Opening-day upset: Middle Tennessee downs UTSA in C-USA tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Junior Eriq Swan pitched the seventh-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders past the No. 2 UTSA Roadrunners, earning the win in a 5-1 victory on opening day Wednesday at the Conference USA Baseball Championship.

Swan, a 6-foot-6 righthander, took the loss in a 5-4 decision to UTSA last month at Roadrunner Field in San Antonio. He was more than up to the task in the rematch in Houston, however, allowing only one run on three hits through six innings.

With the loss, UTSA was forced into the losers bracket.

The Roadrunners will take on the Charlotte 49ers at 9 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game. Middle Tennessee State advanced in the winners bracket, earning a date against sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech in a game scheduled to start Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

The C-USA tournament is being contested at Rice University’s Reckling Park. The tournament will run through Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

In Wednesday’s opener, No. 6 seed Louisiana Tech downed third-seeded Charlotte 13-8. Middle Tennessee then followed with the second shocker of the day in downing UTSA.

Later, top-seeded Dallas Baptist rolled to a 13-2 victory over eight-seed Rice, and fourth-seeded Western Kentucky rallied from a six-run deficit to down No. 5 Florida Atlantic 10-9 in the night game.

In the second game of the day, the Blue Raiders were the visiting team, batting first. They got the jump on the Roadrunners almost immediately when JT Mabry hit the second pitch from starter Ryan Ward over the left field wall for a 1-0 lead.

Ward lasted a little more than two innings. In the top of the third, he walked the first three batters he faced, prompting coaches to bring in Luke Malone.

The Blue Raiders scratched out two runs, one on a ground ball and another on a sacrifice fly, to dump the Roadrunners into a 3-0 deficit.

Meanwhile, Swan kept the Roadrunners off balance with fastball clocked in the high 90s, mixed with a breaking pitch and a changeup.

Going into the sixth inning, he had a one-hit shutout when he struck out the first two batters he faced. At that point, UTSA’s Matt King slammed a home run over the left field wall. The blow brought the Roadrunners to within 3-1.

In the eighth, the Blue Raiders made it 5-1 when DJ Wright hit a two-run homer off Roadrunners’ senior Luke Malone.

The story of the game was Swan. A few years ago, the former high school standout in Murfreesboro, Tenn., decided to stay home and play for Middle Tennessee State.

He entered the tournament with a reputation for having control problems and with a 7.04 earned run average. In his best outing of the season, Swan not only held explosive UTSA to one run, but he also struck out nine. He improved to 2-6 with a 6.49 ERA.

For UTSA, Ward took the loss. After being charged with three runs allowed in two plus innings, he fell to 1-2. Malone finished the game, pitching seven innings in relief. He gave up two runs on six hits and struck out two.

King and Caleb Hill produced two hits apiece for the Roadrunners, who could manage only six hits for the game.

Leyton Barry hit the ball hard to the outfield twice but was held to zero for four on the day. Taylor Smith was also zero for four and struck out four times. Antonio Valdez, UTSA’s leading hitter, was one for three.


UTSA 38-18
Middle Tennessee 26-27

Wednesday’s results

Louisiana Tech 13, Charlotte 8
Middle Tennessee State 5, UTSA 1
Dallas Baptist 13, Rice 2
Western Kentucky 10, Florida Atlantic 9

Thursday’s schedule

Charlotte vs. UTSA, 9 a.m. (elimination game)
Louisiana Tech vs. Middle Tennessee, 12:30 p.m. (winners bracket)
Rice vs. Florida Atlantic, 4 p.m. (elimination game)
Dallas Baptist vs. Western Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. (winners bracket)


UTSA outfield standout Shane Sirdashney, trying to make a comeback from a hamstring injury, started in center for the Roadrunners. In only his fourth game since the Middle Tennessee series in April, Sirdashney had one hit in four at bats.

When the Roadrunners swept a three-game series at home from the Blue Raiders in April, they improved their record to 28-8. Since then, they have been plagued with inconsistency, going 10-10 in their last 20 games.

Despite the swoon, they can tie the school record for victories in a season if they can beat Charlotte on Thursday morning. If they win, they would play Friday at 2 p.m. against the loser between Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee.

Still dreaming big, UTSA opens C-USA tournament play today

UTSA starter Luke Malone pitched six innings. 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

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone says the team has had a good season but hasn’t reached its goals. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners’ baseball team has already left its mark on Conference USA. In its ninth and final run through a C-USA regular-season schedule, Coach Pat Hallmark’s squad bolted into the early lead in the 10-team race and stubbornly held the top spot through the first half.

