Dallas Baptist coach says UTSA still belongs in the NCAA at-large conversation

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Before leaving the ball park on Sunday afternoon, Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner had a couple of interesting takeaways from his team’s three-game sweep of the UTSA Roadrunners.

First of all, he praised his players for rising to the challenge and seizing the regular-season title in the program’s first year in Conference USA. Next, he said the Patriots helped themselves in regard to the merits on whether they deserve to be one of 16 hosts of an NCAA tournament regional.

But, most interesting, he said he believes the Roadrunners still belong in the discussion to reach the 64-team NCAAs even if they come up short of the C-USA tournament title.

“I think without a doubt they’re still in the mix,” he said Sunday after his team completed an 11-7, 11-9 and 9-6 weekend sweep at Roadrunner Field.

By Monday morning, it became apparent that the Roadrunners will need to play extremely well in their last four regular season games and in the conference tournament to gain an at-large bid.

And, quite possibly, the only sure way for the Roadrunners to play in an NCAA regional this season would be to win C-USA postseason title in Houston, which would yield an automatic bid.

UTSA’s precarious position became evident when the NCAA Division I baseball ratings percentage index was published overnight following last weekend’s games. The latest NCAA RPI has Dallas Baptist as the C-USA’s top-rated team at No. 15, which is up 10 spots. The latest listing for UTSA is at No. 60, which is down six spots.

Last year, UTSA was 37th after grinding all the way through to the C-USA postseason championship game, where it lost to Louisiana Tech. On the next day, a 38-win UTSA team was not in the 64-team NCAA field despite winning twice on the road in the C-USA tournament against the regular-season champion and top 15 Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

Right now, the Roadrunners can point to a 2-1 record this season against RPI top-50 programs. Namely, a road victory over RPI No. 39 Texas A&M and a 1-1 split against RPI No. 47 Texas State. Also, they have been as consistent in the regular season as anyone in the nation, going 11-1-1 in weekend series.

On top of that, they’re 36-15 and 19-7 in conference, failing to win on the weekend at Charlotte and Dallas Baptist at home. Moreover, they’ve been in the top 25 in various media polls since the first week of April.

Last week, the DI Baseball poll had them at No. 22. On Monday morning, the DI poll dropped UTSA out of the Top 25, while moving Dallas Baptist up one notch to No. 17.

Still looming on UTSA’s schedule are four road games, Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. The C-USA tournament is set for the following week, from May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston.

At present, Heefner insisted that UTSA still belongs in the discussion for an at-large bid.

“Yes, for an at large,” he said. “They’ve been really consistent all season long. Obviously, I feel like we have a really good team. (Also), they’ve still got their Tuesday game, they got next weekend (at LA Tech) and the conference tournament. They’re a talented team and they’ve put themselves in a really good position.

“I think if they finish well, they have a very deserving shot at an at=large bid.”

UTSA was 25-5 at home before Dallas Baptist arrived, making the Patriots’ sweep all the more noteworthy. Heefner said he hopes his team’s performance at Roadrunner Field will aid in its desire to host an NCAA regional.

“That’s a thing for the (NCAA) committee, but that’s a goal we have as a program. We’ve done it before, and we schedule in a way that we’re going to really challenge ourselves in a non-conference schedule standpoint, because we do want to put ourselves in that position. I think our guys have done a great job and have been pretty consistent.

“You know, we had one little stretch at the very beginning of the year, and then ever since then, we’ve played really well. I think we’ve played like a (first-weekend) host team.”

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark discusses his desire for a home-stadium upgrade

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA baseball coach Pat Hallmark has been riding an emotional wave over the past few days. He’s seen his team surge into the top 25 in the national rankings for the second time this season. He’s watched as the fans flocked to modest Roadrunner Field, packing it to overflow proportions.

Hallmark has also felt some of the undertow associated with the job.

Fourth-year UTSA coach Pat Hallmark has guided the program into the national spotlight. — File photo by Joe Alexander

His 22nd-ranked Roadrunners lost 5-3 at home Tuesday night to the I-35 rival Texas State Bobcats in front of a season-high 1,059 fans. It was a game replete with passion in both dugouts, and Hallmark, an intense competitor, got caught up in the moment.

