Simon Miller wins Pitcher of the Year; Miller and Antonio Valdez make first-team all conference

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings. UTSA scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past Rice 9-7 in Conference USA baseball on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller has been named Pitcher of the Year in Conference USA, according to information released on the C-USA website Tuesday. – File photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Simon Miller has been named Pitcher of the Year in Conference USA. Meanwhile, Miller is also a first-team, all-conference selection along with UTSA third baseman Antonio Valdez, according to honors announced on the C-USA website Tuesday afternoon.

UTSA's Antonio Valdez scores the go-ahead run on a double-steal in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word at Roadrunner Field on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Antonio Valdez (at right) has been named first-team, all-Conference USA. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Second-team selections for UTSA are catcher Josh Killeen, second baseman Leyton Barry, outfielder Caleb Hill, pitcher Luke Malone and utility man Sammy Diaz. Pitcher Ruger Riojas was named to the all freshman team.

Miller produced an 8-1 record, 11 saves and a 1.83 earned run average, which ranked fifth in the nation and first in the conference. Valdez led the conference in triples with seven and ranked second in runs scored (63), hits (84), batting average (.391), and RBIs (65).

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.


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.


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.

Magic number in sight: UTSA needs seven more wins to reach 40 for the season

Leyton Barry and the UTSA Roadrunners have won 33 games through the end of April. A school-record, 40-win season seems entirely possible. — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners have talked openly recently about a few of their goals for the baseball season.

Namely, that they want to win a Conference USA title. That they also want to secure an NCAA tournament bid, and that they would like to make some noise when they get there, as well.

But after winning two out of three games against the UAB Blazers last weekend, another compelling possibility is also looming.

Could the Roadrunners actually reach the 40-victory plateau in a season for the first time?

Well, it certainly seems possible now. They notched victory No. 33 on Sunday with a 9-4 win over the UAB Blazers in Birmingham.

On a windy day, Leyton Barry’s two-run double highlighted a four-run fifth inning as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners beat the Blazers for the second day in a row.

With the win and a 2-1 series victory in the books, the Roadrunners (33-11) can now turn their attention to Tuesday night when they host the Sam Houston State Bearkats in non conference, and then Friday night when they host the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game C-USA series.

Altogether, the Roadrunners have 11 games remaining in the regular season, and that’s all before they will take the field for the conference tournament, which is set for May 24-28 at Houston.

All of which means, the school record of 39 wins in a season established in both 1994 and 2008 is now in serious jeopardy, and a 40-win season is well within reach.

In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the Roadrunners already have established a certain level of excellence that will serve them well in coming years.

Last year, they challenged for the C-USA regular-season crown, won 38 games and reached the title game in the conference tournament. This year, they’ve backed it up with another strong season.

By winning two of three at Birmingham, the Roadrunners have now claimed winning records in 10 of 11 weekend series this season, with the only outlier being a rain-shortened weekend that ended in a 1-1 split of two games at Charlotte.

Their weekend in Birmingham started with a bummer.

On Friday, Blazers pitcher Brooks Walton went the nine-inning distance and scattered four hits in a 4-2 victory over the Roadrunners. On Saturday, a team scuffling near the bottom of the C-USA standings had the upper hand again for most of the day before the Roadrunners exploded for four runs in the ninth inning to win, 6-5.

On Sunday, UTSA had a much easier time of it, with UTSA generating four runs in the fifth to open up a 7-3 lead. Even though the Blazers got one run back and threatened seriously to close the gap even more, relief pitching ace Simon Miller silenced a rally in the seventh and went on to record a three-inning scoreless save.

Just about the time that Miller started to shut down the Blazers, the Rice Owls took a 3-1 lead on the first-place Dallas Baptist Patriots. It appeared that the Roadrunners, if they could hold on, could make up some ground in the regular-season title race on one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Well, the Roadrunners closed the deal. But the Patriots didn’t cooperate. They rumbled to life in the ninth inning and roared past the Owls, 4-3. In completing the three-game series sweep, the Patriots improved to 34-10 and 18-3 in the conference, a game and a half ahead of 16-4 UTSA.

How will the race go down the stretch?

Frankly, the Patriots might be tough to catch, the way they’re playing. They’ve won 14 conference games in a row, and in the coming weeks, they’ll play three-game series against Middle Tennessee State, UTSA and Western Kentucky.