In the end, the Roadrunners finished second to the streaking Dallas Baptist Patriots. But as eight teams assemble in Houston for this week’s C-USA Championship, in the so-called second season, UTSA stands as one of the favorites with a record of 38-17 and a conference mark of 21-8.

The 21 wins within the conference represent UTSA’s best showing in the C-USA since transitioning out of the Western Athletic Conference in 2013. The 38 wins represent the second most in a season for the team since the program started playing ball in 1992.

In fact, UTSA can tie the record of 39 victories with a win today against Middle Tennessee State in the C-USA tournament opener at Houston.

But in unpacking all their emotions between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason, the Roadrunners left little doubt that while setting a school record for victories sometime this week at Reckling Park would be nice, it would be less than fulfilling if they come up short of the conference’s postseason title.

“Overall, we’ve had a pretty good season,” UTSA pitcher Luke Malone said. “But we still haven’t accomplished our team goals. I don’t want to share with everyone what those are, but we still have goals, and we still can achieve all of them. So, even though we’ve had a good season, I don’t think we’re done yet.”

As the season opened in February, the Roadrunners had a certain look about them. Their competition wasn’t top of the line in every game, but they did win non-conference contests at Houston, Baylor and Texas State and opened with an 18-3 record, which included a 10-game winning streak.

Through the middle of April, they journeyed on the road to beat a likely NCAA team in Texas A&M, and they were 28-8 after sweeping a C-USA series from Middle Tennessee State at Roadrunner Field.

Since then, they haven’t been quite the same.

They’ve played mostly without two of their best outfielders, Shane Sirdashney and Isaiah Walker, and combined with some pitching issues, they’ve recorded a 10-9 record down the stretch. After the 0-3 showing against Dallas Baptist two weeks ago, they finished with a 2-1 series victory at Louisiana Tech last weekend.

Now, with a ratings percentage index listing at No. 64, they know that nothing less than a C-USA postseason title will get them to the NCAA tournament.

“I think where our RPI is … we need to win this tournament,” Hallmark said. “So, that’s the goal, and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”

To get that done, the Roadrunners likely need to start fast, stay out of the losers bracket in the double-elimination format through Saturday and build momentum toward a title match on Sunday.

As the tournament starts today, third-seeded Charlotte and No. 6 Louisiana Tech play the early game today, followed by two seed UTSA and No. 7 Middle Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. Those four teams will play one another today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a berth in the title game, which would be contested Sunday.

In the afternoon and evening games today, top-seeded Dallas Baptist plays eight seed Rice at 4 p.m., followed by No. 4 Western Kentucky against five seed FAU at 7:30 p.m.


1. Dallas Baptist 42-13, 25-5
2. UTSA 38-17, 21-8
3. Charlotte 29-25, 17-12
4. WKU 31-24, 16-14
5. FAU 33-23, 16-14
6. Louisiana Tech 27-29, 15-15
7. Middle Tennessee State 25-27, 14-16
8. Rice 21-35, 9-21


UTSA had a program-record eight players mentioned in postseason awards announced Tuesday.

Senior Taylor Smith, who hit six home runs last week, wasn’t one of them.

Smith started last week with a grand slam at Abilene Christian, followed with three homers at Louisiana Tech on Thursday and two more against LA Tech on Friday. On Saturday, he went 0 for 4 to snap an eight-game hitting streak.

For the season, Smith hit .317 with a team-high 17 home runs. Shortstop Matt King also failed to make the first or second teams in the all-conference listings despite a solid year in which he hit .310. King ranked second on the team with 57 RBIs.

Simon Miller, brilliant with a 8-1 record, 11 saves and a 1.83 earned run average out of the bullpen, was named the C-USA’s Pitcher of the Year. Miller and Antonio Valdez (.391 batting average) were named to the C-USA all-conference first team.

Second team honors went to catcher Josh Killeen, second baseman Leyton Barry, outfielder Caleb Hill, Malone, who was UTSA’s Friday night starter, and Sammy Diaz. Diaz, a first baseman/catcher, made the squad as a utility player. Pitcher Ruger Riojas was named to the all-freshman team.