Irritated by the home-plate umpire’s work in calling balls and strikes, he was thrown out in the bottom of the seventh for expressing his opinion on the matter. A day later, UTSA’s coach met with the media and talked about his ouster, as well as a number of other issues suddenly swirling around one of the hottest teams in the country.

With the Conference USA-leading Roadrunners scheduled to play in Miami, Fla., this weekend against the FIU Panthers, Hallmark was surprisingly candid in his assessment of the team’s potential for the season.

He even talked about the chance of playing in the College World Series — this season — and his long-term goal of building momentum within the university to upgrade the team’s home-stadium situation.

“I know we’re good,” Hallmark said. “I don’t know how far we can go. We need to stay healthy … If we’re healthy, I don’t see why we can’t play in Omaha (for the CWS). It’s a big statement, and again, I want to be careful what I say, because we haven’t even made the tournament.

“Like that’s really our first goal. Our goal is to win 40 games. Win a championship in our conference. We get two shots at that (regular season and postseason). And make a regional. So, that’s where we’re focused. But we need to stay healthy, and if we do that, I like our chances.”

Asked about the “next step” that the program needs to take to sustain the winning, Hallmark didn’t hesitate. He said it was a stadium. Roadrunner Field, comprised of three aluminum sections that seat around 800, is lacking in amenities that could aid recruiting, create more comfort for fans and increase media exposure.

“You know, what we did last year and what we’re doing right now is fantastic,” Hallmark said. “I’m not sure how sustainable it is in the world of (NCAA) Division I recruiting, without a stadium and a field. You know, we play in a high school — it’s not even a high-school stadium — it’s a JV stadium.

“That’s what my kids tell me, and they both play high school baseball. I’m not here to complain about it. My kids don’t complain about it. You start the game. It’s 90 feet to the bases. We kind of use it as a chip on our shoulder. Like, other people don’t respect us as much cause of the stadium. We can play baseball.”

Hallmark is in his fourth season at UTSA. Over the past two years, the Roadrunners have forged a 66-29 record, including 28-9 this spring.

UTSA has bolstered its standing nationally by beating Houston, Baylor and, last week, Texas A&M. For the national media, the team has become something of a darling, rising to No. 22 in Baseball America and to No. 25 in D1 Baseball.

In Conference USA, the Roadrunners will carry a 12-2 record into the second half, a half game ahead of 12-3 Dallas Baptist. Louisiana Tech, last year’s C-USA tournament champion, is next at 9-6. Middle Tennessee, another talented team, is fourth at 8-7 after being swept in San Antonio by UTSA.

Coming up

UTSA at FIU (15-22, 3-12), Friday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at FIU, Saturday, 4 p.m.
UTSA at FIU, Sunday, noon


Asked how often he has talked with university administrators about the stadium situation, Hallmark answered, “Not enough. Not enough.”

Recounting the ejection

With Texas State leading 5-2 and UTSA batting in the bottom of the seventh, the coach started talking to the home plate umpire. Eventually, the tensions mounted and he was ejected. Video showed rushing up to the home plate area and talking. “I tried not to do it prolonged and get suspended for the next game, and from what I understand, I’m not, so I’m happy about that,” he said.

Hailing the fans

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone, the likely starter for Friday night at FIU, talked about how the Texas State game was an enjoyable experience despite the loss.

“I know we lost, but it was pretty fun,” he said. “We never stopped fighting, and the crowd here was awesome. We were stretching down all the way (on the grass berm). It got super loud. I mean, people were getting on the umpire. That’s always fun. But it’s the way we fought. I know we didn’t win. But we never gave up. We never folded.”

Malone said Hallmark’s ejection “fired up the dugout … I really thought we were going to pull away. But we didn’t get it done.”

Working to boost the RPI

Last year, UTSA ended the season with a ratings percentage index of 37. It wasn’t good enough for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. After the weekend, UTSA’s RPI was 29 following a sweep of Middle Tennessee State in Conference USA. Today, after the loss to Texas State, the number is at 39.

To illustrate how much progress the program has made in that regard, Hallmark said conversations have taken place in regard to submitting a bid to host an NCAA regional. He said he has discussed it with administrators, the idea of hosting a first-round tournament, presumably at Wolff Stadium.

