday, on a day prolonged by a two-hour weather delay, they were down five runs twice early and came back to win again. Finally, in the finale on Sunday, they took a big early lead themselves, lost it momentarily, and then rumbled to score six runs in the sixth en route to an 11-6 victory.

Senior Leyton Barry capped the big inning with his eighth homer of the season and the first grand slam of his career.

As a result, the Roadrunners registered their fifth series sweep of the season, claimed their 36th victory — three shy of the school record — and seized significant momentum leading into next weekend’s Conference USA showdown against the Dallas Baptist Patriots.

“It feels great,” Barry said. “Any time you can get a sweep, it feels fantastic. Especially this weekend, because we came back in all three games. Especially the first two, when we were down by multiple runs. So to come back and win all those games, it feels even better than the other sweeps, just because we had to fight for these wins.”

As the weekend progressed, it was evident that power hitting would be a major factor. The Owls hit seven home runs, but the Roadrunners matched them with seven of their own. In the finale, Ben Royo and Guy Garibay Jr. powered balls out of the yard for Rice. UTSA answered with long balls by Antonio Valdez, Caleb Hill and Barry.

With UTSA trailing 6-5 going into its half of the sixth, Cristian Cienfuegos entered to pitch for Rice and Hill, one of the hottest hitters on the team, greeted him immediately with a solo homer. Matt King followed with a single and moved up 90 feet on a ground ball.

With Sammy Diaz at the plate, a key sequence unfolded. Diaz singled into right field, and when the throw came into the infield, it got away for an error. King scored easily to make it 7-6, while Diaz reached second base. The miscue seemed to rattle Cienfuegos, who promptly hit the next two batters with pitches to put three men on the bags.

At that point, Rice coaches lifted Cienfuegos, replacing him with Matt Linskey. But on the tall righthander’s first offering, Barry met it solidly and pulled it over the right field wall. In other words, four runs on one swing. As soon as he rounded the bases and met his teammates, he jumped up for the leaping arm-bump and took a seat. He was then greeted with a question.

“In the dugout, someone mentioned, ‘Hey, have you hit a grand slam before?’ Barry recalled. “I said, ‘You know, now that I think about it, I haven’t.’ So, that was pretty great.”

UTSA pitching had its ups and downs all weekend. Sunday was no different. Fischer Kingsbery started and worked two innings. He struck out three but yielded a long homer to Royo, his second of the series, which cleared the wall in center field. Uli Quiroga had a rough go of it, giving up five runs in the fourth inning, including a three-run homer by Guy Garibay, Jr.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, Ruger Riojas (5-0) was on his game. Entering in the fifth inning, he pitched all the way into the eighth. In 3 and 1/3 scoreless innings, he gave up five hits. Two came in the eighth, which prompted UTSA to replace him with Ryan Beaird, who got out of the inning on a deep fly ball by Aaron Smigelski. Beaird finished with 1 and 1/3 innings of shutout ball, yielding only one hit.

For Beaird, it was his second strong outing of the weekend. He pitched one shutout inning Friday night and earned the victory. Though his season has been marked with some inconsistency, the Roadrunners are happy to see him throwing well going into the last two weeks of the regular season.

“It feels good,” said Beaird, a sophomore from Reagan High School. “It’s nice to know that I have eight other guys playing for me, willing to put themselves on the line to play for me. Every single one of those guys out there, they’re playing hard. It’s nice to have that when you’re on the mound.”


Rice 17-30, 7-17
UTSA 36-12, 19-4

Series glance

Friday: UTSA beats Rice, 9-7…UTSA trailed 4-0 and 7-4 and then rallied.
Saturday: UTSA beats Rice, 10-8…Trailed 5-0 and 6-1 and, after a weather delay, rallied again.
Sunday: UTSA beats Rice, 11-6…Trailed 6-5 and scored six runs in the sixth.

Coming up

Dallas Baptist at UTSA, a three-game series starting Friday at 6 p.m.