Shane Sirdashney’s pinch-hit homer fuels optimism as UTSA prepares for the postseason

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

Shane Sirdashney could be limited in the Conference USA tournament because of a hamstring injury, but he said Monday that he is preparing play. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Shane Sirdashney’s last regular-season at bat for the UTSA Roadrunners a few days ago turned into a memorable one on several levels.

He’ll always remember the solid contact. The ball flying off the bat. The thoughts racing through his head. The sound of his teammates’ voices ringing in his ears.

“Originally I thought it was going to be too much of a line drive, off the wall, and I was going to have to run,” said Sirdashney, who has been battling a left leg injury for the last month. “Then I heard some screaming and cheering when I rounded first base. I was like, ‘OK, I can slow down now.’ ”

In a decidedly good omen for the Roadrunners, Sirdashney blasted a pinch-hit, solo home run in the ninth inning last Saturday at Louisiana Tech.

Even though UTSA lost the game 7-5, the bullet off the bat of their hard-luck outfielder sent a jolt of excitement through a dugout full of players looking for positive signs entering this week’s Conference USA Baseball Championship.

It also launched a few jokes for the trip home.

“The joke is, just hit homers, and you don’t have to stress the leg,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said Monday.

Added UTSA pitcher Luke Malone: “He busted out of the box like he thought it was a double. I mean, he put his head down and started sprinting, which you love to see because of his hamstring. Then the ball went over the fence and he was smiling. It was good to see him back and swinging it.”

Sirdashney, a .361 hitter, has been suffering from a partially torn tendon in his hamstring, in the tendon on the inside of his left knee.

He injured it on April 16 in a home game against Middle Tennessee State. After playing spot duty in two games a few weeks later, Sirdashney was shut down for the next three weeks.

That’s why the UTSA players felt a surge of excitement when they heard his named called to pinch hit late in the game against the Bulldogs.

“We were going crazy when he first stepped in the box,” Malone said. “I mean, there was some energy in our dugout, and then off the bat, we were just screaming. It was good to see.”

Second-seeded UTSA (38-17) opens the tournament Wednesday in Houston against No. 7 Middle Tennessee State (25-27). The tournament is double-elimination through Saturday, with a championship game scheduled Sunday.

The extent of Sirdashney’s role in the five-day event is unknown and could hinge partially on how he practiced Monday, how he feels after practice tonight and on Tuesday. Considering the nature of the injury, he’ll likely be day to day as the tournament progresses.

Sirdashney, from The Woodlands, said he’s preparing to play. It’s important to him because the winner of the event gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I mean, this is my last time ever playing baseball, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got,” Sirdashney said. “The plan is, I’m ready to go on Wednesday. Whatever coach Hallmark needs me to do, if that means starting in centerfield (or whatever).

“I’m going to practice today, see how it feels tomorrow, and I should be good to go on Wednesday.”

Nail biter: Roadrunners win 5-4 to sweep a C-USA home series against Middle Tennessee

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders would not quit on Sunday afternoon. Despite falling behind early and trailing by five runs, they kept playing hard and applying the pressure until the final out.

The Blue Raiders scored twice in the eighth and twice more in the ninth, before relief ace Simon Miller escaped the jam, allowing the UTSA Roadrunners to win 5-4 and sweep a three-game series in Conference USA.

“I mean, sweeping any team is obviously pretty hard, and they’ve been pretty hot,” UTSA left fielder Caleb Hill said. “We knew coming into this weekend that we had to play our best and I feel like lately, we’ve been doing that. We’re trying to just control what we can control. Coach talks to us about that all the time.”

After swinging hot bats in 13-5 and 12-4 victories on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the defense sparkled at sun-splashed Roadrunner Field behind starting pitcher Ulises Quiroga, who earned his second win of the week.

On one play, right fielder Dalton Porter fired a sizzling strike into the catcher to keep one run off the board early. Later, Hill made a leaping catch of a drive at the left field fence, crashing into the wall and then falling to the ground for the last out in the fifth.

Not to be outdone, freshman center fielder Tye Odom, inserted into the game earlier in place of injured Shane Sirdashney, made a terrific running catch of a drive into the right/center gap. Quite obviously, a “Win on Sunday” mantra that the Roadrunners adopted earlier this spring, was in play once again.

“Some teams would come in here on Sunday and drop that third game. But I feel like, coming in, we knew we had to stay focused in this game. You know, one pitch at a time,” said Hill, a junior in his first year at UTSA out of Grandview High School, Nicholls State University and Temple Junior College.

