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

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Houston Christian 8-28
UTSA 31-10

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, three-game series starting Friday.

Diaz reflects on a Colorado mining-town, baseball bash after homering in UTSA’s 3-2 victory

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday at Roadrunner Field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

After UTSA pitchers Luke Malone and Simon Miller combined to shut down the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3-2 Friday night at Roadrunner Field, first baseman Sammy Diaz stole the show in postgame interviews, telling tales of his participation last summer in a mountain-top, long-ball competition in a Colorado mining town.

The subject of his trip to the mountains came up after Diaz smashed a titanic solo home run that helped the Roadrunners remain in first place in Conference USA.

Sammy Diaz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give UTSA the go-ahead run. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Sammy Diaz circles the bases after his fourth-inning solo home run. It was his third of the season and his second in three games. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Not too long after he hit a fourth-inning blast well over a 405-foot sign perched atop a two-tiered section of fencing in center field, giving UTSA the one-run lead that would stand up for the rest of the game, a Roadrunners’ fan on the concourse said he saw a news story online about the long-ball event held last August in Victor, Colo.

Diaz, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior from Palm Desert, Calif., confirmed after the game that he competed in the event and said he took second place with a ball that he hit 531 feet.

“It was at a community field in an old mining town, a super-old mining town,” Diaz said. “It was really cool. It was really good to go out there. Super nice. It was like, historic, one of the oldest cities in Colorado. They’ve got a bunch of gold mines out there. We were hitting on top of a mountain (in a field). There was no fence. I hit mine over City Hall. I hit mine into downtown.”

Located at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet on the southwest side of Pikes Peak, the town of Victor harkens back to the 1890s Gold Rush era.

Diaz, for one, has a few stories to tell about his trip.

The event got a little bit wild at one point when one of the competitors lost control of the bat, which flipped from the tee area out into an area with some parked cars. Diaz said “it went into the news reporter’s car, right into his window. I don’t know what happened with that, with the insurance or what. But, it made for a good video.”

Like a raucous competition in an old mining town, the fortunes for the UTSA baseball team have been mostly golden all season. The one-run victory over the Hilltoppers in the first game of a three-game C-USA series was no different. Malone pitched seven innings to pick up his third victory of the season against two losses.

Miller, one of the top pitchers in the nation statistically, worked a scoreless eighth and ninth for his fourth save. The Hilltoppers allowed a few opportunities to win the game get away from them, most notably their last at bat when Kirk Liebert led off with a double.

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings and got the save. UTSA beat Western Kentucky 3-2 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Simon Miller pitched the final two innings to earn his fourth save. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Ricardo Leonett followed with a well-hit ball to center, which allowed Liebert to take third. But with one out and the potential tying run 90 feet away, Miller steadied himself and closed the door on the visiting team from Bowling Green, Ky.

First, Ty Batusich smashed a ball to the left side. UTSA shortstop Matt King made a nifty pickup on a short hop and fired to first. With two down, Andrew Delaney came to the plate but was no match for Miller, who fanned him to clinch the team’s 21st victory of the season.

It’s the most wins for a UTSA team before April 1 since the 1994 squad went 24-9 through the end of March in 1994.

“This definitely feels good,” Miller said. “We’re playing good baseball right now. As long as we continue to play it, we’ll continue to beat teams. So, it’s nice. It’s really nice.”

Coming into Friday’s series opener, UTSA had been off its game, as much as a team with a 21-6 record and a 6-1 mark in conference can be off. On a five-game road trip, the Roadrunners went 2-3, losing at UT Rio Grande Valley, winning two of three at Rice, and then losing at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.

There was no panic at practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I don’t think it was any different,” Miller said. “We knew what we had to do. That was just to get to work and focus and be better next time out. I think that’s what we did.”

UTSA starter Luke Malone worked seven innings and struck out eight. He allowed two runs, both of them earned, on six hits and a walk. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said it’s definitely a confidence boost for the team when Malone starts a game and Miller finishes.

“Luke is just so steady,” Hallmark said. “Throws all his pitches for strikes. He’s a wonderful competitor. He checks every box, you know, and then to have Simon. Simon has those tough low breaking pitches that are really hard to get off the ground. It’s hard to get extra bases (off him).”

Hallmark said Liebert’s double into the right-center gap in the ninth was only the second extra-base hit off Miller all season.

