Mason scores 30 as Rice holds off UTSA down the stretch, 80-76

Adante' Holiman. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Adante’ Holiman hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points off the bench in his first game since Jan. 2. Holiman sat out the last seven games with a sprained ankle. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Mekhi Mason scored 17 of his season-high 30 points in the second half and Anthony Selden knocked down two free throws in the last minute Saturday, lifting the Rice Owls to an 80-76 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

Jordan Ivy-Curry led the Roadrunners with 19 points.

UTSA lost its second straight game and fell to 1-6 in its last seven despite a spirited comeback in the final five minutes that fell short.

Mekhi Mason. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Arizona native Mekhi Mason hit 11 of 19 from the field and scored a season-high 30 points for the Rice Owls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With 5:02 remaining, Rice took a commanding 73-58 lead as Mason pulled up to knock down a jumper.

From there, the Roadrunners rallied with an 18-5 run over the next four and a half minutes to pull within two.

Guard Adante’ Holiman, playing his first game after missing most of January with a sprained ankle, swished a three-pointer off the wing to make it a 78-76 game with 33 seconds left.

After the timeout, UTSA pressured the ball, trapping just as Rice brought it past halfcourt. The ball was swung around to Selden, and UTSA fouled him with 21 seconds left.

Selden, a 73 percent free-throw shooter who was one for two at the line at that point, made both free throws to give the Owls a four-point lead.

On the other end, the Roadrunners came up empty with four straight misses before the buzzer sounded.

The difference in the game was Mason, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Gilbert, Ariz. Mason entered the arena averaging 14 points for the season on 41 percent shooting, including 32 of 97 from the three-point arc. He torched the Roadrunners by hitting 11 of 19 from the field. Mason made three of seven from distance.

Jordan Ivy-Curry. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Travis Evee also hurt the Roadrunners, scoring 18 points and sinking four of eight from the arc. In all, the Owls made 12 of 29 from distance, getting the best of the 3-point shooting Roadrunners, who managed only seven of 25 on the afternoon.

In the teams’ last meeting, played in Houston on Jan. 6, the Roadrunners won it 89-82 in overtime and slowed down the Owls with a 2-3 zone.

They tried to mix it up a little in the rematch, throwing out a 1-3-1, but Evee, Mason, Alem Huseinovich and Noah Shelby took turns shooting over it with success.

“I thought the 1-3-1 matched up,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s broadcast, on KTKR AM-760. “At times it had the effect that we needed it to have. Guys embraced that this week. I thought they did a good job with that. But, long way to go. We got to play harder. Got to play harder. There (are) loose balls we’re not getting. Rebounds we’re not getting. We got to play harder.”

Records

Rice 9-13, 3-6
UTSA 8-14, 2-7

Scott Pera. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Scott Pera’s Rice Owls improved to 3-2 over their last five games. The Owls have notched victories over Temple, Memphis and UTSA in that stretch. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Coming up

UTSA at Wichita State, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

Notable

The Owls nearly completely turned the tables on the two Roadrunners who hurt them the most last month. Center Carlton Linguard Jr. scored 24 points and Dre Fuller Jr. had 23 in the first meeting. In the rematch, Linguard scored six and Fuller was shut out. Both were 0 for 3 from long distance in the first half, when the Roadrunners went 3 for 17 as a team.

Linguard battled hard to the end, making some plays down the stretch and finishing with 10 rebounds.

Leading the Roadrunners were Jordan Ivy-Curry, Christian Tucker, Adante’ Holiman and Trey Edmonds. Ivy-Curry, the team’s leading scorer, hit for 19 points on 6 for 16 shooting in 27 minutes. Tucker produced 14 points, eight assists and four steals.

Holiman, a UTSA sophomore from McAlester, Okla., scored 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench. He injured his ankle on Jan. 2 late in a home game against the UAB Blazers. The 6-foot transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley sat out the next seven games in rehabilitation before starting to work out full speed earlier this week.

“I thought he was really good considering how much time he’s missed,” Henson said. “He got three practices in this week, (on) Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He stepped right in like hasn’t missed a beat.”