“I’m not saying we’re going to (host),” he said. “Our RPI is not there. We are not in a position to host. The RPI would have to improve. But at the end of the day, the conversation (came) up, because I guess you got to put in those bids fairly early.”

He said coaches and players are realists, however. “We’re not even in the tournament,” the coach said. “By golly, we got a lot of work to do to make the tournament. So, let’s go to work.”

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.

Loopy swings? UTSA explodes for 15 hits in a 7-2 victory to sweep WKU

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

At the risk of nit-picking a program that very well may have something special going this season, the UTSA Roadrunners have looked out of sorts at the plate lately. Coach Pat Hallmark has acknowledged that the swings have been “a little loopy,” which often leads to weak contact.

Digging down deep in the energy reserves and taking it back to the basics, UTSA players worked diligently in batting practice the past few days in an effort to iron out the glitches, and it all paid dividends Sunday with a 15-hit barrage, a 7-2 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and a sweep of a three-game Conference USA home series.

“I know our offense has been struggling in the past few games,” UTSA outfielder Shane Sirdashney said. “We kind of went back to the basics in (batting practice) today and yesterday. We just kind of put it on display today (and) bought in with Coach Hallmark’s approach at the plate. I’m just glad we got the hitting rolling today going into next week. To get the sweep, it felt good.”

With the victory, UTSA (23-6, 8-1) stayed in firm control of first place in the C-USA through three weekends of play. Western Kentucky (16-13, 2-7) sent hard-throwing lefty Devyn Terbak to the mound, but UTSA lit him up with two runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fifth to take charge.

Sirdashney led the uprising with four hits, including a solo home run. Matt King had three hits and Antonio Valdez, Taylor Smith and Leyton Barry two apiece. For Hallmark, it was a welcome change from the first two games of the series when Hilltoppers pitching went for extended stretches stringing zeroes on the scoreboard against the Roadrunners.

UTSA had only four hits in a 3-2 victory Friday night and then six in a 5-4 decision Saturday afternoon. As a result, batting practice for the Roadrunners started at 9:30 a.m. for the series finale, which would start at 12:30 p.m.

“The bats came back a little bit today, which was nice to see,” Hallmark said. “We pitched well again. But it was important to get those bats going. The guys have been working really hard. Hitting is cyclical like this, where it comes and goes. That’s just the nature of it.

“Big league hitters, the best ones, don’t always hit. The guys have been very persistent, trusting (the process) and it worked out today.”

Hallmark acknowledged the emphasis on a different approach at the plate.

“We’ve been a little loopy,” the coach said. “There’s been a little bit of what we call length of arc in our swings. So we’ve just been working at it. You know, it wasn’t like we just worked at it today. We’ve been working at it for awhile. But sometimes it manifests itself later than what you want.

“Those guys have some good pitching, so that’s part of it, too. But today it did work itself out.”

Drake Smith, Daniel Garza and Braylon Owens combined to hold the Hilltoppers to eight hits. Between the three of them, they didn’t walk a batter. Garza (4-1) earned the victory with 4 and 2/3 innings of relief, allowing only one run.

Defensive plays also had the fans in the grandstands buzzing from time to time. After allowing a ball to get over his head for a double, Sirdashney ended one inning with a catch and a perfect relay throw to King, who fired to third to cut down a runner. A few innings later, King stole a hit with a diving stab of a low and sinking line drive.


Western Kentucky 16-13, 2-7
UTSA 23-6, 8-1

Coming up

UTSA at Incarnate Word, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Thursday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Friday, 5 p.m.
UTSA at Charlotte, Saturday, noon

Today’s video replay

Malone gets opening-day start for UTSA against Tarleton State

UTSA pitcher Luke Malone got the win against Florida International on Friday, April 22, 2022, at Roadrunner Field. - photo by Joe Alexander

Pitcher Luke Malone is expected to take the mound tonight in the season-opener for the UTSA Roadrunners, who will host the Tarleton State Texans in the opener of a three-game series. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Temperatures that could dip into the 30s are expected for the UTSA baseball team’s season opener tonight against the Tarleton State Texans at Roadrunner Field.

Senior righthander Luke Malone is expected to start for the Roadrunners against the Texans’ hard-throwing righty, Will Stevens, with first pitch set for at 6 p.m.