“That makes the other team have to get multiple hits,” the coach said. “Generally they need to get three hits to beat him. Simon, his stuff is really elite. He’s ready for pro ball. And Luke, it’s the nature of the mixing of the pitches and the junk-yard dog that he is.”

For the season, Malone has a 3-2 win-loss record with a career-low 2.00 earned run average. In his last four starts, he is 3-0. Miller, along with his four saves, is 6-0 with an 0.59 ERA. The 6-foot-2 junior from Canton has struck out 44 and walked only seven in 30 and 1/3 innings.


Western Kentucky 16-11, 2-5
UTSA 21-6, 6-1

Coming up

WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.


After receiving the invitation to hit in the long-ball competition from event organizer Earnie Granville, Diaz participated with YouTube stars such as Portland-based Will Taylor of the Baseball Bat Bros, Eric “The King of JUCO” Sim, and Jeremy “The Swingman” Nowak, according to a story published in the Pike’s Peak Courier.

The newspaper reported that competitors were trying to break a Guinness world record.

According to Guinness, Babe Ruth holds the record for longest home run in a Major League game, hitting one 575 feet for the New York Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in July 1921. The longest balls hit in Colorado reportedly traveled 534, 531, 515 and 508 feet. The Pike’s Peak Courier reported that Diaz had the 531-foot shot.

Asked about Diaz’s long ball in Colorado, Miller smiled, joking that he wasn’t sure.

“I’ve heard about it,” Miller said. “I don’t know much about it. You know, in Colorado, the air is thinner, so the ball flies farther. So, we don’t know how true it is.”

To that, Diaz said, “These guys always make fun of me. They say I need the wind to hit home runs. It’s not my fault when I hit ’em when the wind’s blowing out.” The home run Diaz hit against Western Kentucky, based on its trajectory, likely traveled 420 feet or farther. It was Diaz’s third home run of the season and his second in two games.

JB’s video replay

UTSA and Southern Miss aren’t done yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Game 14: TBD, if necessary, 7:30


Game 15: Championship, 1 p.m.

Middle Tennessee pitching cools off UTSA in 2-1 victory

Pitchers Jaden Hamm and Trent Seibert combined to shut down one of the most explosive offenses in Conference USA on Sunday afternoon in leading the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to a 2-1 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.

UTSA was 26 for 79 at the plate and had scored 25 runs in winning the first two games of a C-USA series in Murfreesboro, Tenn. In response, Hamm and Seibert held the Roadrunners to 4 for 29 at bat and nearly combined for a shutout.

For the Roadrunners, their only run came in the top of the eighth when a Sammy Diaz sacrifice fly scored Jonathan Tapia from third.

With the score tied, the Blue Raiders broke through against Roadrunners’ reliever Ryan Beaird in the bottom half. Eston Snider singled and stole second and then scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Brian Dillingham.

The Roadrunners arrived at the ball park riding a six-game winning streak. They had won 17 of 20 games in one of their best stretches since they joined the C-USA in 2014. In seven previous games since April 19, they had scored in double figures five times.

In their last six games, they had belted 11 home runs.

Nonetheless, they couldn’t figure out Hamm, a 6-1 sophomore righthander from Columbia, Tennessee. Hamm, the starting pitcher, worked seven scoreless innings, allowed only three hits and struck out nine.

Even though the Roadrunners have won 17 of their last 21 games, the loss to the Blue Raiders dropped them in the C-USA standings back into a tie for second place. Southern Miss leads at 17-4, with UTSA and Louisiana Tech tied for second at 14-7.


Middle Tennessee 22-19, 12-9
UTSA 30-14, 14-7

Coming up

Tuesday — UT-Rio Grande Valley at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — Marshall at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday — Marshall at UTSA, 2 p.m.
Sunday — Marshall at UTSA, 11:30 a.m.

C-USA leaders

Southern Miss 17-4
UTSA 14-7
Louisiana Tech 14-7
Florida Atlantic 13-8
Middle Tennessee 12-9
Old Dominion 11-10
Charlotte 11-10
UAB 10-11


The Roadrunners are in reach of a school record for C-USA victories in one season. UTSA joined the C-USA in 2014. Its best finish came in 2015 when it finished 17-13. UTSA won 16 in both 2014 and 2018. The Roadrunners have three, three-game series remaining — against Marshall (at home), Southern Miss (on the road) and UAB (at home).