Remembering Mickey Lashley (1954-2024) and the boys of summer at V.J. Keefe Field

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

I’ll always remember the images of young ball players in the San Antonio Dodgers’ cramped clubhouse at V.J. Keefe Field in the late 1970s. I remember distinctly that some of them, at the time, would talk about a decade-old, country-rock song by John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

“Lodi” was a bluesy number written in the 1960s that told the tale of a down-on-his-luck musician. One who showed up in a small, Southern California town for a one-night stand, only to spend months there, broke, and lamenting elusive good fortune on the trail to stardom.

Some of those ball players, I suppose, really did suffer from the blues.

The players who dreamed of days and nights at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, who instead seemed forever tethered to a minor-league existence that ranged from Class A Lodi in the California League to Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League. They could get down on themselves, I suppose.

But I don’t really remember that about Mickey Lashley, a one-time, eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers. No sir. My best memory of Mickey? I remember him as an upbeat guy who brought positive energy to a minor-league clubhouse on the West Side of San Antonio in 1979.

Years later, in the 1990s, he brought the same intangibles in helping to start a fledgling baseball program at UTSA.

Sadly, as UTSA announced Saturday morning, Mickey Lashley died on June 13 at the age of 70. I didn’t know Mickey well, by any means. So, why am I writing this? Why does his passing strike such a chord with me this morning? Well, part of it is that he and I were about the same age. Born in the same year. Lashley in rural Oklahoma. Me in Midland, in dusty West Texas.

We were only passing acquaintances, sure, but we both sort of grew up together in the game, in a sense. Lashley was born in in 1954 Muskogee, Okla. Grew up in Bartlesville. Played in the mid-1970s for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, who made seemingly annual treks to the College World Series in that era.

My family moved to San Antonio in the 1960s. I played here when I was a kid and always loved the game. When I first crossed paths with Mickey at V.J. Keefe in 1979, I was a 24-year-old sports writer and he had already become a big-time presence in the game.

Me? I was driving my dad’s old Volkswagen beetle in my second year out of journalism school. Working for the old San Antonio Light newspaper, I thought I was big time, but I wasn’t, really. Man, I did well just to make it through a summer day. From home to the ball park, to the office and then back home every night. I still wonder how my stories ever made the paper.

For me, a good day started with a pre-game dinner at Church’s Fried Chicken on Culebra. It continued into the evening at V.J. Keefe, off 36th street, where if reporters were lucky, we’d have rosters for both teams and the games would end in less than three hours.

That way, I’d have the time to A) call the office and dictate the box score; B) drive fast (and probably beyond the speed limit) eastbound on Culebra, toward downtown; and then C) write six or eight paragraphs at the office for the morning newspaper.

Next day, repeat the previous. Hey, I did well just to spell all the names correctly, much less develop relationships with the players. Consequently, I didn’t know any of the players all that well. Lashley, though, was an easy-going sort and made it look pretty easy doing his thing on the pitcher’s mound, as best as I can recall.

He made appearances in 42 games that summer — all in relief — for San Antonio Dodgers manager Don “Ducky” LeJohn, according to Baseball Reference’s online records. Lashley won six games and he lost eight. He fashioned a highly respectable 3.39 earned run average.

As for my inter-actions with him in the locker room? Man, that’s just too long ago. But I do seem to recall that Lashley, as well as most of the other young guys on that team, were on many levels just happy to know that they could report to the ball park every day and play a kids’ game.

Even if, at times, their road trips on the team bus seemed endless. Or, that their pay check didn’t cover all their daily expenses. Or, that the close quarters in the dressing room at V.J. Keefe required them to be careful while putting on their jerseys, lest they accidentally back-hand a teammate at an adjacent cubicle.

When the media would come in, some players would bring up the “Lodi” song. I do remember that. I don’t remember any of them reciting the lyrics. It’s just that they knew of the song. For a refresher, I looked up the lyrics this morning. First verse goes like this:

Just about a year ago
I set out on the road
Seekin’ my fame and fortune
And lookin’ for a pot of gold
Things got bad, and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

Such a sad song. But that was hardly the vibe in the Dodgers’ clubhouse that I remember. It was just a song. The vibe that I recall was one of hope and optimism and camaraderie. In a players’ world, there was just no time to dwell on what they didn’t have. Players had to stay positive and lean on their teammates.

If things didn’t go their way, they had to make adjustments and move on.

Mickey Lashley did just that in his career. Even though he never played in the majors, he had a significant impact on the game in San Antonio. In 1981, UTSA started an NCAA Division I athletics program. By 1992, the school added baseball. Jimmy Shankle was hired as the head coach, and Mickey Lashley worked on his staff.