Quiroga (6-1) enjoyed a solid start featuring 72 pitches, 51 of them for strikes. On Tuesday, he started and worked the first two innings in a 5-1 victory at Texas A&M.

On Sunday, he pitched six scoreless, gave up only five hits and didn’t walk anyone, while striking out four. As good as Quiroga was, however, the defense may have been better. Defenders in the field made all the routine plays — and all the others, as well.

Hill’s catch of a drive off the bat of Middle Tennessee’s Eston Snider was certainly one for the memory banks.

“When he hit it, I kind of knew it was drifting away from me,” Hill said. “It actually had a little more carry than I thought. I thought the wind was going to kill it a little bit. But it just kept going. I knew the wall was going to stop me, so I just kept going (into the fence).”

In the top of the ninth, the game nearly got away from Miller and the Roadrunners.

JT Mabry opened with an infield single and took second base on a one-out fielder’s choice. On the play, pinch-hitter Jared Vetetoe chopped a ball to the right side. Fielding it on a high hop, first baseman Garrett Poston flipped to Miller covering the bag at first for the second out of the inning.

From there, the Blue Raiders dug in and refused to fold. Luke Vinson drew a walk and then Snider followed with a double off Miller that bounced into the left field corner, scoring two runs.

Suddenly, what had been a five-run game was a one-run game. Also surprising was that Miller, one of the top pitchers in the nation, had given up two earned runs in an inning for the first time all season. In keeping with his bulldog mentality, though, he steadied himself and got the last out.

UTSA shortstop Matt King fielded Brett Coker’s ground ball cleanly and fired to first, ending the game and keeping the Roadrunners a half game ahead of the Dallas Baptist Patriots in the C-USA title race.

Asked later what he was thinking, with two out and the potential tying run at second base in the last inning, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark grimaced a bit and replied, “To be real blunt, I was mad at myself.”

Hallmark was thinking about a decision that he made early in the game.

“I made a mistake in the second inning, and right when I made it, I thought to myself, ‘That’s the kind of mistake that on a day like this can come back to hurt you,’ ” he said.

At the time, UTSA held a 4-0 lead and had runners at first and second with no outs.

On a single to right field by Antonio Valdez, the UTSA coach waved Josh Killeen around third and sent him home, where a throw from Snider, the right fielder, was on the money. Catcher Briggs Rutter secured the ball in his mitt and slapped the tag on Killeen for the out.

The next two batters were retired in order, leaving UTSA scoreless in an inning when it could have done some serious damage.


Middle Tennessee State 17-17, 8-7
UTSA 28-8, 12-2

Coming up

Texas State at UTSA, 6 p.m.


UTSA has won 14 games in a row at home. UTSA’s last home loss came on March 3, when the Utah Utes won 5-3 at Roadrunner Field.

JB’s video replay

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.

UTSA women face two major challenges at home this weekend

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

The UTSA women’s basketball team cleared one hurdle last weekend with a Conference USA road victory at Louisiana Tech. Two more major challenges await the Roadrunners at home in the coming days.

Jordyn Jenkins. North Texas beat UTSA 54-51 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins leads the UTSA Roadrunners into a Conference USA home game tonight against the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers. – File photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA is scheduled to host the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers tonight and the 21st-ranked Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders on Saturday afternoon.

Mired in 10th place in the 11-team C-USA, the Roadrunners (5-15, 3-8) have struggled with consistency.

Nevertheless, a team that has played more than a few freshmen in a rebuilding year has shown signs of turning the corner.

The win at Ruston last weekend was UTSA’s first outside of San Antonio this season.

UTSA junior forward Jordyn Jenkins leads the C-USA in both scoring (20.0) and field goal percentage (48.3). She’s also second in rebounding (7.5) and sixth in blocked shots (1.3).

The Roadrunners seem to be at their best when the ball moves and Jenkins’ teammates are involved in the offense, both of which happened in Ruston against LA Tech.

With Jenkins, Elyssa Coleman and Sidney Love all scoring in double figures, the Roadrunners shot a season-high 50.9 percent from the field. Of their 29 field goals, 18 came on assists, with guard Kyra White passing for seven and Jenkins four.

If they hope to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they’ll likely need a similarly solid effort tonight.

