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 and Southern Miss meet again in CUSA tournament

UTSA's Daniel Garza, shown pitching earlier this season at Roadrunner Field, went five innings and got the win against Southern Miss on May 13. - file photo

UTSA’s Daniel Garza, shown pitching earlier this season at Roadrunner Field, went five innings and got the win against Southern Miss on May 13. – file photo

When UTSA and Southern Miss square off Friday in the Conference USA baseball tournament, it will be their fourth meeting of the season.

First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN+. Friday’s winner advances to the tournament quarterfinals.

The Golden Eagles took two out of three games in the regular season, May 13-15, in Hattiesburg, Miss.

UTSA scored six times in the sixth inning to beat Southern Miss 8-7 in the series opener on May 13. Daniel Garza started on the mound for the Roadrunners and went five innings to get the win. Luke Malone pitched the final inning to get the save.

The Roadrunners scored only eight runs in the next two games combined. The Golden Eagles won the second game of the series 8-3 and wrapped up the weekend with a 9-5 victory.

Southern Miss’ success in the regular-season series helped carry the Golden Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Roadrunners are seeded No. 5.

UTSA has not announced a probable starting pitcher for Friday. Malone threw nine innings on Thursday, so don’t expect to see him Friday.

Roadrunners pitchers who have seen a lot of action this season include:

– Garza, who has made five starts. The sophomore right-hander from Houston has a 3-1 record and 4.41 ERA in 12 games.

– Jacob Jimenez, who has made eight starts. The senior right-hander from Houston has a 2-1 record and 5.01 ERA in 14 games.

– Ryan Ward, who has made six starts. The sophomore right-hander from Schertz has a 1-0 record and 5.09 ERA in 13 games.

– Ulises Quiroga, who has made five starts. The sophomore right-hander from Baytown has a 2-4 record and 7.13 record in 14 games.

– Ryan Beaird, who has made five starts. The freshman right-hander from San Antonio has a 2-3 record and 7.32 ERA in 21 games.

Top prospects to see innings out of the bullpen include Simon Miller (3-3, 3.78 ERA) and John Chomko (2-0, 3.92). Braylon Owens, who faced two batters on Thursday, could also be available to pitch again in the tournament.

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 SCHEDULE

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

Game 9: Charlotte vs. Old Dominion, 1:30 p.m.

Game 10: UTSA-Southern Miss loser vs. Florida Atlantic, 5 p.m.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 11: Lousiana Tech vs. TBD, 9 a.m.

Game 12: UTSA-Southern Miss winner vs. Game 10 winner, 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.

UTSA rides Malone, rallies to win opener in CUSA tournament

Luke Malone pitched nine innings in relief as UTSA beat FAU 6-4. He raised his season record to 7-3. - file photo

Luke Malone pitched nine innings in relief as UTSA beat FAU 6-4. He raised his season record to 7-3. – file photo

(Updated with results of Games 5, 6 and 7 and remaining schedule)

UTSA rallied twice to beat Florida Atlantic 6-4 on Thursday in the Conference USA baseball tournament.

The victory keeps UTSA in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament. It also potentially strengthens UTSA’s argument for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.

UTSA (36-19) plays its next game Friday at 10 a.m. against top-seeded Southern Miss.

First pitch of the Roadrunners’ first-round game was delayed by 13 1/2 hours after Wednesday rain delays in Hattiesburg, Miss. pushed UTSA’s opener from Wednesday night to Thursday morning.

UTSA ace Luke Malone turned in a monster performance, pitching nine innings in relief. He entered the game with FAU runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the first. The two inherited runners scored as the Owls took their early lead.

“Luke was fabulous,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said in a postgame interview on ESPN+. “We need to do a little better with hitting with a man on third and one out. But we’re always looking for areas to improve. But the kids were gritty. They’ve been gritty all year.”

Malone limited FAU to two runs the rest of the way. He gave up six hits with four strikeouts and one walk and threw 107 pitches.

Florida Atlantic got two men on base in the bottom of the eighth, bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate. UTSA had two pitchers warming up in the bullen and Hallmark went to the mound to visit Malone. Hallmark stuck with Malone and the veteran right-hander from Round Rock finished the game with three straight scoreless innings.

“I just wanted to see how he felt,” Hallmark said. “He pitched a long time. So that was the first thing was just how he felt.

“He’s not going to tell me he doesn’t feel good. But I know him pretty well. I can look him in the eyes and see if he’s BSing or if he really feels good. And I believed him. He felt good. He looked good. His eyes didn’t look fatigued or anything. His heart rate was slow. We kept him in and fortunately it worked out.”

UTSA went in front for good with two runs in the top of the eighth. Matt King’s sacrifice fly scored Chase Keng to break a 4-4 tie. Jonathan Tapia added a two-out single that scored Ian Bailey from second to stretch the lead to 6-4.

UTSA scored twice in the top of the sixth to take its first lead of the game and go up 4-3. Killeen scored the go-ahead run on an error. Leyton Barry recorded his third hit of game to lead off the inning. He scored on an Bailey hit to tie it 3-3.

Florida Atlantic’s Nolan Schanuel hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to tie it 4-4.

UTSA loaded the bases in the top of the second. The Roadrunners scored with two outs on a ground ball that was mishandled to cut FAU’s lead to 2-1.

UTSA’s Keng hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth to even the game 2-2.

UTSA pitcher Braylon Owens made only his second start of the season and struggled to find the strike zone. He walked the two batters he faced and was replace by Malone.

Notable:

– Barry had hits in his first three times up. He was 4-for-4 on Saturday, so he had hits in seven straight at-bats over two games. He scored two of UTSA’s first four runs today.

– Keng also had three hits, including his ninth home run of the season.

– Bailey had three hits.

– UTSA finished with 13 hits. Florida Atlantic had six.

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 SCHEDULE

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

Game 9: Charlotte vs. Old Dominion, 1:30 p.m.

Game 10: UTSA-Southern Miss loser vs. Florida Atlantic, 5 p.m.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 11: Lousiana Tech vs. TBD, 9 a.m.

Game 12: UTSA-Southern Miss winner vs. Game 10 winner, 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.

UTSA stops a two-game skid with a 12-4 victory over FIU

Luke Malone pitched into the sixth inning Friday night as the UTSA Roadrunners ended a two-game losing streak, downing the FIU Panthers 12-4 in a Conference USA home game.

Malone gave up three triples and a double, but he stayed with it and earned the victory, improving his record to a team-best 6-1.

After losses to Rice and Texas State on the road, UTSA needed to gain some momentum going the other direction.

Malone, pitching 5 and 1/3 innnings, answered the call. He gave up six hits and three runs, with only one of them earned. The senior struck out five and walked none.

Ian Bailey and Garrett Poston homered for the Roadrunners.

Records

UTSA 25-13, 10-6
FIU 11-24, 4-12

Coming up

Saturday — FIU at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday — FIU at UTSA, 11 a.m.
Tuesday — Texas State at UTSA, 6 p.m.