Edmonds, one of UTSA’s big men, scored 10 points on four of five shooting. Massal Diouf, a power forward off the bench, contributed six points and seven rebounds.

Trey Edmonds. Rice beat UTSA 80-76 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA center Trey Edmonds scores on a breakaway dunk. Edmonds finished with 10 points on four of five shooting. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA men down Rice 89-82 in overtime for first AAC win

Carlton Linguard Jr. scored 24 points and Dre Fuller Jr. added 23 on Saturday as the UTSA Roadrunners claimed their first American Athletic Conference victory in men’s basketball, defeating the Rice Owls 89-82 in overtime in Houston.

In a game played off the Rice campus at the University of St. Thomas, UTSA hit 14 three-pointers to secure the victory, with Fuller and Linguard knocking down nine between them.

Fuller stroked five for nine from beyond the arc and Linguard, a 7-foot center, hit four of eight.

Records

UTSA 7-8, 1-2
Rice 6-9, 0-2

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

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Records

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

Series glance

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

Coming up

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

C-USA standings

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

Notable

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

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

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

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

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

UTSA comes from behind again to down Rice, 10-8

Caleb Hill celebrates with Antonio Valdez (3) after they both scored in the seventh inning. 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

Caleb Hill had three hits, including a home run, to ignite the UTSA Roadrunners Saturday in a 10-8 victory over the Rice Owls. The junior from Grandview has produced six hits in two victories over the Owls this weekend.- File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners moved to within a half game of the lead in Conference USA on Saturday, rallying from a couple of five-run deficits in a weather-delayed home game to down the Rice Owls, 10-8.

After a two-hour delay, the Roadrunners returned to the field trailing 5-0 in the top of the second inning. They were also down 6-1 to the Owls before mounting their second comeback of the series.

Caleb Hill, a 6-foot-1 junior from Grandview, ignited uprisings in both the fourth and sixth innings.

He had a two-run single as the Roadrunners scored four in the fourth. Hill hit a solo homer as UTSA added three more in the sixth. After picking up a run in the seventh, the home team led, 9-6, and appeared to be cruising to an easy victory.

But with UTSA relief ace Simon Miller in the game in the eighth, the Owls struck back. He yielded a one-out double and then a two-out, two-run home run by Drew Holderbach, as Rice pulled to within one. The Owls had runners at first and third before the Roadrunners finally got out of it, leading 9-8.

In a rapid response, UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez stroked a triple to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Later, Leyton Barry brought him home with a sacrifice fly, giving the Roadrunners a two-run cushion.

Rice made things interesting again in the top of the ninth against Miller. A two-out single by Manny Garza, the Owls’ second hit of the inning, put runners at first and second base with Pierce Gallo coming up.

Miller didn’t give in, catching Gallo with a called third strike on a breaking pitch to clinch UTSA’s 35th win of the season and their 11th weekend series victory. UTSA won the opener on Friday night, 9-7, after trailing 4-0 in the second inning.

On Saturday afternoon in Dallas, the Roadrunners received a gift. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders rolled to a 16-8 road victory against the C-USA’s first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots. After UTSA completed its victory over Rice, the Patriots led the C-USA at 19-4, with the Roadrunners at 18-4.

Both Dallas Baptist and UTSA close out their respective series at home on Sunday afternoon. Next week, the Patriots will play three games against the Roadrunners in San Antonio in a series with conference title implications.

From May 18-20, Dallas Baptist will close its regular-season schedule with three home games against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, while UTSA will finish its schedule with three on the road against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Records

Rice 17-29, 7-16
UTSA 35-12, 18-4

Coming up

Series finale, Rice at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 19-4, 35-12
UTSA 18-4, 35-12
Louisiana Tech 13-10, 24-24
Charlotte 12-10, 23-23
FAU 12-11, 28-19
Middle Tennessee 12-11, 23-22
Western Kentucky 11-12, 26-21
Rice 7-16, 17-29
FIU 5-18, 18-29
UAB 5-18, 14-31

Notable

Caleb Hill is having a monster series against Rice with two three-hit games. He was three for five on Friday and three for four on Saturday. On Friday, he had a double and a triple. On Saturday, Hill added a home run. Going back a few weeks, he is on an eight-game hitting streak. During the streak, he is 16 for 31 for a .516 average.