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Western Kentucky

The Lady Tops (11-9, 8-3) will arrive in San Antonio in second place in the conference, having won two straight and seven of their last eight. Their streak started at home on Jan. 7 when they rallied for a 77-69 victory over UTSA. Against the Roadrunners, freshman guard Acacia Hayes scored 31 points. She hit 10 of 11 shots from the field.

Last week, they won two close games at home, downing the FIU Panthers 67-63 and the FAU Owls, 66-65. Hayes (10.5 points per game) is a guard that likes to slash and get fouled. Jaylin Foster (9.9, 5.9 rebounds), Hope Sivori (8.6) and Mya Meredith (8.2) are also scoring threats. Western Kentucky leads the conference in both 3-point attempts (567) and 3-point makes (161).

Middle Tennessee State

The Lady Raiders (18-2, 11-0) lead the C-USA standings and have won 16 in a row going into a Thursday night matchup in El Paso against the UTEP Miners. Virginia Commonwealth transfer Kseniya Malashka, a forward, leads the Raiders in both scoring (16.5) and field goal percentage (47.3). Marshall transfer Savannah Wheeler, a guard, averages 16.2 points. Center Anastasiia Boldyreva is a force in the paint with 1.5 blocks.

Middle Tennessee hasn’t lost since Nov. 25 in Las Vegas, to Texas Tech. In their string of 16 victories, 13 have been by double figures, including an 80-41 rout of the Roadrunners on Jan. 5. Boldyreva had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against UTSA. Boldyreva is from Moscow, Russia. Malashka is from Minsk, in Belarus.

Well-traveled Massal Diouf finds a new home at UTSA

Massal Diouf. UTSA lost its Conference USA men's basketball opener to North Texas 78-54 on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Massal Diouf is a UTSA biology major who expresses fascination about things such as the makeup of cells. He wants to attend medical school one day and says he’s aiming to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

As a former youth sports phenomenon from a small town in The Netherlands, affable UTSA freshman Massal Diouf left home four years ago to chase his basketball dreams.

From arenas in Europe, to the West Coast of the United States, and then on to Canada and South Texas, the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder has played the game he loves and has since taken on a new passion — the study of biology.

Now three months shy of his 20th birthday, Diouf’s days are spent either in the gym, trying to defend the pick and roll, or in the UTSA classroom, pondering the nature of cell structure.

The Roadrunners’ pre-med student in the pivot has been so busy in his first year of college, in fact, that he hasn’t really had time to consider whether he misses being home.

“Obviously I’ve been away for a long time, at this point,” Diouf said Wednesday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say that I miss home, where I’d want to be home.

“It’s more so I miss certain things about home. Certain days, I’ll wake up and crave a certain type of food. Or, want to talk to my mom. Want to talk to my dad. See my brothers. That sort of stuff.

“It’s not like I want to be home. It’s more so I’d like to have a little bit of home with me.”

By age 15, Diouf traveled from his hometown of Gouda, in South Holland province, to both Finland and Denmark as a member of The Netherlands’ under-16 national basketball team.

A year later, the former soccer, tennis and judo athlete left home and moved to California to finish high school.

After graduation from The Athenian School in Danville, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Diouf hit the road again.

In order to play a year of prep school and gain more experience on the basketball hardwood, he relocated to Canada, in Edmonton, in the western province of Alberta.

Now, Diouf has spent a little more than four months in San Antonio, charming those around him with a smile and old-school manners.

“He thanks the coaches after practice,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Every day.”

Diouf is also blessed with a wry sense of humor.

Ask him how he has adjusted to his new surroundings in Texas, a home half-way around the world from where they sell Gouda cheese in Europe, and he just smiles.

“I was getting prepared for Texas (while living in Canada),” Diouf explained. “In Alberta, where my prep school was, that (is a place) described as the Texas of Canada.

“So, I got the soft-core version in Alberta — and then I was ready for real Texas.”

Well, then, how is Alberta like Texas?

“A lot of truckers,” Diouf said. “I feel like the culture is very similar. A lot of pride in their own culture. That’s what I see a lot in Texas, too. Go big, or go home. That sort of stuff.”

Asked if he had been to a Buc-ee’s yet, he said he hasn’t but that “it’s still on the bucket list.”

“I’ve seen the logos,” Diouf said. “Unfortunately, haven’t stopped there yet. I was able to cross Cracker Barrel (off the list) on the last (road) trip. So I got that one out of the way.”