The Patriots will get Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky at home, sandwiched around a trip to San Antonio May 12-14 for a date with UTSA at Roadrunner Field.

By comparison, UTSA will host Rice in a three-game stretch later this week and then Dallas Baptist the following week, before it finishes on the road at Louisiana Tech, always a difficult place to play.

Single games in non conference remain for UTSA starting Tuesday, when they host Sam Houston State, and on May 16, in a road test at Abilene Christian. After Abilene, the Roadrunners go to LA Tech, for a C-USA series scheduled May 18-20.

So, 40 wins is definitely possible. But, is it possible even before UTSA gets to Houston for the conference tournament?

It is, if you consider that the Roadrunners seem entirely capable of going 7-4 down the stretch. But what about the team’s chances on Memorial Day weekend at Houston? What about reaching the NCAA tournament?

Right now, it’s just too hard to project anything definitive about either one of those situations. In another three weeks, at the end of the regular season, the dust will clear and UTSA’s big picture forecast should be much easier for everyone to see.

For the time being, it’s probably best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.


UTSA 33-11, 16-4
UAB 14-29, 5-16

Coming up

Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Rice at UTSA, three game series starting Friday.

UAB series glance

Friday: UAB beat UTSA, 4-2.
Saturday: UTSA beat UAB, 6-5.
Sunday: UTSA beat UAB, 9-4.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 18-3, 34-10
UTSA 16-4, 33-11
Charlotte 12-8, 22-21
Louisiana Tech 11-10, 22-23
Middle Tennessee 11-10, 22-21


Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark was ejected after the top of the third inning Sunday, apparently for objecting to calls on balls and strikes. It was his second ejection of the season.

UTSA starting pitcher Ulises Quiroga (7-2) worked 5 and 2/3 innings and earned the victory. He gave up four runs on six hits, while walking five and striking out five. Simon Miller picked up his team-leading 10th save. Miller didn’t allow a run or a hit in three innings and lowered his earned run average to 1.10.

Lefty Carson Myers (1-5) took the loss after yielding seven runs in 4 and 1/3 innings to start the game for the Blazers.

UTSA outfielder Shane Sirdashney returned to play in his first game since April 16. Sirdashney entered as a defensive substitute in center field in the bottom of the seventh and then had two at bats. He bunted for a sacrifice on his first plate appearance and then hit an RBI single in the ninth.

Isaiah Walker, another UTSA outfielder who has missed time with an injury lately, started the game, played both right and center field and went 0 for 2 at the plate. He was also hit by a pitch.

UTSA rallies with four runs in the ninth to stun UAB, 6-5

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA slugger Antonio Valdez drilled a three-run homer to highlight a four-run uprising in the top of the ninth inning, and then relief ace Simon Miller closed the door in the bottom half Saturday afternoon as the 25th-ranked Roadrunners downed the UAB Blazers, 6-5, in Birmingham.

With the victory, UTSA evened the three-game Conference USA series at one victory apiece. The finale is set for Sunday at noon.

UTSA’s Leyton Barry led off the game with a solo homer. It was his second homer in two days in Birmingham. Later in the inning, Josh Killeen ripped a run-scoring single, lifting the Roadrunners into an early 2-0 lead.

In response, UAB rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second, before adding single runs in the fourth and the fifth innings for a 5-2 lead. Darryl Buggs led the Blazers with four hits, including a home run and a double.

Trailing by three runs going into the top of the ninth, UTSA called on pinch-hitter Clark Henry, who drew a leadoff walk from Tyler O’Clair.

At that point, UAB elected to take out O’Clair, who had been effective in four plus innings of work.

Blazers reliever John Luke Martin promptly walked Barry, putting runners at first and second, and UTSA’s Taylor Smith followed with a single up the middle, which loaded the bases.

Caleb Hill brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly to deep left, trimming the UAB lead to 5-3. Then, with two runners still aboard, Valdez hit a 2-1 pitch off of Martin for a three-run blast, giving UTSA a one-run cushion. It was the ninth homer of the season for Valdez.

Given a one-run lead, UTSA coaches brought in Miller, one of the top relief pitchers in the nation.

Miller retired the first batter of the inning, Tyler Waugh, on a ground ball. From there, however, things got interesting as Christian Hall doubled into the gap in right center.