C-USA standings

Dallas Baptist 20-4, 36-12
UTSA 19-4, 36-12
Charlotte 13-10, 24-23
Louisiana Tech 13-11, 24-25
FAU 12-12, 28-20
Western Kentucky 12-12, 27-21
Middle Tennessee 12-12, 23-23
Rice 7-17, 17-30
UAB 6-18, 15-31
FIU 5-19, 18-29


UTSA center fielder Shane Sirdashney, a .361 hitter and a standout defensively, is battling a leg injury that has kept him out for most of the last three weeks. Coach Pat Hallmark is hopeful but is uncertain if he’ll have him against Dallas Baptist.

Sirdashney played a few innings in the loss to Sam Houston State last week but wasn’t on the team’s 27-man roster this weekend against Rice. For the season, Sirdashney has 53 hits and has scored 41 runs, so his loss is significant.

“He’s continuing to get treated and has seen a couple of different doctors,” Hallmark said. “It’s a hamstring injury, and hamstrings are tricky. We’re doing well without him. But he’s such a good player, it’d be silly to say we’re fine without him.”

Hallmark said his team has been dealing with a series of injuries to key players over the last three weeks.

“The injuries are worrisome,” he said. “We’ve had ’em for three weeks. Shane and Isaiah (Walker) got the leg issues and (Tye) Odom’s got the back. (Antonio) Valdez is playing hurt. So, in the back of my mind, it’s worrisome, because those are really good players. But we’ve got guys stepping up … I’m proud of the whole team. Guys are doing everything they can to win.”

Magic number in sight: UTSA needs seven more wins to reach 40 for the season

Leyton Barry and the UTSA Roadrunners have won 33 games through the end of April. A school-record, 40-win season seems entirely possible. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners have talked openly recently about a few of their goals for the baseball season.

Namely, that they want to win a Conference USA title. That they also want to secure an NCAA tournament bid, and that they would like to make some noise when they get there, as well.

But after winning two out of three games against the UAB Blazers last weekend, another compelling possibility is also looming.

Could the Roadrunners actually reach the 40-victory plateau in a season for the first time?

Well, it certainly seems possible now. They notched victory No. 33 on Sunday with a 9-4 win over the UAB Blazers in Birmingham.

On a windy day, Leyton Barry’s two-run double highlighted a four-run fifth inning as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners beat the Blazers for the second day in a row.

With the win and a 2-1 series victory in the books, the Roadrunners (33-11) can now turn their attention to Tuesday night when they host the Sam Houston State Bearkats in non conference, and then Friday night when they host the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game C-USA series.

Altogether, the Roadrunners have 11 games remaining in the regular season, and that’s all before they will take the field for the conference tournament, which is set for May 24-28 at Houston.

All of which means, the school record of 39 wins in a season established in both 1994 and 2008 is now in serious jeopardy, and a 40-win season is well within reach.

In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the Roadrunners already have established a certain level of excellence that will serve them well in coming years.

Last year, they challenged for the C-USA regular-season crown, won 38 games and reached the title game in the conference tournament. This year, they’ve backed it up with another strong season.

By winning two of three at Birmingham, the Roadrunners have now claimed winning records in 10 of 11 weekend series this season, with the only outlier being a rain-shortened weekend that ended in a 1-1 split of two games at Charlotte.

Their weekend in Birmingham started with a bummer.

On Friday, Blazers pitcher Brooks Walton went the nine-inning distance and scattered four hits in a 4-2 victory over the Roadrunners. On Saturday, a team scuffling near the bottom of the C-USA standings had the upper hand again for most of the day before the Roadrunners exploded for four runs in the ninth inning to win, 6-5.

On Sunday, UTSA had a much easier time of it, with UTSA generating four runs in the fifth to open up a 7-3 lead. Even though the Blazers got one run back and threatened seriously to close the gap even more, relief pitching ace Simon Miller silenced a rally in the seventh and went on to record a three-inning scoreless save.

Just about the time that Miller started to shut down the Blazers, the Rice Owls took a 3-1 lead on the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots. It appeared that the Roadrunners, if they could hold on, could make up some ground in the regular-season title race on one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Well, the Roadrunners closed the deal. But the Patriots didn’t cooperate. They rumbled to life in the ninth inning and roared past the Owls, 4-3. In completing the three-game series sweep, the Patriots improved to 34-10 and 18-3 in the conference, a game and a half ahead of 16-4 UTSA.

How will the race go down the stretch?