UTSA’s single-season record of 39 victories is within reach. With eight games remaining, seven of them in conference — all before the conference tournament — the Roadrunners need four wins to tie and five to break the record. UTSA won 39 in both 1994 and 2008.

UTSA averts a second straight loss and rallies to beat Rice

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners felt the sting of their worst loss of the season for two long days before they even showed up to the ball park Friday afternoon to play the Rice Owls.

They aren’t into excuses, and so there weren’t any for what happened Tuesday night against the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Likewise, they viewed with level heads what was happening in the early innings against Rice at Roadrunner Field. They were getting beat — but only for only for awhile.

Taylor Smith (27) is congratulated at the plate by Antonio Valdez after Smith's home run in the seventh inning. 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

Taylor Smith (27) is congratulated at the plate by Antonio Valdez after Smith’s seventh-inning home run. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the end, the 22nd-ranked Roadrunners pulled it all together, rallied from an early four-run deficit and emerged with a 9-7 victory in the first game of a key three-game series in the Conference USA stretch drive.

“Obviously we got killed on Tuesday,” UTSA catcher Josh Killeen said of the 18-2 loss to the Bearkats. “It wasn’t a good feeling. But the big theme we hold onto as a team is, we believe in each other. We believe each player out there can do the job.

“I think that’s what we went back to. Just believing that the guy at the plate is a really good hitter and the guy on the mound is a really good pitcher, and we got good guys behind the pitchers who can defend. So, it’s just believing in each other and having faith that we are who we are.

“It’s just like, going back to early games during the season where we were really hot and jelling together. It’s just getting back to that kind of baseball and believing in each other.”

For UTSA, Ryan Beaird (4-1) pitched one scoreless inning to earn the victory. He fanned two, including the third out of the seventh with runners stranded at first and third base. All-American candidate Simon Miller, not to be outdone, fired two electrifying innings of shutout ball to earn his 10th save of the season. Retiring six straight, he didn’t allow a baserunner and struck out two. Rice’s Cristian Cienfuegos (2-1) took the loss.

UTSA reliever Ryan Beaird pitched a scoreless seventh inning. 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

Reliever Ryan Beaird pitched a scoreless seventh inning and struck out two to earn the victory, which kept the Roadrunners a game and a half behind the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots in the C-USA title race. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Offensively, multiple Roadrunners did their jobs when it counted. Both Taylor Smith and Antonio Valdez homered, and both Valdez and Caleb Hill had three hits apiece. Matt King produced two hits and three RBIs. For Rice, Jack Riedel had a three-hit game and freshman Ben Royo clubbed a three-run homer.

With the victory, UTSA stayed within a game and a half of the scorching-hot Dallas Baptist Patriots for the lead in the C-USA. In Dallas, the Patriots clobbered the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, 16-5, for their 15th straight conference victory. DBU improved to 19-3, with UTSA, not quite as hot, sitting at 17-4.

Both will finish a series at home this weekend — Rice at UTSA and Middle Tennessee at Dallas Baptist — before the two will meet for three games next week (May 12-14) in San Antonio. After playing a final non-conference game on May 16 at Abilene Christian, UTSA closes out the C-USA regular season with a series on the road (May 18-20) at Louisiana Tech.

UTSA (34-12) needs five wins to tie and six to break the school’s single-season mark for victories in a season.