Brayton Brown, who had two doubles on the day, grounded to shortstop for the second out and moved Hall over to third base.

Henry Hunter, the potential winning run, stepped to the plate and flied out to center to end it. For Miller, it was his ninth save of the season.

For UTSA, it was the team’s second victory of the week after trailing going into the ninth inning. On Tuesday, playing at home, the Roadrunners rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Houston Christian, 9-8, in non-conference play.


UTSA 32-11, 15-4
UAB 14-28, 5-15

Coming up

UTSA at UAB, Sunday at noon
Sam Houston State at UTSA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.

C-USA leaders

Dallas Baptist 17-3, 33-10
UTSA 15-4, 32-11
Charlotte 12-7, 22-20
Middle Tennessee 11-9, 22-20
Louisiana Tech 10-10, 21-23


The 19th-ranked Dallas Baptist Patriots have won the first two games of a series against the Rice Owls, pushing their lead over the Roadrunners to one and a half games. The Patriots (17-3 in conference, 33-10 overall) won 8-6 in 12 innings and 10-3 at Rice’s Reckling Park in Houston.

Playing in Birmingham, the Roadrunners (15-4, 32-11) were defeated by the UAB Blazers 4-2 on Friday night and then bounced back to beat the Blazers 6-5 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the third-place Charlotte 49ers (12-7, 22-20) have lost twice at Western Kentucky and fourth-place Middle Tennessee (11-9, 22-20) has split a pair at home with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Miller, UTSA hold off FIU 9-8 to clinch a C-USA series on the road

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Relief ace Simon Miller and the 22nd-ranked UTSA Roadrunners survived a ninth-inning scare Sunday morning, forcing a ground ball to the mound for the final out in a 9-8 victory over the FIU Panthers in Miami.

The teams started play early Saturday afternoon but had to leave the field in the evening because of a weather delay. Ultimately, the game was suspended in the seventh inning Saturday night, with the Roadrunners leading 9-6.

With the re-start taking place on Sunday morning, the Panthers seized the opportunity to stage a comeback, and they almost pulled it off. They scored twice in the eighth inning and had the potential tying run at third and winning run at second in the ninth, before Miller retired Mike Rosario to end it.

Ruger Riojas (4-0) was awarded the victory after pitching 3 and 1/3 innings to the point that the game was suspended on Saturday night. Miller worked the final 2 and 2/3 for his eighth save. For Pat Hallmark, the win was his 100th in four seasons as coach of the Roadrunners.

UTSA won the opener of the series Friday night, 22-8. With the two victories, the Roadrunners have clinched the series and have maintained a hold on first place in Conference USA. The teams are scheduled play the third game of a C-USA series after a scheduled half-hour break.

Coming up

UTSA at FIU, Sunday, 11 a.m. (central time)


UTSA 30-9, 14-2
FIU 15-24, 3-14

C-USA leaders

UTSA 14-2, 30-9
Dallas Baptist 15-3, 31-9

Game recap

The second game of a Conference USA baseball series resumed Sunday morning at 9:15 (central time) in Miami, with Simon Miller on the mound for the UTSA Roadrunners. With UTSA leading 9-6, one out and nobody on base, Adrian Figueroa stepped into the box for the FIU Panthers. Figueroa grounded out and Henry Wallen flied out to end an inning.

UTSA came to bat in the top of the eighth against lefthander David Eckaus. Eckaus retired the first two batters before yielding a single to Leyton Barry. He steadied himself and struck out Taylor Smith. In the bottom half, with Miller starting his first full inning, FIU opened with an infield single by Roney, and then Perez reached on an error by Roadrunners second baseman Leyton Barry.

At that point, Miller struck out Rosario. But FIU continued to battle, with Dante Giarardi reaching on an infield single, loading the bases. Miller fanned Alec Sanchez for the second out, bringing up Ruben Carpio, who had five hits against UTSA in the last two days. Carpio promptly singled through the right side for two RBIs, with Giarardi going to third.

With Miller working to Guida and the Roadrunners’ lead trimmed to 9-8, a ground ball force out ended the inning.

Emboldened, FIU’s Eckaus worked to the heart of UTSA’s batting order in the top of the ninth. It didn’t take long for him to strike out Antonio Valdez, Matt King and Caleb Hill. As a result, the Roadrunners took the field in the bottom half, with the Panthers trailing by a run but feeling some momentum. It was Miller’s job to shut it down.

