— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) February 26, 2022
For the third time in two days, UTSA played a game in weather better suited for outdoor hockey than baseball. Only this time, a light rain greeted the team when it showed up Saturday morning for a noon start against the Seattle Redhawks.
“We had some bad weather this morning,” Roadrunners catcher Josh Killeen said. “Light drizzle. Really cold. To get loose, it takes awhile. We got here early to run around and get our legs moving, to get our arms moving so we could feel good for the game.”
With his motor running, Killeen stepped up to the plate in his first at bat and drilled a long home run into the screen in left field.
“Felt great,” said Killeen, a sophomore from Reagan. “I knew, right off the bat (that it was a homer). It was first pitch. I was ready for a fastball, and he came in with it. I just did what I did.”
After UTSA scored twice in the first inning and once in the second off Killeen’s first home run of the season, the pitching took over, with Ulises Quiroga, Simon Miller, Grant Miller and Ryan Ward combining on a four-hit shutout in an 11-0 victory.
UTSA blew it open with six runs in the seventh inning en route to a 5-1 start to the season and a 3-0 start to the first homestand. The Roadrunners will finish the four-game home series against Seattle Sunday at noon, before nationally-ranked Stanford comes in Monday for a 1 p.m. game.
“Feels good to start off right,” Killeen said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve stepped up, even guys off the bench. So, we’re excited. Just trying to keep this momentum going into tomorrow. And then it’s a big week ahead, with Stanford. So we’re excited and ready to get after it.”
After winning 7-3 and 3-2 on Friday, the Roadrunners left the park feeling a little bit uneasy about their performance.
“I didn’t think we played very good yesterday and we won two,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “That’s what the message to the team was. We were fortunate, lucky a little bit, maybe. Also, the message was, how good can we be if we play good. Right? You win two and you don’t play good, it’s kind of a good sign.
“But we were better today. We pitched well. We hit well, and we ran the bases well. We did not run the bases well yesterday. Anyway, we were better.”
Last year, pitching haunted the Roadrunners in a 22-26 season. Their ERA was 5.92. Teams scored almost eight runs per game against them. They lost so many leads late in games, it felt like collapses were almost inevitable.
Now they’re three games into their first homestand, and they’ve given up only five runs in 25 innings against the Redhawks. For the season, they’ve really only had one clunker of a pitching outing in a 12-1 loss at Tarleton last week.
On Saturday, the Roadrunners walked too many batters. They walked 12, which will not be good enough when they face the best hitting teams later in the season. But for the second day in a row, UTSA pitchers were good enough to buckle down and throw good stuff with men on base.
“It was good to see Simon Miller pitch as well as he did,” Hallmark said. “We need him, because he’s got the stuff to beat good teams. You know, the Southern Miss of the world. He’s got the stuff to do it. He just needs experience and (to throw) the strikes.”
Miller pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to earn the victory. He seemed to get stronger as he threw more and more pitches. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore from Canton didn’t allow a hit and struck out five, though he did walk four.
“He got the breaking ball going,” Hallmark said. “He’s got a good breaking ball. He found the strike zone with it. He can be tough when he does that.”
After being limited to eight hits in Friday night’s second game, the Roadrunners rebounded with 10 hits, including four for extra bases. Leyton Barry, Chase Keng and Killeen had two hits apiece. Led by Barry, who is hitting .409 on the season, the Roadrunners have six players batting better than .300.
After going 2 for 5, Killeen boosted his average to .278. He said he is feeling good after hurting his thumb and playing as the No. 2 catcher behind Nick Thornquist last year. Killeen broke a thumb in his wrist area in the preseason and just wasn’t right physically.
He emerged fromm it all as one of the team’s best hitters in the fall. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Killeen said. “I knew I had put in all the work. Now it’s just God’s gift to me, blessing me. (Just) hoping it continues.”
Sunday — Seattle at UTSA, noon
Monday — Stanford at UTSA, 1 p.m.
UTSA's Shane Sirdashney ropes a 2RBI double to left in the B7. Roadrunners scored six in the inning, increasing their lead to 9-0 against the Seattle Redhawks. https://t.co/hyCDEtJ4sq pic.twitter.com/5pm0xCxTck
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) February 26, 2022