UTSA reliever Simon Miller and catcher Josh Killeen celebrate after the final out. 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 reliever Simon Miller and catcher Josh Killeen celebrate after the final out. Miller pitched two scoreless innings for his 10th save, lowering his earned run average to 1.06. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Records

Rice 17-28, 7-15
UTSA 34-12, 17-4

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

C-USA standings

Dallas Baptist 19-3, 35-11
UTSA 17-4, 34-12
Charlotte 12-9, 23-22
Louisiana Tech 12-10, 23-24
Middle Tennessee 11-11, 22-22
FAU 11-11, 27-19
WKU 10-12, 25-21
Rice 7-15, 17-28
FIU 5-17, 18-27
UAB 5-17, 14-30

Digging out of a hole — twice

Twice on an extremely muggy Friday night in South Texas, UTSA seemed destined for defeat. The Rice Owls jumped all over UTSA starter Luke Malone for three runs in the first inning and then another in the second for a 4-0 lead. In response, the Roadrunners battled back with two in their own half of the second and two more in the third for a 4-4 tie.

Leading into the fifth inning, Malone seemed to have settled down. UTSA’s preseason all-conference pitcher had strung two scoreless innings together. His command was sound and his breaking pitch was hooking into the zone. Just as suddenly, Malone got into trouble in the fifth, allowing two baserunners before Owls freshman Ben Royo stepped to the plate. Royo hammered a ball over the left field wall to give the Owls a 7-4 advantage.

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. 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

Caleb Hill scores in the seventh inning on a hit by Matt King. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning. Hill collected three hits, scored twice and had an RBI. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“There’s nothing to fault Luke for,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “You know, these other teams, the way we describe it, they practice hitting and they can hit. Luke’s always been a competitive overachiever. So, you’ve got to give the other team a little credit. I’m proud of (Luke) for sticking it out, really … He’s such a competitive kid. It’s wonderful to have him.”

It’s also a good thing to have veteran hitters who can turn it up a notch when adversity strikes. With Rice starter Parker Smith out of the game, the Roadrunners went to work against the Owls’ bullpen. In the seventh inning, they broke through with four runs on five hits. The big blows were a leadoff homer by Taylor Smith and a two-run single by Matt King against Justin Long.

In came Cristian Cienfuegos, who unraveled in short order, allowing Roadrunners to reach base twice on hit by pitches, sandwiched around a single by Josh Killeen. It all set the bases-loaded table for Isaiah Walker, who drew a walk on six pitches to force in the go-ahead run. UTSA’s 8-7 lead was its first of the day.

“We got some good hitters, some grown-up hitters,” Hallmark said. “We had some really, really tough at bats, where they take pitches that normally would get people out. But we take ’em and lay off tough pitches. That gets overlooked if you’re not a baseball person. You have to lay off the tough pitches and put yourself in a position to do damage.”

Antonio Valdez did just that in the eighth inning. The switch hitter, batting from the left side against Rice righthander Matthew Linskey, took the first pitch for a ball. fouled one off. Took another ball. Fouled off another pitch. Then on a fastball down the middle, he uncorked a big swing that resulted in a loud ringing sound, with the ball re-directed high and far toward the left field wall. It went out for a majestic, one-out solo homer and a 9-7 lead.

Conference title-race crunch time: UTSA hosts Rice tonight

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

The UTSA Roadrunners are 33-12 for the season and 19-2 in games that relief ace Simon Miller pitches. Consequently, Miller is likely to be on the mound some time tonight in the opener of a three-game, Conference USA series against the Rice Owls. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Three days after suffering their most lopsided loss of the season, the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners will return to Conference USA play tonight as they host the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game series. First pitch is at 6 p.m. at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA yielded 18 hits, including five home runs, in an 18-2 loss at home Tuesday night to the Sam Houston Houston State Bearkats.

With 10 games left in the regular season, a series of bounce-back performances against Rice this weekend might be considered crucial to the team’s long-term goals of a C-USA title and an NCAA tournament bid.

All C-USA teams have nine conference games remaining over the next three weekends, with the conference tournament looming May 24-28 in Houston. The front-runners in the chase are the Dallas Baptist Patriots (18-3), the Roadrunners (16-4) and the Charlotte 49ers (12-8).

This weekend, Dallas Baptist, UTSA and Charlotte are all playing at home. The Patriots face a test from the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, while the Roadrunners take on the Owls in a series for the second time this season, and the 49ers meet FAU.

Earlier this season, the Roadrunners won two of three in a closely-contested series against Rice at Houston.