Figueroa, the first batter, struck out. Drama ensued as Miller walked Henry Wallen, putting the tying run aboard. Brendan Roney promptly singled to right, moving Figueroa to third. With Noel Perez at bat, Roney stole second. But Miller got tough, fanning Perez for the second out. Mike Rosario stepped to the plate with the potential tying run at third and the winning run at second. Rosario grounded to the pitcher for the final out of the game.

The Roadrunners survived.

Bullpen-rich UTSA holds off Western Kentucky to clinch a C-USA home series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Right now, Pat Hallmark has more aces than a card shark in poker.

Just when you think he’s in trouble in a baseball game, the coach of the UTSA Roadrunners looks down to the bullpen and motions for another pitcher to get loose.

Most of the time, the move serves to frustrate the opposing team.

Hallmark was up to his old tricks again Saturday. His starter didn’t make it through the third inning, so he called on freshman Ruger Riojas.

Riojas, Daniel Shafer and Simon Miller combined for 6 and 1/3 innings of relief on a hot and muggy afternoon, helping the Roadrunners hold off the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 5-4.

As a result, UTSA (22-6, 7-1) won its first two in a three-game home series to maintain its hold on first place in Conference USA.

Western Kentucky (16-12, 2-6) battled hard and held a 2-1 lead through the middle of the fourth inning.

But after UTSA scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, an outburst highlighted by Josh Killeen’s two-out, two-run single, the Roadrunners never trailed again.

Though the Roadrunners have scored C-USA series victories against FAU, Rice and Western Kentucky, their ride hasn’t been without its bumps.

For instance, coming into the weekend, a once red-hot offense cooled off a bit and UTSA lost three of five overall, all on the road, including non-conference losses at UT-Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The offense remains in something of a funk, having struck for only four hits in a 3-2 victory Friday night and six more on Saturday.

Thanks to the pitching, though, UTSA has a chance to go for the sweep tomorrow.

“We’re kind of a little displaced with the offense at the moment,” Killeen said. “Hitting comes and goes. It kind of comes in waves. So it’s good to take the series already.”

Riojas (3-0) pitched three innings, yielding single runs in the fourth and in the sixth, to earn the victory.

More importantly to the big picture, he remained undefeated in his first season of college baseball out of Wimberley High School.

“He’s a great pitcher for us,” Killeen said. “We saw it in the fall. He has a really good fastball that kind of takes off out of his hand. Mixes with a pretty good breaker that he hits for strikes.

We like that. And he also can throw his change up pretty well, too. It’s also hard. It’s not a floating changeup. But, he’s got a lot of confidence. We knew that from the start.”

Riojas just looks comfortable on the mound. Even though he entered in the top of the third with bases loaded in a 1-1 game, the 5-foot-11 righthander escaped unscathed by getting a ground ball to end the inning.

“Just wanted to do my job,” he said, “throw strikes and hit my spots as best I could each and every pitch.”

Western Kentucky touched him for four hits as he worked into the sixth inning, including a solo home run by Ty Batusich leading off the fourth.

But he didn’t walk anyone, which has become a trademark. Riojas has walked only five while striking out 22 in 21 innings this season.

His earned run average has increased over his past few outings against Rice and WKU, respectively, but it’s still a more than respectable 3.00 for the season.

“Honestly, I think it’s going really good (for me),” Riojas said, “trusting my stuff, trusting my defense. Just letting my body work as it should … I love it. Just happy to be out there.”

Teammates say Riojas has played quite a bit of baseball in his career, which accounts for his poise in tough situations.

“It’s a lot different than high school,” he said. “I played at a small 4A in the area. There wasn’t as much competition as there is here. Every hitter you face here is good. Staying on top of that I think (is important).”

It also helps that when he gets in trouble, as he did in the sixth when he yielded a two-out single and then hit a batter, he had Shafer to come in behind him.

Though Bret Blomquist greeted Shafer with an RBI double down the line, that was the extent of the damage. With runners at second and third, Andrew Delaney popped up in the infield to end the threat, leaving UTSA with a 5-3 lead going into the late innings.

Shafer retired three straight in the seventh and three of four in the eighth, keeping WKU off the board in each inning.

In the ninth, Shafer was about the close out the game, but a throwing error by first baseman Sammy Diaz on a potential double play ball loaded the bases and kept the door open for the Hilltoppers.