UTSA, of Conference USA, and Tarleton, a third-year Division I program in the Western Athletic Conference, will play again Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

“Everybody’s ready to go,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said in an interview on Thursday afternoon after his team’s final preseason practice.

Hallmark said he is unsure of his batting order, though it could be first baseman Garrett Poston leading off, followed by Shane Sirdashney in center field, Leyton Barry at second base and Taylor Smith at designated hitter.

After that, in an order to be determined, fans could see shortstop Matt King, catcher Josh Killeen and third baseman Antonio Valdez among those in the fifth through ninth spots.

The remaining two presumably would be between several players vying for corner outfield positions, including Garrett Brooks, Tye Odom, Isaiah Walker, Caleb Hill and Dalton Porter.

Regardless of the batters in UTSA’s opening-day lineup, they are expected to be challenged by Stevens, a transfer from Wichita State.

Hallmark said he had the pitching machine at Thursday’s practice cranked up to get his players ready for 100-mph fastballs.

The coach expressed cautious optimism about what to expect from his team on opening weekend.

“I think everyone thinks they’re ready until somebody exposes you a little bit,” Hallmark said. “I’ve been around long enough to know, we’ll find a little bit out about ourselves … There’ll be some good and some bad. Hopefully it’ll be a lot more good.”

UTSA will play eight home games over the next 10 days, so fans will likely see much of the Roadrunners’ pitching arsenal. Newcomer Robbie Maldonado is expected to start Saturday and Ulises Quiroga on Sunday.

The back end of the bullpen is one of the team’s strengths, highlighted by Simon Miller and Daniel Shafer.

UTSA had four players named to the preseason all Conference USA squad, led by Barry, a .349 hitter last year, Malone, Miller and Shafer. Malone led UTSA with a 9-3 record and a 2.67 earned run average.

“I expect we’ll throw strikes,” Hallmark said. “I’d be surprised if we don’t throw strikes. Again, I might be surprised. But we got some pitchers back from last year. Some of them (are) proven strike throwers … We played all fall and for the last five weeks, and we’ve been throwing strikes — at least, the guys that you’re going to see initially.”

Pitching rotations

According to the Tarleton State athletics website, here are the starters (with the Texans listed first) matched against the Roadrunners, whose starter were announced Thursday by UTSA coach Pat Hallmark.

Friday: RHP Will Stevens vs. RHP Luke Malone
Saturday: LHP Dylan Delvecchio vs. LHP Robbie Maldonado
Sunday: RHP Hunter Day vs. RHP Ulises Quiroga


This year’s Roadrunners have a tough act to follow. Last year, they dazzled UTSA fans with one of the better seasons in school history. They went 38-20 and reached the championship game of the Conference USA tournament. Though they failed to make the NCAA tournament, they won 11 games against ranked teams and finished a program-best 37th in the RPI.

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 extends Hallmark’s contract for four seasons

Coach Pat Hallmark, who led the UTSA baseball team to 38 victories and the Conference USA tournament title game last season, has been rewarded with a four-year extension on his contract.

UTSA on Monday announced a four-year contract extension for baseball coach Pat Hallmark. — File photo by Joe Alexander

The new deal is scheduled to keep the coach in San Antonio through 2026, according to a UTSA news release.

In his third year at the helm of the Roadrunners’ program, Hallmark pushed his team to a 38-20 record overall and to 19-11 in the C-USA. UTSA finished 11-4 against ranked opponents and 9-3 against top 25 teams.

After opening the C-USA tournament with three straight victories, including two over No. 1 seed and tournament host Southern Miss, the Roadrunners lost 9-8 to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the title game.

UTSA, denied the C-USA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with the loss, nevertheless returned home to San Antonio optimistic.

The Roadrunners felt they had done enough to warrant an at-large bid into the 64-team field. They even invited the media to the NCAA selection show. But in a crushing blow, they didn’t make it.

“Coach Hallmark has our baseball program moving in the right direction,” said Lisa Campos, UTSA Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics. “His leadership and ability to recruit academically and athletically talented students resulted in one of the best seasons in program history this past spring.

“We’re thrilled to be able to secure him for four more years and very excited about what’s in store for the future of UTSA baseball.”