Parker Smith, the Owls’ Friday night starter, plus relief pitchers Matthew Linskey and Krishna Raj, all had productive outings in the series played at Reckling Park.

UTSA won the opener, 4-3 in 11 innings. Rice bounced back to claim a 13-8 decision in the second game and then UTSA rebounded to take the finale, 6-5.

Offensively for Rice, Guy Garibay homered in each of the first two games. Drew Holderbach, Manny Garza and Ben Royo all had multi-hit performances in Game Two. In the third game, the Owls bashed three more home runs, including one each by Aaron Smigelski, Royo and Connor Walsh.

The difference in the series for UTSA stemmed from solid performances in the opener by pitchers Luke Malone and Simon Miller, who combined to shut down the Owls for 10 and 1/3 innings. Also, in the series finale, UTSA’s bullpen work from Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery and Daniel Shafer was crucial.

In addition, Antonio Valdez produced three hits and three RBIs over the weekend and pounded home runs in both victories. Also in the three games, Josh Killeen had six hits and Sammy Valdez three, with three runs scored. Diaz homered and had two RBIs in the finale.

The Roadrunners haven’t played as well lately as they have for most of the season. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 games, and they had to scramble to secure wins over Houston Christian and UAB in that stretch.

Roadrunners having success at the plate lately include Caleb Hill (.454 over his last six games), Taylor Smith (.413 in his last eight) and Leyton Barry (.395 in his last 12). On the mound, Miller has been dynamic. The 6-foot-2 junior righthander from Canton hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four appearances. Also in that span, he has struck out eight batters in seven innings.

Miller is a potential All-America candidate with a season record of 7-0, 10 saves and a 1.10 ERA. Moreover, the Roadrunners are 19-2 when he pitches. UTSA is also 9-3 when Malone pitches in a game. Lately, though, the senior righty from Round Rock has struggled a bit, allowing nine earned runs in 12 and 2/3 innings over his last two starts. Malone, the team’s Friday night starter, is 6-3 with a 3.13 ERA for the season.

Records

UTSA 33-12, 16-4
Rice 17-27, 7-14

Coming up

Rice at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Notable

UTSA took a significant tumble in the NCAA’s ratings percentage index this week. Before the lopsided loss to Sam Houston, the team’s RPI was at No. 47. It fell in the days afterward, and by Friday morning, it was at No. 57.

An RPI in the 30s going into NCAA tournament selection day is considered crucial for programs vying for at-large berths into the 64-team national field. After losing in the C-USA finals last season, UTSA was 37th going into selection day and didn’t receive a bid.

Given the history, RPI is a statistic to watch in the coming weeks. Going into Friday night, Dallas Baptist has the top RPI in the conference at No. 19, and UTSA is second. FAU is next at 67, followed by Charlotte (74), Louisiana Tech (127) and Rice (145) Bringing up the rear, Middle Tennessee is 170, followed by Western Kentucky (174), UAB (179) and FIU (208).

UTSA plays three games at home next week against C-USA leading Dallas Baptist (May 12-14). After a non-conference game at Abilene Christian the following week (on May 16), UTSA finishes its conference schedule with three on the road at Louisiana Tech. The LA Tech series (May 18-20) is scheduled to start on a Thursday and run through Saturday.

UTSA beats Rice, 6-5, and wins a Conference USA road series, two games to one

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA righthander Daniel Shafer retired one batter in the eighth inning and three straight in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon as the streaking UTSA Roadrunners won a Conference USA road series, downing the Rice Owls, 6-5.

With the victory, the Roadrunners (20-5, 5-1 in the C-USA) improved to 12-2 in their last 14 games and maintained a hold on first place early in the conference race.

Powered by three home runs, the Owls (12-12, 4-2) rallied into a 3-2 lead early in the game and came back again to tie 5-5 in the late innings.

But behind the relief pitching of Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery and Shafer, the Roadrunners captured the series against the Owls at Reckling Park in Houston. Leyton Barry doubled in the eighth inning for an RBI and a 6-5 lead for the Roadrunners.