Aidan Gilroy responded with a fly ball that brought in a run for the final 5-4 margin. But with dangerous Drew Reckart coming to the plate, Hallmark didn’t want to take any chances. He called for Miller, who is enjoying one of the best seasons statistically in the nation.

Miller struck out Reckart on three pitches for his fifth save of the season and his second in two days. On the last pitch, WKU’s runs batted in leader was caught looking, as a Miller slider bit down to catch the inside corner.

“Sometimes his slider likes to break hard, and then sometimes it kind of sits,” Killeen said. “It’s hard to hit if you don’t know which slider is coming. That was pretty impressive by him, that last (at bat).”


Western Kentucky 16-12, 2-6
UTSA 22-6, 7-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.


With the series finale scheduled Sunday afternoon, the Roadrunners have the best record after 28 games (22-6) in school history, one game ahead of the 1994 team (21-7).

For perspective, Coach Jimmy Shankle’s ’94 team was 12-3 at home and 9-4 on the road in its opening 28. This year, by contrast, Hallmark’s fourth UTSA team has played a home-heavy schedule. UTSA is 17-3 at Roadrunner Field and 5-3 on the road …

Catchers normally don’t bat leadoff, but Josh Killeen isn’t paying attention to that. With Hallmark tweaking the lineup, the senior from Reagan High School is just trying to make hard contact.

He’s hit in the No. 1 hole the past two games. On Friday night, Killeen went one for three and scored a run. On Saturday, he went two for four and drove in two. In the process, he boosted his batting average to .362, which is No. 2 on the team.

“I enjoy the position,” Killeen said. “I think it’s great. I’m just sticking with my approach. Not trying to do anything more, anything less. A lot of people like to think, ‘Oh, you get to see more pitches.’ I just like to see a pitch and hammer it.” …

Simon Miller, in 12 appearances this season, has constructed a 6-0 win-loss record, with an 0.59 ERA. At the start of the week, he led the nation with an 0.64 ERA and was also tied for the national lead with the six victories. He’s had saves in UTSA’s two home games this weekend, boosting his season total to five.

JB’s video replay

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 aims for victory No. 21 tonight against Western Kentucky

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Sitting in first place in the Conference USA baseball race, the UTSA Roadrunners host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers tonight at 6. UTSA and WKU also will play Saturday and Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game series. All games will be played on campus at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA (20-6, 5-1 C-USA) has won its first two series in conference play, sweeping the FAU Owls at home on March 17-19 and then winning two of three at Rice University in Houston last weekend. WKU (16-10, 2-4) lost two of three at Middle Tennessee before dropping two of three at home last week against Louisiana Tech.

Winning games at a rate that is slightly off a school-record pace, UTSA has notched 20 victories by the end of March for only the second time in program history. In 1994, UTSA started out 24-9 before April 1, going on to finish the season 39-18. The ’94 team reached the NCAA tournament, playing in a regional at Austin.

After sweeping FAU two weeks ago, UTSA had won 10 straight for an 18-3 record on the season. Since then, the Roadrunners have cooled off a bit, losing 5-3 at UT Rio Grande Valley on March 21, losing in the middle of the three games at Rice, 13-8, and then falling at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 8-2 on Tuesday night.

Baylor transfer Antonio Valdez leads the team with a .412 batting average, eight home runs and 40 RBI. Caleb Hill (.363) ranks second on the team in batting average but hasn’t played since he was hit by a pitch on March 24 in the first game of the series at Rice.

Pitcher Luke Malone (2-2, 1.89 ERA) has been the team’s Friday night starter, followed by Uli Quiroga (4-0, 4.35) on Saturdays. Simon Miller (6-0, 0.64) leads the staff in victories and earned run average. Miller has 41 strikeouts in 28 and 1/3 innings. Daniel Shafer (2.35 ERA) leads the team with five saves.


Western Kentucky 16-10, 2-4
UTSA 20-6, 5-1

Coming up

Western Kentucky University at UTSA, today, 6 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
WKU at UTSA, Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

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.