Frankly, the Patriots might be tough to catch, the way they’re playing. They’ve won 14 conference games in a row, and in the coming weeks, they’ll play three-game series against Middle Tennessee State, UTSA and Western Kentucky.

The Patriots will get Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky at home, sandwiched around a trip to San Antonio May 12-14 for a date with UTSA at Roadrunner Field.

By comparison, UTSA will host Rice in a three-game stretch later this week and then Dallas Baptist the following week, before it finishes on the road at Louisiana Tech, always a difficult place to play.

Single games in non conference remain for UTSA starting Tuesday, when they host Sam Houston State, and on May 16, in a road test at Abilene Christian. After Abilene, the Roadrunners go to LA Tech, for a C-USA series scheduled May 18-20.

So, 40 wins is definitely possible. But, is it possible even before UTSA gets to Houston for the conference tournament?

It is, if you consider that the Roadrunners seem entirely capable of going 7-4 down the stretch. But what about the team’s chances on Memorial Day weekend at Houston? What about reaching the NCAA tournament?

Right now, it’s just too hard to project anything definitive about either one of those situations. In another three weeks, at the end of the regular season, the dust will clear and UTSA’s big picture forecast should be much easier for everyone to see.

For the time being, it’s probably best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.


UTSA 33-11, 16-4
UAB 14-29, 5-16

Coming up

Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, three game series starting Friday.

UAB series glance

Friday: UAB beat UTSA, 4-2.
Saturday: UTSA beat UAB, 6-5.
Sunday: UTSA beat UAB, 9-4.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 18-3, 34-10
UTSA 16-4, 33-11
Charlotte 12-8, 22-21
Louisiana Tech 11-10, 22-23
Middle Tennessee 11-10, 22-21


Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark was ejected after the top of the third inning Sunday, apparently for objecting to calls on balls and strikes. It was his second ejection of the season.

UTSA starting pitcher Ulises Quiroga (7-2) worked 5 and 2/3 innings and earned the victory. He gave up four runs on six hits, while walking five and striking out five. Simon Miller picked up his team-leading 10th save. Miller didn’t allow a run or a hit in three innings and lowered his earned run average to 1.10.

Lefty Carson Myers (1-5) took the loss after yielding seven runs in 4 and 1/3 innings to start the game for the Blazers.

UTSA outfielder Shane Sirdashney returned to play in his first game since April 16. Sirdashney entered as a defensive substitute in center field in the bottom of the seventh and then had two at bats. He bunted for a sacrifice on his first plate appearance and then hit an RBI single in the ninth.

Isaiah Walker, another UTSA outfielder who has missed time with an injury lately, started the game, played both right and center field and went 0 for 2 at the plate. He was also hit by a pitch.

UTSA rallies with four runs in the ninth to stun UAB, 6-5

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez drilled a three-run homer to highlight a four-run uprising in the top of the ninth inning, and then relief ace Simon Miller closed the door in the bottom half Saturday afternoon as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners downed the UAB Blazers, 6-5, in Birmingham.

With the victory, UTSA evened the three-game Conference USA series at one victory apiece. The finale is set for Sunday at noon.

UTSA’s Leyton Barry led off the game with a solo homer. It was his second homer in two days in Birmingham. Later in the inning, Josh Killeen ripped a run-scoring single, lifting the Roadrunners into an early 2-0 lead.

In response, UAB rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second, before adding single runs in the fourth and the fifth innings for a 5-2 lead. Darryl Buggs led the Blazers with four hits, including a home run and a double.

Trailing by three runs going into the top of the ninth, UTSA called on pinch-hitter Clark Henry, who drew a leadoff walk from Tyler O’Clair.

At that point, UAB elected to take out O’Clair, who had been effective in four plus innings of work.

Blazers reliever John Luke Martin promptly walked Barry, putting runners at first and second, and UTSA’s Taylor Smith followed with a single up the middle, which loaded the bases.

Caleb Hill brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly to deep left, trimming the UAB lead to 5-3. Then, with two runners still aboard, Valdez hit a 2-1 pitch off of Martin for a three-run blast, giving UTSA a one-run cushion. It was the ninth homer of the season for Valdez.

Given a one-run lead, UTSA coaches brought in Miller, one of the top relief pitchers in the nation.