UTSA won the series opener on Friday, claiming a 4-3 victory in 11 innings. Rice responded Saturday, exploding past the visitors from San Antonio, 13-8.

In response, the Roadrunners came back on Sunday, played error-free baseball and emerged with their second one-run victory on the weekend and their third of the season.

Kingsbury worked two scoreless innings without allowing a hit to earn his first victory. He is 1-0. Shafer struck out one and cruised to his second save in the series and his team-leading fifth for the season. Blake Brogdon was the losing pitcher, falling to 1-2, despite striking out six in 3 and 1/3 innings.

Records

UTSA 20-5, 5-1
Rice 12-12, 4-2

Coming up

UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

UTSA at Rice baseball
Game 3 summary

Capitalizing on Rice starter Tom Vincent’s control problems, the Roadrunners took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Vincent set the UTSA rally in motion when he hit Sammy Diaz with a pitch. Vincent walked three more in the inning.

Both Shane Sirdashney and Isaiah Walker worked the count to 3-2 before they drew bases-loaded walks to drive in the first two runs of the game. With the bases loaded, UTSA had a chance to do more damage, but Leyton Barry grounded out to end the threat.

Down by two runs early for the third straight day, the Owls retaliated with three runs in their next at bat against UTSA starter Zach Royse.

The surge came suddenly, as the three runs scored on two swings of the bat. First, Royse walked the leadoff man. Next, Aaron Smigelski clubbed a two-run homer. On the next pitch, Ben Royo hit a solo shot.

Given the one-run lead to protect, Vincent couldn’t get it done. After UTSA’s Antonio Valdez led off the third and reached on an error, Sammy Diaz belted a two-run homer, and the Roadrunners once again assumed the lead, 4-3.

The Owls, in response, replaced Vincent. His day was done. Right-handed reliever Tyler Hamilton took the mound and retired three of the next four batters.

In the bottom half of the third, the Roadrunners also made a pitching change, going to freshman righthander Ruger Riojas, who promptly started his day by retiring three straight.

Riojas continued to throw strikes and find success in the fourth. After yielding a two-out double to Aaron Smigelski, the first-year player from Wimberley High School came off the mound, fielded a ground ball and threw out Ben Royo to end the inning.

With Riojas finding his groove, Valdez stepped up on offense to create more momentum for the Roadrunners. He led off the top of the fifth by pulling a pitch and drilling it for a solo homer over the right field wall. Valdez’s eighth homer of the year boosted UTSA’s lead to 5-3.

After Josh Killeen followed with a one-out double to deep right, Rice elected to stay with Hamilton, who promptly walked Matt King. At that point, Rice coaches had seen enough, and Blake Brogdon entered as the Owls’ third pitcher. Brogdon closed the door on UTSA, getting Taylor Smith on a long fly ball to center to end it.

As the game reached the middle innings, Riojas emerged as a force for UTSA. A freshman from Wimberley, Riojas cruised through the third, fourth and fifth by retiring nine out of 10 Rice batters. He struck out two in the bottom of the fifth as UTSA maintained its two-run lead.

With Brogdon throwing well for Rice and shutting out UTSA in the top of the sixth, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark didn’t hesitate — he sent Riojas out for his fourth inning on the day.

Nonetheless, the Owls exploded again. First, Guy Garibay Jr. singled up the middle, and then Connor Walsh belted a two-run home run. As Walsh crossed the plate, Rice had tied the game, 5-5. It was Rice’s third homer of the day and its fifth in the series.

UTSA’s Fischer Kingsbery, a junior from Leander, replaced Riojas and finished the inning, walking one but retiring Ben Royo on a pop up to the infield.

In the top of the eighth, UTSA’s Taylor Smith led off with a single and moved to second on a ground ball.

As Brogdon exited the playing field with two outs, Jack Ben-Shoshan came in to pitch for the Owls. The first batter, Leyton Barry, greeted him with an RBI double to give UTSA a 6-5 lead. Next up, Valdez smoked a ball to right field but it was caught, ending the inning.