Pat Hallmark’s UTSA record

x-2020 — 10-7
2021 — 22-26, 14-17
2022 — 38-20, 19-11

x-The 2020 season was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roadrunners’ NCAA dreams are alive leading into Hattiesburg

Ian Bailey's second-inning home run. UTSA beat UAB 12-2 on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Roadrunner Field in the final game of the Conference USA baseball regular season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ian Bailey crushes the first of his two home runs Saturday in UTSA’s regular-season ending victory over the UAB Blazers. UTSA (35-19 overall, 19-11 in Conference USA) will move into postseason play next week in Mississippi. The fifth-seeded Roadrunners are scheduled to open the C-USA tournament Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the No. 4-seed FAU Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners completed the regular season in style on Saturday, by pitching well and by hitting four homers in a 12-2 victory over the UAB Blazers.

After polishing off the Blazers in a game called after seven innings on the run rule, UTSA players mingled with fans and friends, taking pictures and soaking up the moment.

Ulises Quiroga. UTSA beat UAB 12-2 on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Roadrunner Field in the final game of the Conference USA baseball regular season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Ulises Quiroga rocks and fires against the UAB Blazers. Quiroga pitched four innings, allowing only one run on two hits, to earn the victory. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It seemed like a perfect time to rattle off the essential numbers for the Roadrunners — a 35-19 record overall and, more importantly, a 19-11 finish in Conference USA.

“Sounds good to me,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “Sounds good.”

Beaten soundly on Thursday night by the Blazers, the Roadrunners rebounded to win Friday night and again Saturday to take two of three in the final series of the season and to establish themselves as one of the conference’s upper-echelon teams.

They’ll start play in Hattiesburg next Wednesday, competing in an eight-team, double-elimination event for the C-USA postseason crown. The Roadrunners are seeded fifth and will take on the four seed Florida Atlantic Owls in their opener.

The game is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pete Taylor Park.

The C-USA winner next week claims the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But because of the Roadrunners’ strong play throughout the season — they were 48th in the national ratings percentage index on Sunday morning — they might not necessarily have to win the whole thing in Hattiesburg to make the 64-team national field.

It may only take two or three victories.

Kody Darcy. UTSA beat UAB 12-2 on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Roadrunner Field in the final game of the Conference USA baseball regular season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Kody Darcy started at shortstop against UAB in the last game of the season at Roadrunner Field. At the plate, he contributed a sacrifice bunt that moved runners up in a two-run sixth and a two-run triple in the six-run seventh. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We got a little more work to do,” Hallmark said. “We’ve got some games ahead of us at the (C-USA) tournament. (We want to) get over there and win some and try to make an at-large (NCAA bid.) If nothing else, win four over there (for the title) and lock it up.”

UTSA’s dreams of becoming the school’s first NCAA tournament entry in baseball since 2013 were dimmed on Thursday night when UAB erupted for an 18-7 victory. In the loss, the Roadrunners looked sluggish. They gave up a couple of long home runs and made a season-high five errors.

But, as it turned out, they weren’t down for long. By Friday night, they re-discovered their home-field magic, hitting five home runs en route to a 7-2 victory to even the series. UTSA pounded three of the homers in a five-run eighth inning.

On Saturday, not only did they shut down the Blazers for the second game in a row, limiting the visitors to four hits, but they also kept bashing balls out of the park. The Roadrunners hit four more homers, including two of them by senior Ian Bailey.

Leyton Barry. UTSA beat UAB 12-2 on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Roadrunner Field in the final game of the Conference USA baseball regular season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Leyton Barry went four for four at the plate and stole two bases. Here, he’s safe after doubling and stealing third in the bottom of the second inning. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hallmark was at a loss to explain the turn-around from a less-than-memorable Game One against the Blazers.

“That’s baseball,” the coach said. “You know, you don’t always play good. It’s a difficult game. And we’ve played mostly good. You’ve seen us enough to know we don’t always play good, but we play good more than we don’t.

“This weekend, you win two out of three against a tough team, a 30-win team, you got to feel pretty good about yourself.”


UAB 31-23, 13-17
UTSA 35-19, 19-11

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 23-7
Louisiana Tech 20-10
Old Dominion 19-11
Florida Atlantic 19-11
UTSA 19-11
Middle Tennessee 17-13
Charlotte 17-13
UAB 13-17

Coming up

UTSA will play next week in the Conference USA tournament. The site is Hattiesburg, Miss. First games are Wednesday.