Miller retired the first batter of the inning, Tyler Waugh, on a ground ball. From there, however, things got interesting as Christian Hall doubled into the gap in right center.

Brayton Brown, who had two doubles on the day, grounded to shortstop for the second out and moved Hall over to third base.

Henry Hunter, the potential winning run, stepped to the plate and flied out to center to end it. For Miller, it was his ninth save of the season.

For UTSA, it was the team’s second victory of the week after trailing going into the ninth inning. On Tuesday, playing at home, the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Houston Christian, 9-8, in non-conference play.


UTSA 32-11, 15-4
UAB 14-28, 5-15

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Sunday at noon
Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 17-3, 33-10
UTSA 15-4, 32-11
Charlotte 12-7, 22-20
Middle Tennessee 11-9, 22-20
Louisiana Tech 10-10, 21-23


The 19th-ranked Dallas Baptist Patriots have won the first two games of a series against the Rice Owls, pushing their lead over the Roadrunners to one and a half games. The Patriots (17-3 in conference, 33-10 overall) won 8-6 in 12 innings and 10-3 at Rice’s Reckling Park in Houston.

Playing in Birmingham, the Roadrunners (15-4, 32-11) were defeated by the UAB Blazers 4-2 on Friday night and then bounced back to beat the Blazers 6-5 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the third-place Charlotte 49ers (12-7, 22-20) have lost twice at Western Kentucky and fourth-place Middle Tennessee (11-9, 22-20) has split a pair at home with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

UAB Blazers shut down UTSA 4-2 in opener of three-game series

Backing the strong pitching of Brooks Walton, Logan Braunschweig delivered a two-run single in a four-run fourth inning Friday night as the UAB Blazers downed the 25th-ranked UTSA Roadrunners 4-2 in Conference USA baseball.

Walton went the nine-inning distance, yielding only four hits. Two were solo home runs by Leyton Barry and Caleb Hill. The 6-foot-5 righthander struck out three and walked three.


UTSA 31-11, 14-4
UAB 14-27, 5-14

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 15-3
UTSA 14-4
Charlotte 12-6

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Saturday and Sunday, at noon each day.


The Rice Owls were leading the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Houston when officials announced a weather delay and later said the game would be suspended for the night and completed on Saturday. The re-start is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Reckling Park, with the second game of the series to follow. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky defeated third-place Charlotte, 8-4.

UTSA rallies with three runs in the ninth to beat Houston Christian, 9-8

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The 23rd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday night to defeat the Houston Christian Huskies, 9-8.

The game was tied with two out when UTSA’s Matt King stepped to the plate with bases loaded against Houston Christian reliever Javan Smitherman. King was hit by a pitch to force in the winning run.

At one point in the game, the Roadrunners trailed 6-0 on their home field and appeared to be on the way to back-to-back losses.

Undeterred, they scored three runs in the third inning, one in the fourth, twice in the seventh and three times in the ninth to claim their 31st victory of the season.

With UTSA down 8-6 going into its last at bat, Leyton Barry opened the ninth inning with a triple off Smitherman. The HCU righthander promptly steadied himself and retired the next two batters, getting Taylor Smith to foul out and Antonio Valdez to ground back to the mound.

Needing one more out to nail down what would have been one of Houston Christian’s best victories of the season, Smitherman couldn’t get it. Josh Killeen doubled to drive in Barry, trimming the lead to 8-7.

Smitherman promptly walked Caleb Hill on four pitches and then was tagged for an RBI single by Sammy Diaz. While Killeen scored, Hill advanced to third. Freshman Garrett Brooks then drew a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for the game winner.

For UTSA, Killeen had two hits and three RBIs. Hill had three hits and two RBIs. Ryan Beaird pitched the final 1 and 1/3 innings to earn the victory.

Reed Chumley had four hits for HCU and belted a two-run homer. Also for the visitors, outfielder Damian Ruiz had three hits and threw out a runner at the plate to choke off a seventh-inning rally.

With one out in the seventh, Caleb Hill tripled to left center field to drive in two runs, trimming the HCU lead to 8-6. On the next play, Diaz flied out to Ruiz, who threw from right field to the plate cut down Hill for the last out.