Over the past few days, UTSA has been preparing to host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

The Roadrunners (6-8, 0-3 C-USA) will play the Blue Raiders (9-5, 2-1) tonight at 7 at the UTSA Convocation Center. Somewhat surprisingly, Diouf is expected to start his fifth straight game.

A player who wasn’t high on coaches’ list of candidates to be in the rotation when he arrived on campus in late August, Diouf has played double-figure minutes in four of his last six games.

If he keeps rebounding and playing defense at his current level, he could join the likes of Giovanni De Nicolao, Byron Frohnen, Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace as players who have started 10 or more games as freshmen under Henson.

How did this happen?

“He just kept working, doing things right every single day,” Henson said. “We had been cycling through that fifth starter every few ball games, anyway. A couple of different guys played the four (power forward) for us.

“Decided to take a look at him with his rebounding and his toughness, to slide him in at the five (at center) and move Jacob (Germany) to the four. It hasn’t translated (as we expected). We thought it might jump start Jacob offensively.

“That hasn’t happened, but Jacob’s rebounding it very well now. I think Jacob’s rebounding numbers are better when he’s got a bigger front-line guy in there with him.”

Even though the Roadrunners have struggled recently, losing both games on a C-USA road trip to Louisiana Tech and UAB last week to fall to 0-3, advance metrics have suggested to Henson that Diouf has earned the right to be on the floor.

“Massal, with his physicality and his defense, his plus-minus numbers are No. 1 on the entire team,” the coach said. “If you can go in and defend and rebound and don’t turn the ball over, you can impact the game.”

Diouf, asked if he is surprised that he is starting and playing for the Roadrunners in his first year out of the Western Canada Prep Academy, shrugged and offered a diplomatic response.

“For me, it’s pretty easy,” he said. “You just always got to want to play. You always got to be ready to play. But I also understood that I’m coming in as a freshman.

“So I didn’t have any qualms about waiting, sitting on the bench, supporting my teammates.

“I know that all these guys have a lot more experience. I mean, they’re way more experienced at the college level (than me). I’m just grateful to have an opportunity to play.”

In a recent interview with Andy Everett on the team’s radio broadcast, Diouf revealed his long-term goals — to go to medical school and then, hopefully, become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

“I know that’s a long way away before I can get there,” he said. “But I’m just going to take it step by step.”

Diouf called his pre-med plans an “obsession” that he hopes to undertake after his career in basketball.

“I could not tell you where the obsession comes from,” he said. “There is no one in my family that does it. I do not have any direct relationships with doctors. I didn’t watch doctor shows growing up that made me fall in love with it. Honestly, it’s just really interesting to me.”

Being from Europe, Diouf brings an interesting perspective to the program. He grew up in a nation that did not have sports in high schools and didn’t have the facilities that American athletes enjoy.

He said athletes who wanted to play in The Netherlands joined clubs. His original club was called Bouncers Basketball.

“(Playing college sports in the United States) gets described as a full-time job a lot,” Diouf said, “But it really isn’t, because we’re all just doing what we love to do.

“I think that’s where our stamina and work ethic come from. When we’re playing basketball, practicing, it doesn’t feel like work, per se, it’s more so, ‘We get to practice. We get to practice at this level.’ ”

“At the end of the day, when I was growing up, Bouncers Basketball did not have a gym like (the Convocation Center) to play in. We had to rent gyms, and then we would all come in together and play in those gyms.

“But, to have a gym like this (at UTSA), that I can play in every day, that’s something that I could never have dreamed of.”

Coming up

Men’s basketball: Middle Tennessee State at UTSA, 7 p.m.


Middle Tennessee (9-5, 2-1)
UTSA (6-8, 0-3)

Roadrunners move into second place in the C-USA standings

The UTSA Roadrunners cranked out four home runs to back the pitching of sophomore Daniel Garza Friday night, rolling to an early five-run lead en route to a 13-2 Conference USA victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

In a C-USA series opener at Reese Smith Jr. Field, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., UTSA’s Leyton Barry enjoyed a monster day with two home runs and five RBIs. Ryan Flores and Chase Keng also homered for the Roadrunners, who won their fifth straight game.

Garza (2-0) was masterful, throwing a career-high 85 pitches, while working into the sixth inning. In all, he pitched 5 and 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits. Garza walked one and struck out seven.

With the victory, the Roadrunners won for the 16th time in their last 19 games and moved into sole possession of second place in the conference standings, three games behind the fourth-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

The Blue Raiders entered the game on a hot streak, having won two of three last week at Louisiana Tech to claim their fifth straight series victory in the conference. But while Garza was shutting down the home team early, Leyton Barry hit a solo home run in the third inning.