Fifth-seeded UTSA plays four seed Florida Atlantic on Wednesday night. If it wins, it would advance to meet the winner between one-seed and regular-season champion Southern Miss and eight seed UAB. That winner’s bracket game would be Thursday night.

The double-elimination event will run for five days through next Sunday. The NCAA tournament field will be unveiled the following Monday, on May 30, with the first games in the regionals set for June 3.


UTSA has some concerns going into Hattiesburg, with ace reliever Simon Miller nursing a sore back that has kept him out of the lineup for the last five games. Also, a few other pitchers in the bullpen haven’t been available lately because of injuries and aren’t expected to be back. Thus, it may fall on the offense to carry the team.

One of the positive signs is the resurgence of Ian Bailey. Bailey, a graduate student from Stevens High School, went two for two on Saturday with two solo home runs to give him three homers in his last two games and a team-high 15 for the season. In three games against the Blazers, Bailey was locked in. In 10 at bats, he had six hits and four RBIs.

Other notable developments included solid pitching performances from Jacob Jimenez, Braylon Owens and Luke Malone on Friday and from Ryan Ward, Ulises Quiroga and Fischer Kingsbery on Saturday. Quiroga was particularly good, working four innnings, giving up only one run on two hits and striking out six in the series finale.


Bailey, who started his collegiate career at Grambling University in Louisiana, was humbled after the home finale by the greetings he received from family and friends in the wake of his last game at Roadrunner Field.

“Honestly, I’m just very thankful for all the support, not just for myself, but for the team in general,” he said. “Without these people, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I’m just super thankful that they came out to support the team.”

And how did he feel about the way the team played this weekend? “We came out slow (on Thursday). But over the course of the weekend … we just turned (on) another gear, especially last night. We just found another gear and hit our stride.”

What happened between Thursday night’s loss and Game Two on Friday night?

“I just think we all knew we weren’t playing to the best of our abilities,” Bailey said. “I just think we collectively wanted to do better. (On Friday) we came out with a lot more energy and a lot more pride, with a lot more confidence, and we got the job done.”

And what of his own performance, finding his power stroke after not hitting a home run in six straight games?

“This past week, I had been in a little rut. With Coach Hallmark and the coaches, we went to the cage and just ironed it out. I came out with a lot more confidence. I was just really trusting in my approach. Good things happened.”


Here are a few highlights from UTSA’s 12-2 victory Saturday over the UAB Blazers:

The few, the proud, the totally exhausted — UTSA’s baseball team went 19-6 in 41 days

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

Coach Pat Hallmark and his UTSA Roadrunners play on the road tonight against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. It’s the opener of a three-game series with Conference USA title implications. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Last weekend, a baseball team challenging for a conference championship and NCAA tournament consideration seemed a bit sluggish.

The UTSA Roadrunners played three hours last Saturday afternoon in near 100-degree heat. After going home to hydrate and rest, they showed up on Sunday morning confronted with the prospect of competing again in an atmosphere that felt sort of like what you’d expect from a Central American rain forest.

By the time the game at Roadrunner Field started at 11:30 a.m., most of the few fans that turned out for the series finale against Marshall huddled under umbrellas to ward off the sun. Some of the people working the game hid out in areas shaded by the grandstands, hoping for a breeze that never really materialized.

Some of the Roadrunners, who were on their 25th game in 41 days, were not mentally into it in the early innings. UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said a couple of players who hit balls that were barely foul, who should have been running on contact, instead lingered in the batters’ box. The coach barked at them to, in not so many words, wake up and play.

After eight innings, the Roadrunners still seemed to be in a bit of a fog, trailing 4-3 against the ninth-place team in Conference USA. But just about that time, something clicked. Sensing that they were letting a prime opportunity slip away, they rallied, pushing across two runs to win, 5-4.

After the players had celebrated another comeback victory, Hallmark was asked how much he has enjoyed working with this group of players. He paused. His voice cracked just a bit. He related the story about how he had to get on them. And then he admitted something that he has felt all along, but hasn’t articulated to this point.