UTSA entered the game ranked in the national top 25 for the second week in a row and for the third time this month. This week, the Roadrunners were 23rd by Baseball America and 25th by D1 Baseball.


Houston Christian 8-28
UTSA 31-10

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, three-game series starting Friday.

After a significant win at Texas A&M, UTSA stays focused and routs Middle Tennessee State

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

In the aftermath of an important non-conference road victory at Texas A&M on Tuesday night, the UTSA Roadrunners celebrated, but they didn’t lose their minds — or their focus.

Sure, the players made quite a bit of noise in the back of the bus on the way home, as they usually do when they win, but Coach Pat Hallmark said it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

“That was a great feeling, obviously,” UTSA second baseman Leyton Barry said of the 5-1 victory over the Aggies. “Anytime you’re playing a big school, in state, especially at their place — big stadium — to come out with a win was fantastic.”

Barry agreed, though, that the post-game mood wasn’t anything too crazy.

“It’s sort of like the mood will be in the locker room after we pull this tarp tonight,” he said Friday night after the Roadrunners drilled the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 13-5, to open a three-game weekend series. “We feel good. But there’s a lot of season left. There’s a lot of games to play. So we stay focused.”

Such was the atmosphere after the Roadrunners exploded for 17 hits and maintained a hold on first place in the Conference USA standings.

Matt King and Barry both launched two-run home runs to back the pitching of starter Luke Malone as UTSA (26-8, 10-2) remained a half game ahead of Dallas Baptist (25-9, 10-3) in the C-USA.

Malone (5-2) pitched through five innings and exited with a 5-2 lead to earn the victory, outdueling Middle Tennessee starter Patrick Johnson (2-2).

Johnson, a freshman righthander, was stung early in the game by King and Barry.

In the second inning, King, a right-side hitter, redirected a fast ball and sent it on a high arc onto the screen above the left field wall. In the third, Barry did the honors. A left-side hitter, he saw a ball on the outside of the plate and smashed it opposite field into the same neighborhood that King hit his.

All told, Johnson yielded seven runs on 10 hits.

The Roadrunners, who have produced a combined 30 hits in their last two games, scored twice in the second, twice in the third, once in the fourth and four times apiece in the fifth and sixth for a commanding 13-4 lead.

“We swung the bat good,” Hallmark said. “The wind was blowing out early, and we hit a couple up into it. We hit good. I was very happy with everything. We (also) pitched well.”

Neither Barry nor King has felt really good lately about their hitting strokes, but whatever was ailing them, they seem to have ironed it out.

Barry went three for four with three runs scored and two RBIs. He homered, tripled and singled. King, for his part, was two for four with a season-high five RBIs.

“It feels great,” King said. “I really just went out there and trusted the training. Past couple of weeks have been a roller-coaster for me. Me and Barry, honestly. So it was good for both of us to get out there and trust the training and have good swings and have a good day.”


UTSA 26-8, 10-2
Middle Tennessee State 17-15, 8-5

Coming up

Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, Sunday, noon.

JB’s replay

Malone, who pitched a scoreless inning in relief at Texas A&M, worked five innings against Middle Tennessee State and gave up two runs on five hits.

Walker finished the night three for five with a double and two singles. He also had an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored.

The Blue Raiders also made contact well as a team, collecting 12 hits. But they were all singles, compared to the Roadrunners, who had nine extra-base hits among their 17.

Garza, one of the standouts in last year’s C-USA tournament, worked three innings. He gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits. Lefthander Zach Royse pitched the ninth and retired three in a row.

Triple the fun: Barry’s walk off wins it for UTSA in season opener

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The feeling never gets old for UTSA’s Leyton Barry.

A year ago, he smashed a single to left field that scored the winning run on the last play of a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Stanford Cardinal.

Jubilant teammates chased him into the outfield in celebration of a win over the No. 2 team in the nation.

Luke Malone. UTSA baseball won its season opener when Leyton Barry's two-run double in the bottom of the ninth gave the Roadrunners a 3-2 victory over Tarleton State at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Luke Malone started and pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits. He walked one and struck out five.- Photo by Joe Alexander

Fast forward 12 months to a cold Friday night at Roadrunner Field, and the dramatics unfolded in much the same fashion.