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 erupts for 13 hits to run rule Houston, 12-2, in seven innings

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched two scoreless innings. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA reliever Simon Miller pitched two scoreless innings Wednesday night to earn the victory. With his performance, the junior from Canton improved his record to 2-0. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Just after UTSA’s Simon Miller shut the door on the Houston Cougars with two innings of shutout relief pitching, Matt King and pinch-hitter Clark Henry laced back-to-back triples down the right-field line Wednesday night to spark a major offensive uprising, lifting the UTSA Roadrunners to a 12-2, run-rule victory.

In all, the Roadrunners victimized the Cougars by stroking 13 hits, including three for extra bases. They also drew nine walks as Houston, a runner-up at the American Athletic Conference tournament last year, used 11 pitchers, with only a few of them doing much to aid the cause.

On the heels of a convincing victory, the Roadrunners improved to 3-1, with all games being played at home. They’ll host the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Gaels in a four-game set starting Friday night at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA's Clark Henry had a pinch-hit triple and scored on an error. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Clark Henry produced a pinch-hit RBI triple and scored on a throwing error, all on one madcap play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

As Miller hung zeroes on the scoreboard in the fifth and sixth innings against Houston, UTSA responded with multiple runs both times against the bedraggled visiting pitching staff. The Roadrunners scored twice in the fifth and six times in the sixth for an 11-0 lead, sending the game into the realm of garbage time.

Even though Houston rallied to score twice in the seventh, UTSA’s Daniel Shafer notched a strikeout to end the threat with the bases loaded. UTSA added a clinching run in the seventh on a Tye Odom RBI double for a 10-run margin, prompting officials to call it a night.

“To win fairly big is nice,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “We pitched OK. We can pitch better. We didn’t throw enough strikes. Simon Miller was great. A lot of people try to use their best bullpen arm late, but I’m going to try to use Simon when the game’s on the line, and it was.”

UTSA had scored one run in the first inning and two in the third for a 3-0 lead. The score remained the same leading into the top of the fifth, when Hallmark made the call for Miller to enter the game.

“It worked out (for us),” Hallmark said. “It’s not always going to work out that way. You might wake up in the ninth inning and wish you had him and you already pitched him, but I’m not going to let him go to waste. I’m going to use him when we need him, and we needed him right there.”

Miller, a hard-throwing righthander, yielded a couple of hits to lead off the fifth inning, but he escaped from the jam. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Miller struck out pinch hitter Jacob Schoenvogel. Next, Brandon Burckel flied to right field to advance a runner to third base. But in crunch time, Miller won the battle, with Brandon Uhse grounding out to end the threat.

In the sixth, he retired three straight, finishing it off with another ground ball out, this one from preseason all-AAC pick Anthony Tulimero.

UTSA third baseman Antonio Valdez. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA third baseman Antonio Valdez plays a ball on a big hop against the Houston Cougars. – Photo by Joe Alexander


Houston 1-3
UTSA 3-1


Houston entered the mid-week game coming off a three-game home series against the Cal Bears of the Pac 12. The Cougars dropped the first two games of the season before bouncing back to win the third. UTSA hosted third-year Division I entry Tarleton State for three last weekend, winning the first two and then losing the third in extra innings.

Coming up

Saint Mary’s, Calif., at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Saint Mary’s at UTSA (doubleheader), Saturday, first game at noon.
Saint Mary’s at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

By the numbers

Four games into the season, newcomer Antonio Valdez leads the team with a .438 batting average.

Starting at third base in all four games, the Baylor transfer was hitless on opening night, but has since punched out two, three and two hits, respectively, in his last three games. In the field, he’s made two errors in 15 chances but has fielded cleanly without a miscue in the last two games.

As far as his views on how the team has fared, Valdez said he isn’t satisfied.

“We’re 3-1, which is great, but I think we all know that there’s room for improvement,” Valdez said. “We’re all going to keep working harder and harder. You know, 3-1 is great. A win tonight is great … But, we’re shooting for something nice this year.”

Shortstop Matt King (.412) and Tye Odom (.400) have also been swinging the bat well. King leads the team with six RBIs.

Miller, one of four preseason all-Conference USA choices for UTSA, has fared well in two appearances. He’s yielded one earned run on five hits and three walks, while striking out eight.

Daniel Garza was the first reliever out of the UTSA bullpen. UTSA baseball beat Houston 12-2 in 7 innings on a run rule on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Daniel Garza was the first reliever out of the UTSA bullpen. He pitched 1 and 2/3 scoreless against Houston, allowing only one hit. He struck out one. – Photo by Joe Alexander