“It’s fun to be a part of,” the coach said. “I’m proud of ’em.”

Today, the Roadrunners will take a 19-6 record in their last 25 games on the road for a showdown against the 11th-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The two teams will play the opener of a three-game series tonight at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss is in first place in Conference USA. UTSA is in second, two games back.

Oddly, neither team battling for the C-USA regular season title is at the top of its game right now. Southern Miss has lost five of its last eight. UTSA has dropped three of its last five.

In the Roadrunners’ case, I’m guessing that part of their malaise has had something to do with fatigue. The grind of playing so many games. Twenty five games in 41 days? In nine different ball parks? Is it any wonder, considering the occasional contest played in sauna-like conditions, that the team is hitting .206 during the slide?

“We’ll keep working at it,” Hallmark promised. “The guys have hit well all year. It’s not uncommon to go through slumps. So, we’re going to keep working at it.”

After Shane Sirdashney’s game-winning hit lifted the Roadrunners last Sunday, the team took Monday and Tuesday off. They went through a workout at home on Wednesday and traveled on Thursday. Tonight, they’ll face the ultimate test.

The Golden Eagles, with championship dreams of their own, will be waiting for them.

“I hope we take this momentum (all the way),” Sirdashney said last Sunday afternoon. “I know everyone’s finishing finals this week. We’re going to be all focused on baseball after finals, and then when we go to Southern Miss, we’re going to be ready to play.”


UTSA 32-16, 16-8
Southern Miss 36-13, 18-6

Recent struggles

UTSA has lost three of its last five games overall, and the Roadrunners are hitting only .206 in that stretch. Southern Miss has dropped five of its last eight. In its last two C-USA series, the Eagles have dropped two of three both at UAB and at home against Old Dominion.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-6
UTSA 16-8
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
Charlotte 14-10
Middle Tennessee 14-10
Old Dominion 13-11
UAB 11-13

Coming up

Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.
May 19 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 20 — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
May 21 — UAB at UTSA, noon

UTSA is breathing easier after Sirdashney’s walkoff winner

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Two weeks ago, a high and inside heater from a Florida International pitcher caught UTSA’s Shane Sirdashney squarely in the ribs.

It was a brutal sequence of events in the April 24 game in San Antonio, with Sirdashney coughing up blood and then going to the hospital to see if he had suffered a fracture.

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

Shane Sirdashney went 2 for 4, scored a run and drove in the game winner with a one-out, RBI single in the ninth inning. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Luckily for Sirdashney, the X-rays were negative.

“There were no fractures,” he said. “I was just kind of doing breathing exercises for a week, just doing nothing, just trying to get my lungs back. I felt like I was ready to go this weekend, and I played.”

Sirdashney’s comeback was well timed. It was just about as well timed as his walk-off RBI single on Sunday, which completed a two-run, ninth-inning rally and lifted the Roadrunners to a 5-4 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd.

Asked if he thought the baseball gods owed him the good fortune given his recent misfortune, which knocked him out of the lineup for five games, Sirdashney smiled.

“I think so,” he said. “I was just glad that we got the W. We needed this win bad. Just the way it came out at the end there was awesome.”

The implications of the two games to one series victory were equally compelling for the Roadrunners, who will move into the final two weeks of the season with a chance to claim their first Conference USA regular-season title.

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

Leyton Barry takes a tumble after he scores the game-tying run in the ninth inning. In a head-first slide, he collided with Marshall catcher Ryan Leitch, who was shaken up on the play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

It will be an uphill battle, for sure.

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles lead the conference, with the Roadrunners alone in second place, two games behind. Both teams have six to play, including three straight, head-to-head, at the Golden Eagles’ home park next weekend.

How do they like their chances?

“I’m glad we’re in the picture,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “That’s all you want … as a coach. Obviously, in two more weeks, I want to be on top. I really don’t mind being in second place right now, because, we’re the hunter. But, we got to play good ball.

“This weekend (against Marshall), I don’t think we played bad. But we’re not hitting as sharp as we could. I think we’ve set a real high expectation, because we have hit all year. So, it seems easy … But, it ain’t that easy to hit. The pitches are not that easy. They’re not laying ’em in there.