In the bottom half, Hallmark had some choices to make. First and foremost, how long should he stay with Kingsbery? Well, Kingsbery did his job, retiring two straight. From there, Hallmark lifted him for Daniel Shafer, who ended the inning with one pitch. Walsh, who had homered in his last at bat, flied out to right.

Notable

On Friday, the Roadrunners won the opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Freshman Tye Odom delivered the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th with an RBI single. Simon Miller pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of relief for the victory, and Daniel Shafer got the last two outs for the save.

On Saturday, Manny Garza and Paul Smith drove in three runs apiece as the Owls bounced back from the series-opening loss for a 13-8 victory. In a game that featured three lead changes, Rice pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of eight UTSA walks to even the best-of-three at one win apiece.

Garza, Smith lead the Rice Owls past UTSA, 13-8

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Manny Garza and Paul Smith drove in three runs apiece Saturday as the Rice Owls bounced back from a series-opening loss for a 13-8 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

In a Conference USA game that featured three lead changes, Rice pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of eight UTSA walks to even the best-of-three at one win apiece.

A big blow for the Owls came in the fifth inning when Smith, a freshman from Houston Episcopal High School, blasted a three-run home homer to cap a five-run outburst and boost his team into a 9-5 lead.

After UTSA rallied twice over the next few innings, Rice’s Ben Royo unloaded with a long, two-run homer off Drake Smith in the bottom of the eighth to make it 13-8.

For UTSA, Taylor Smith (no relation to Paul Smith) and Tye Odom both went two for four at the plate with two RBIs. Smith cranked a two-run homer. Josh Killeen had three hits and scored twice.

The series finale between teams tied for the early lead in the C-USA race is set for Sunday afternoon at Rice’s Reckling Park.

Records

UTSA 19-5, 4-1
Rice 12-11, 4-1

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.
UTSA at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Notable

On Friday, the Roadrunners won the opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Freshman Tye Odom delivered the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th with an RBI single. Simon Miller pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of relief for the victory, and Daniel Shafer got the last two outs for the save.

Odom strokes the winning hit as UTSA beats Rice 4-3 in 11 innings

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Freshman Tye Odom delivered an RBI single for the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, and the UTSA Roadrunners held in the bottom half to beat the Rice Owls 4-3 on the road in the opener of a Conference USA baseball series.

The series will continue with single games Saturday and Sunday at Reckling Park in Houston.

UTSA managed just enough offense to win for the 11th time in 12 games behind the pitching of starter Luke Malone, relief ace Simon Miller and closer Daniel Shafer.

After Malone pitched 5 and 2/3 innings, coming out in the sixth after he was hit by a batted ball, Miller entered and worked masterfully through the next 4 and 2/3, earning the victory and improving his record to 6-0 on the season.

Though Miller yielded the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, UTSA stayed with him, and he pitched into the 11th.

All told, he threw 78 pitches. Miller, the nation’s earned run average leader at 0.38 entering the series, yielded one run on four hits and one walk. He struck out seven.

Trying to close the game, Miller hit Drew Holderbach with a pitch to open the bottom of the 11th.

After Holderbach was erased on a Connor Walsh fielder’s choice, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark took Miller out and replaced him with Shafer, who induced Max Johnson to pop up.

In the final sequence, Shafer earned the save when he fanned Aaron Smigelski to end it.

The game started fast with UTSA’s Antonio Valdez clubbing a two-run homer off Rice starter Parker Smith in the top of the first. Rice responded in the bottom half when Guy Garibay Jr. smashed a two-run homer off Malone.

UTSA took a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Leyton Barry bunted for a single and took second base on a throwing error by Smith. Barry advanced to third on a fly ball and then raced home on a wild pitch.

Undeterred, Rice scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth against Miller to tie it.

Manny Garza started the uprising with a two-out single. At that point, Johnson entered to pinch run. Smigelski followed with an infield single to the right side, putting runners at first and second. Pinch hitter Paul Smith, a freshman, stroked an RBI single to right to tie the game.

Records

UTSA 19-4, 4-0
Rice 11-11, 3-1

Coming up

UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.