After fouling off five straight pitches, Barry crushed a fastball into the gap in right field for a triple, scoring two runs and lifting UTSA to a 3-2, season-opening victory over the Tarleton State Texans.

Once again, the Roadrunners streamed out of the dugout and mobbed their man in shallow left field as the fight song played on the public address.

“It was a fastball, basically right down the middle,” Barry said. “Typically, when you foul off so many pitches in a row, at least what you hope as a hitter, if you keep doing your job and keep fighting up there, you’ll get rewarded for it eventually.”

UTSA had to scramble to secure the win from Tarleton, a baseball program in only its third year in NCAA Division I.

The Roadrunners scored in the third inning, bringing in a run from third base on a ground ball to the right side.

It would be the only run for either team entering the ninth, which made it seem like a great opportunity for UTSA to win in a 1-0 shutout. Tarleton, however, had other ideas.

Garrett Poston. UTSA baseball won its season opener when Leyton Barry's two-run double in the bottom of the ninth gave the Roadrunners a 3-2 victory over Tarleton State at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Garrett Poston scored in the third inning after reaching on a walk. It was the only run of the game until the ninth inning. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Texans produced three, one-out singles off Simon Miller in the top of the ninth to load the bases, bringing Trace Morrison to the plate.

After Morrison grounded a ball toward Barry, the UTSA second baseman, he flipped to shortstop Matt King covering the bag for the force out.

Subsequently, King’s relay skipped past first base for a throwing error, allowing the second run to score on the play and giving the Texans a 2-1 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Tarleton sent reliever Jake Burcham to the mound. Burcham, from San Antonio’s Reagan High School, faced his first opponent in UTSA’s Garrett Poston and struck him out looking.

At that point, Burcham started to lose his touch, issuing back-to-back, six-pitch walks to Shane Sirdashney and Taylor Smith. With Barry at the plate, the tension mounted.

“I was thinking, try and fight,” Barry said. “I know they brought in arguably their best pitcher for the last inning, so I knew it was going to be tough, especially when I got to two strikes.

“I just thought, I’m going to have to fight every pitch and remain calm.

Antonio Valdez. UTSA baseball won its season opener when Leyton Barry's two-run double in the bottom of the ninth gave the Roadrunners a 3-2 victory over Tarleton State at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Antonio Valdez started at third base for the Roadrunners and produced three infield assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“You know, a lot of guys will maybe tense up in that moment. So, I just tried to remain calm and see the ball well, and it worked out in the end.”

With the count at three balls and one strike, Barry started his foul-ball spree. On the first one, he lofted it high over the net and slightly to the left. The next four, he sprayed them off to the side.

Next came a fastball down the middle, which Barry ripped into the gap in right field.

Initially, it appeared as if right fielder Kooper Shook might run down the ball and make a spectacular catch. But as he sprinted into the gap, the drive started to sink like a backhand with top spin in a tennis match.

Shook didn’t have a chance to get a glove on it, and the game was over.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark lauded Barry’s clutch hitting, calling it “terrific.”

“He had three or four fouls balls prior to the base hit, but he’s done it before,” Hallmark said. “He did it in the Stanford game. He hit .340 (in batting average) the last two years. Hitting is difficult. You’re never going to produce every time. But I’m not surprised (at Barry). He’s been a producer now going on three years.

“It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Pitchers ruled in the opener between the Roadrunners of Conference USA and the Texans of the Western Athletic Conference.

Luke Malone, UTSA’s top starter from a year ago, worked six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits. He walked one and struck out five.

In earning the victory, Miller struck out seven in three innings. He allowed three hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.

For Tarleton, starter Will Stevens worked four frames, throwing pitches that topped out on one radar gun at 101 mph.

Beset with wildness, he walked seven, but he also displayed great stuff and fanned five.

Texans reliever Piercen McElyea also was tough, allowing only two hits while striking out six in four innings. Pitching the ninth and getting only one man out, Burcham took the loss.

Malone set the tone early for UTSA by mixing a fastball and a breaking pitch that he seemed comfortable in throwing on any count.

“Honestly, what a better way to open up the season,” Malone said. “Hell of a pitchers’ duel, awesome defense throughout the game and some timely hitting and great base running.

“What a great way to start the season off.”