“So, we got to stay positive with the guys. We didn’t hit as well as we could (this weekend). Clearly, I think we only had seven hits (today). But we’ll keep working at it. The guys have hit well all year. It’s not uncommon to go through slumps. So, we’re going to keep working at it.”

Zac Addkison, a Marshall sophomore from San Antonio and TMI Episcopal, struck out five in six innings Sunday. He left with a 4-3 lead, and observers said later his fastball hit 94 mph on the radar gun. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Both Marshall and UTSA had a lot of motivation to win this week. The Thundering Herd were trying to set themselves up to get into the eight-team, C-USA tournament field. The Roadrunners wanted to keep winning to put pressure on the Golden Eagles.

“It was huge,” Sirdashney said, “for them and us. This puts us in good position going into Southern Miss next week. It’s going to be a huge series. We get a series win there and it’s going to be huge for our RPI and also maybe winning the conference.”

Sirdashney said he likes the Roadrunners’ chances to overtake Golden Eagles, who have been in the top 10 nationally for the last few weeks.

“I hope we take this momentum (all the way),” he said. “I know everyone’s finishing finals this week. We’re going to be all focused on baseball after finals, and then when we go to Southern Miss, we’re going to be ready to play.”


Marshall 20-26-1, 9-15
UTSA 32-16, 16-8

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

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said it’s fun to participate in the C-USA title race, but in order to win it, he said the team will need to swing the bats better in the last six games of the season. UTSA will play three at Southern Miss next weekend and then three at home against UAB from May 19-21.- Photo by Joe Alexander

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 18-6
UTSA 16-8
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
x-Six games to play in the regular season

Coming up

Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 1 p.m.


Elsewhere in the conference on Sunday, Southern Miss downed the Old Dominion Monarchs 5-4 in 10 innings to avoid getting swept at home this weekend. The seventh-ranked Golden Eagles (36-12) won on a bloop single by Danny Lynch that scored Christopher Sargent. Also, the FAU Owls beat the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 5-2, to win two of three in Ruston.

Ninth-inning dramatics

Ryan Capuano opened the ninth inning on the mound for the Thundering Herd Sunday, hoping to protect a 4-3 lead. Capuano struck out Sammy Diaz looking. Next batter up, Leyton Barry, drew a walk. Austin Ochoa, a pinch hitter, followed with a single up the middle, moving Barry to second. From there, with Jonathan Tapia at the plate, Capuano threw a wild pitch. As a result, Ochoa took second and Barry scampered to third.

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

Austin Ochoa figured prominently in the ninth-inning comeback with a one-out, pinch-hit single. He later scored the winning run on Shane Sirdashney’s RBI single. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not wanting to deal with Tapia in that situation, Capuano intentionally walked him to load the bases. Josh Killeen stepped in. Killeen lifted a pop fly into shallow right field. Barry beat the throw to the plate with a head-first slide to tie the game, 4-4. The collision shook up Marshall catcher Ryan Leitch, but after conferring with the Marshall staff, he stayed in the game. After the delay, Sirdashney stroked an 0-1 offering into center field, bringing in Ochoa for the game winner.


Asked how he liked the finish to the game, Hallmark said, “I liked the finish. I didn’t love the rest of it.” Then he laughed.

And, what did he see on the play when the tying run scored? “I thought the slide was awesome,” Hallmark said. “I thought he slid straight in and hard. Really, really hard. He slid so hard, head-first hard, it was a little dangerous. But he went for it. I don’t know if he knocked the ball out or not, but the ball came (out of the catcher’s glove).

“It was a great slide. You got to go in low and hard. That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s not dirty. It’s just hard. I’d actually rather him go feet first. But, he’s doing everything he can to get there.”

Saving the day

UTSA right fielder Chase Keng has been one of the team’s hottest hitters during the team’s 25-game ride of 19 victories against only six losses. During the streak, he has hit for both average and for power. On Saturday, he blasted a three-run homer to boost his team-leading RBI total to 50. On Sunday, Keng made one of the best defensive plays of the season, captured deftly by photographer Joe Alexander.

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

UTSA right fielder Chase Keng makes a sensational catch against the wall in the sixth inning. After the catch, Keng fired to second to double off Daniel Carinci to end the inning. The play likely prevented one run, and possibly two, from scoring. – Photo by Joe Alexander