UTSA women engineer a monster comeback to win again in Frisco

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Basketball is their game, and they all play on the same team, but it has become clear in the last month or so that the UTSA Roadrunners are more than that. Way more. They’re a group of women who keep getting more remarkable by the day.

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Rice 66-53 in Conference USA women's basketball on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston’s UTSA Roadrunners have rebounded from a 4-15 record to win nine of their last 12 games, including six in a row. – File photo by Joe Alexander

They started the season with a string of frustrating losses, and now here they are, one win away from playing for the Conference USA postseason title.

“Gosh, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of this group,” UTSA coach Karen Aston said Thursday, after her sixth-seeded Roadrunners rallied from a 15-point, first-half deficit to stun the three-seed Rice Owls, 62-54, in the C-USA tournament quarterfinals.

With the victory, UTSA claimed its sixth win in a row and made a little bit of school history by winning for the second time in two days in the tournament being contested at The Star in Frisco.

Not only did the Roadrunners earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against the two-seed WKU Lady Toppers, but they also became the first UTSA women’s basketball team to win multiple games at a conference postseason tournament in 14 years.

The last one to do it? The Monica Gibbs-led 2009 Roadrunners, who swept three games in Katy to claim the Southland Conference postseason title and a No 15 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This time, it was Sidney Love, Kyra White, Jordyn Jenkins and others who created the magic. They stayed focused against the Owls even when it appeared as if they were more likely to be on the bus ride home to San Antonio later in the evening, rather than having dinner together and preparing a game-plan for the semifinals.

“The coaches said it in the locker room later,” Aston said. “The players kind of checked themselves at halftime. We didn’t play very well in the first half. We played … sort of how we played early in the year, and somewhere in the second half they sort of found themselves again. And remembered who they really are.

“I just thought we dug really deep,” the coach added. “Started to get stops. Obviously, got more aggressive. I thought Kyra and Sidney’s aggression in the second half was really the difference in the game. It opened up some stuff for the other players. So, really it was just a mindset. We changed our mindset in the second half.”

White, a junior guard from Judson, sat next to her coach in the postgame interviews and put her own spin on what she thought it was that changed for her teammates.

“The want to not go home,” she replied. “We just all wanted to be as connected as we could in the last 20 minutes and fight for one another. It’s too early to go home for us. So we just kept that in mind and kept (focusing) on the bigger picture.”

White’s inference might make some in the C-USA administration a bit nervous.

Could a team with a 13-18 record win two more games in Frisco and claim the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAAs? Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing, considering the talents of Jenkins, Love, White and others.

Jenkins, a 6-foot junior transfer from Southern Cal, brushed off foul trouble to finish with 22 points and seven rebounds. In the fourth quarter, the C-USA Player of the Year took over with 12 points, including nine in the last two minutes.

Backcourt mates Love and White also were very good when it mattered. Love had 11 of her 13 points in the fourth, including one stretch when she scored eight in a row. White finished her day with nine points, eight rebounds and five steals.

The 22-win Owls played well early, running off to a 29-14 lead with 3:56 left in the half. They also led 31-19 at intermission and 42-34 at the end of three quarters. But as it turned out, their tournament came to a close, as did their five-game winning streak.

India Bellamy and Ashlee Austin led Rice with 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Records

Rice 22-8
UTSA 13-18

C-USA women’s tournament
At The Star, in Frisco

Thursday’s quarterfinals

Middle Tennessee State 84, Charlotte 53
UTEP 64, Louisiana Tech 54
WKU 71, UAB 67
UTSA 62, Rice 54

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 WKU (18-12) vs. No. 6 UTSA (13-18), 7 p.m.

Saturday’s championship game

Friday’s winners, 4:30 p.m.

Notable

The Roadrunners have had their struggles this season, starting out 2-7 in the nonconference phase of the schedule. Entering C-USA play, things didn’t get much better. They played the first half of a 20-game conference slate and put down a 2-8 record. In the second half, the Roadrunners started to click, winning seven of their last 10. Now that they’ve beaten Florida Atlantic and Rice on back-to-back days at the tournament, it means that since the last weekend of January, they are 9-3.