Coming up

Tarleton State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Tarleton State at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

NCAA tournament snub still haunts UTSA’s Pat Hallmark

Pat Hallmark. UTSA beat Marshall 5-4 on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Buoyed by a deep and talented pitching staff, the UTSA Roadrunners will open their season at home a week from today against the Tarleton State Texans. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

A week from today, when the afternoon sun dips below the top of the old oak trees ringing the south and west ends of modest Roadrunner Field, daylight will turn to dusk.

UTSA baseball players will run out to take their positions under the lights.

Given that UTSA’s athletes will be taking the field to start a new season, a wide range of emotions will surge as they prepare to host the Tarleton State Texans in the opener of a three-game series.

One of the most powerful of those emotions for Roadrunners head coach Pat Hallmark will revolve around pride, and the legacy of former players who gave so much of themselves in years past.

Especially the players from last year who have moved on in their respective lives. Jonathan Tapia, Ian Bailey, Chase Keng and Ryan Flores come to mind, in particular.

All of them formed the heart of a team that forged one of the greatest seasons in school history, only to come up agonizingly short of an NCAA tournament bid.

The Roadrunners won 38 games, one off of the school record.

They posted an 11-4 record against ranked opponents, including wins on consecutive days last May on the home field of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the Conference USA tournament.

In the C-USA tourney final, the Roadrunners lost by one run to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who with the 9-8 victory claimed the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAAs.

On the trip home to San Antonio, the Roadrunners still felt good about their chances of playing in a regional.

They felt that their standing in the ratings percentage index — 37th, bolstered by wins over Stanford, Southern Miss and Texas State — would be sufficient to claim an at-large bid into the 64-team, NCAA field.

As everyone knows by now, the record wasn’t good enough, and the Roadrunners were left out.

Nine months later, it’s clear that the snub still bothers Hallmark. Not so much for his own personal pride, but rather what it meant for the departing seniors, especially Tapia, Bailey, Keng and Flores, who each drove in 50-plus runs in the 58-game season.

“When I think about those four, it still chokes me up a little bit,” Hallmark said Thursday afternoon.

All emotions aside, the Roadrunners will get a chance to run it back, starting a week from today.

Gone are the likes of Tapia, Keng, Bailey and Flores. Returning are four players — infielder Leyton Barry, plus pitchers Luke Malone, Daniel Shafer and Simon Miller — who have been named to the preseason, all C-USA team.

Though the offense may not have the same home-run punch as last year, the Roadrunners are expected to score runs, as Hallmark’s teams always do. Maybe not with with the long ball, so much as with a combination of situational finesse, speed, gap hitting and guile.

The defense, truthfully, probably has some questions. But it should be strong up the middle, where it really counts. And the pitching? Well, the pitching is the primary reason that UTSA has been picked for fifth in the C-USA.

“The (preseason) all-conference team consisted of six pitchers, throughout the league, and we had three of them,” Hallmark said. “So that was nice. I haven’t been a part of that since my days (as an assistant) at Rice (University) when we were going to Omaha (for the College World Series).

“So it was really nice to see, and they deserved it.”

An examination of the UTSA roster and statistics package indicates that 13 pitchers on this year’s team have made at least 10 appearances on the mound in their UTSA careers.

Malone, who posted a 9-3 record with a 2.67 earned run average last season, is expected to lead the weekend starting rotation. He has plenty of experience and can pitch as a starter or as an all-purpose, crunch-time reliever.

Notably, he worked nine innings of relief to beat FAU in last year’s tournament opener.

Shafer (3-1, 3.29) and Miller (4-3, 3.25) are strikeout artists who are expected to pitch in high leverage/late-game situations. Both can load up and throw hard, as evidenced by strikeout numbers that are greater than innings pitched a year ago.

Starting pitchers early in the season are expected to include Malone and Ulises Quiroga, plus newcomers Ruger Riojas and Robbie Maldonado.

Riojas, from Wimberley, is a freshman. Maldonado, who transferred in from Prairie View A&M, is the only left-hander in the group.

“Those four are the leading contenders, at least as of now, to be the starters,” said Hallmark, who believes the pitching could be the best he has seen at UTSA.

In the field, defense up the middle is set, with returning veterans at all the key positions. Fleet Shane Sirdashney, in center field. Matt King at shortstop. Barry, a .347 hitter last year, at second base. Josh Killeen and Sammy Diaz at catcher.