Flores hit a solo of his own in the fourth, and Barry followed later with a three-run shot, boosting UTSA into a 5-0 lead against Middle Tennessee starter Zach Keenan.


UTSA 29-13, 13-6
Middle Tennessee 21-18, 11-8

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 16-3
UTSA 13-6
Louisiana Tech 12-7
Florida Atlantic 12-7
Old Dominion 11-8
Middle Tennessee 11-8

Coming up

Saturday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 3 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 11 a.m.

UTSA set to open road series at Middle Tennessee State

The UTSA Roadrunners will open a three-game Conference USA baseball series tonight riding a significant wave of momentum. They have won four straight. In their last 18 games, they have won 15, including a 14-8 victory at home Tuesday against seventh-ranked Texas State.

All the recent history notwithstanding, UTSA can’t afford to dwell on its own success. Because, in less than an hour’s time, they will get underway on the road against another C-USA program in the midst of a late-season run. They’re set to take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders tonight at 6.

The Blue Raiders (21-17, 11-7) have won consecutive series in the conference against the UAB Blazers, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the Marshall University Thundering Herd, the Charlotte 49ers and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Last weekend, the Blue Raiders beat the Bulldogs two out of three in Ruston, La., the first C-USA home series loss for LA Tech this season. Middle Tennessee won the opener, 7-3, behind a complete-game victory by pitcher Zach Keenan. The Bulldogs bounced back to win the second game, 4-2. But the Blue Raiders persevered and pulled out a 6-3 victory in 12 innings Sunday.

The Roadrunners (28-13, 12-6) are coming off a three-game sweep at home of the FIU Panthers. On Tuesday, they fell behind by three runs to Texas State and then exploded for an important 14-8 non-conference victory.

Going into the weekend, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles lead the conference at 16-2. Louisiana Tech and UTSA are tied for second at 12-6. Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic are next at 11-7 each.

In terms of the NCAA baseball ratings percentage index, the Golden Eagles have won 15 in a row and have soared to No. 10. Middle Tennessee is second at No. 48, while UTSA is third at No. 51. Louisiana Tech is next at No. 55.


UTSA 28-13, 12-6
Middle Tennessee 21-17, 11-7

Coming up

UTSA’s remaining schedule in conference includes a home series against Marshall (at home, May 6-8), Southern Miss (on the road, May 13-15) and UAB (at home, May 19-21).


The C-USA tournament will be held at Southern Miss from May 25-29. The winner of the C-USA’s postseason event will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA hopes to snap out of its funk at Middle Tennessee

The UTSA Roadrunners will play on the road tonight at Middle Tennessee State hoping to pull themselves out of a 2-12 tailspin that has spanned nearly two months.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The Conference USA game is a makeup of one scheduled for Dec. 30, when Covid issues in the Middle Tennessee program forced its postponement.

At the time, UTSA had lost two straight in non-conference but remained confident as the opener in C-USA play loomed. Since then, the Roadrunners’ problems have snowballed into nightmarish proportions.

UTSA is without a couple of key players who are lost for the season. Actually, the number of scholarship players lost for the season is three counting one that went down during camp practices in October.

Moreover, a couple of key players who missed time last month haven’t returned to form. All of which has promoted inconsistency that in turn has led to a dramatic fall — to 8-16 for the season and to 1-10 in the C-USA West Division.

On Saturday, the Roadrunners were humbled again. North Texas won 63-45, holding UTSA under 50 points for the second time this season.

Middle Tennessee has been much more stable, winning five in a row before its latest outing, a 97-75 loss Saturday in Alabama against UAB.

The Blue Raiders are 14-7 overall and 5-3 in the C-USA East. \

By the numbers

Middle Tennessee’s leading scorer is grad transfer guard Josh Jefferson, who averages 13.8 points and shoots 36.3 percent from three. Fifth-year senior guard Donovan Sims averages 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, with sophomore guard Eli Lawrence 10.1 and 4.2. Jefferson transferred from Wisconsin-Green Bay.

MT is averaging 74.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting from the field, including 31.6 from three. MT is also shooting 73.5 percent from the free throw line. Opponents, in turn, are averaging 67.7 points on 42.8, and 32.9 from three. Also, 73.0 from the line.