Baylor transfer Antonio Valdez is expected to get a look at third base, along with Isaiah Walker. At first, Texas A&M transfer Taylor Smith and returning veteran Garrett Poston, an all C-USA tournament selection last year, are in the mix.

Both Valdez and Smith once played for Hallmark at Incarnate Word.

As for the candidates to play corner outield positions, Hallmark mentioned transfers Caleb Hill (from Temple Junior College) and Dalton Porter (Texas Tech). Also, UTSA has Walker, a flashy defensive specialist, plus freshmen Tye Odom and Garrett Brooks.

Brooks, a redshirt freshman from Smithson Valley High School, has caught Hallmark’s eye as of late.

“He had a good fall, but some of the other transfers were still ahead of him at the end,” Hallmark said. “But, for the last two weeks, he’s been our best hitter.”

As for last year, the subject of the flirtation with the NCAA tournament is still a sore subject, especially for the coach.

In the immediate aftermath of the bracket announcement, the reasons that UTSA failed to earn the bid were blurred a bit by the raw emotions of the moment. Hallmark said he has since learned that it had to do with two factors.

First, several teams pulled off postseason upsets, rising up through mid-level conference tournaments to knock off more highly-ranked opposition, he said. Hallmark said it happened in “five or six” other times in other tournaments, which pushed UTSA down on the list among teams vying for at-large bids.

“The other (reason), it’s a little harder pill to swallow,” Hallmark said.

He said UTSA’s “pre-conference weekend schedule” wasn’t deemed as tough enough.

“That,” Hallmark said, “is a little harder to swallow, because those schedules are set so early.”

For instance, this season, UTSA will host the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Gaels for six games in February and the Power 5 Utah Utes for three games in early March.

“Both are traditionally pretty solid RPI teams,” Hallmark said. “But, if they have a down year, should you be penalized for that? Anyway, you could go back and forth, but those were the two reasons I heard.”

All UTSA players can do is go back to work, and, as the coach has said, just calm their minds and try to control what they can control.

But try as the might, he often thinks about Tapia and the others.

“Because that was their last year,” Hallmark said. “For those four guys, that was it. To this day, I still get a little emotional thinking about ’em.”

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.”


UTSA 38-19

Southern Miss 43-16


– 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


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.


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.


Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6

Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4

Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0


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)


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

UTSA and Southern Miss aren’t done yet

Sammy Diaz hit one of UTSA's four home runs. UTSA baseball beat Southern 15-4 on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz had three hits and two RBI in a regular-season victory over Southern Miss on May 13. – file photo

UTSA and Southern Miss have gone at it four times this year on the baseball field.

They’ll play at least one more before they’re done.

Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. matchup in the Conference USA tournament will be their fifth – and their second day in a row.

A UTSA victory would send the Roadrunners on to the tournament championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Since the Roadrunners won their first two tournament games, UTSA only needs one win Saturday to advance.

Because the Golden Eagles already have a loss in the double-elimination tournament, Southern Miss would need to beat UTSA two games in a row Saturday to advance.

If Southern Miss wins Saturday afternoon, the same teams play again – their sixth meeting of the season – later in the day Saturday.

UTSA beat Southern Miss 7-6 on Friday morning in the second round of the CUSA tournament. Southern Miss earned a rematch with a 5-0 victory over Florida Atlantic on Friday night.

The Roadrunners (37-19) and Golden Eagles (43-15) have split their games so far this season.

All their meetings have been in Hattiesburg, Miss. – home of the Golden Eagles as well as the site of the conference tournament.

UTSA opened the three-game regular-season series in Hattiesburg with an 8-7 victory on May 13. Ryan Flores and Sammy Diaz had three hits each and Diaz and Leyton Barry had two RBI each.

Southern Miss won 8-3 on May 14 and 9-5 on May 5.


Game 11: Louisiana Tech vs. Old Dominion, 9 a.m. (Old Dominion eliminated with a loss)

Game 12: UTSA vs. Southern Miss, 12:30 p.m. (Southern Miss eliminated with a loss)

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

Game 14: TBD, if necessary, 7:30


Game 15: Championship, 1 p.m.