By 1994, the Roadrunners enjoyed their first big year. They won enough games to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Later, after Shankle stepped down, Mickey served as head coach from 1996-2000.

Today, the program operates under the direction of head coach Pat Hallmark, and UTSA has started to make noise as one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference. Playing at the mid-major level in Division I, the Roadrunners have won 38, 38 and 32 games in the past three seasons, respectively.

They finished second in the American this season and won weekend series against a pair of NCAA tournament teams — the East Carolina Pirates and the Tulane Green Wave. The Roadrunners went on the road and swept the Green Wave, who later won the AAC tournament.

Even though the Roadrunners sputtered at the end, going two and out in the AAC tournament at Clearwater, Fla., eyes have been opened around San Antonio for a program that holds significant promise if more improvements can be made over the next few years at their home stadium.

I’ve had the pleasure of covering that up-and-coming program in each of the last three years. It’s been a veritable pot of gold for an old ball writer who still loves the game. So, many thanks to Mickey Lashley for all the baseball memories over the years and for helping to make the UTSA program happen for all of us.

Sincerest condolences to your family, Mickey, and RIP.

American tournament drama: Charlotte surges past UTSA, 9-5, in 12 innings

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If the UTSA Roadrunners hope to reach the title game in the American Baseball Championship, they’re going to have to go through the losers’ bracket to get there.

Carson Bayne crushed a three-run homer to cap a four-run 12th inning Tuesday night, lifting the Charlotte 49ers past the Roadrunners 9-5 on opening day.

The game was a study in heartbreak for the Roadrunners. Also frustration, as they left 18 runners on base. They fell behind by four runs when the 49ers scored four in the top of the sixth, and then they rallied in the bottom of the eighth with four of their own to tie it.

Second-seeded UTSA seemed to have the game won a few times in extra innings and couldn’t finish off seventh-seeded Charlotte. In both the 10th and the 11th, they loaded the bases with one out and couldn’t score.

In the top of the 12th, the 49ers finally broke through against Daniel Garza.

Thad Ector opened the inning with a single to right field. Noah Furcht followed with a grounder to shortstop for what appeared to be a certain force play at second. But the throw was wild and both runners were safe.

At that point, one of the veterans of Charlotte’s 2023 Conference USA tournament title team came through in the clutch. Brandon Stahlman hit an RBI single to left. Ector scored from second base, racing across home plate to make it 6-5.

Bayne then did his part to put the game out of reach. He re-directed a 1-0 pitch from Garza, sending it over the wall in left for a three-run homer to account for the final runs of the game. It was the fifth hit of the night for Bayne, a 5-11 junior from Jacksonville, Fla.

In the bottom of the 12th, the Roadrunners picked up a couple of hits but left them stranded when 49ers freshman Joseph Taylor struck out Olivo to end the game. For the game, UTSA hit only 4 for 26 with runners on base and only 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

As a result, UTSA will play sixth-seeded Florida Atlantic in the losers’ bracket Wednesday. Tulane defeated FAU 14-2 in seven innings on the run rule late Tuesday night.

Despite scoring only once in the first seven innings, the Roadrunners erased a four-run deficit with a spirited four-run rally in the eighth. Caleb Hill led off with a single, and Isaiah Walker and Alexander Olivo followed with RBI doubles to make it 5-3.

Charlotte changed pitchers twice before the end of the inning as UTSA surged. With Tony Rossi on the mound, Diego Diaz walked with the bases loaded to force in one run. Lorenzo Morresi followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it.

With two runners aboard, Rossi fanned UTSA’s Matt King to end the uprising.

Records

Charlotte 24-32
UTSA 32-23

Notable

Earlier in the afternoon, the game turned in a span of about 25 minutes from the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth innings. In the fifth, the Roadrunners had a baserunner at first with two of their best hitters at the plate.

First, Mason Lytle smashed a line drive to right field, but Charlotte’s Noah Furcht was in position to make an easy catch. Next, King drilled a ball high and far to center. He didn’t quite get all of it as Reid Haire angled toward the walk and gathered it in to end the inning.

In the sixth, with one out, the 49ers put together a one-out rally against Fischer Kingsbery and Ruger Riojas. The rally started innocently enough, with Brandon Stahlman and Carson Bayne hitting singles in front of the UTSA outfielders.

At that point, Dante DeFranco roped a double to right that scored Stahlman and sent Bayne to third. The Roadrunners thought they had thrown out DeFranco at second, but the umpire’s call was upheld.

UTSA, trailing 2-1, called on Riojas to try to squelch the threat. But Kaden Hopson, one of the returning 49ers’ starters from last year’s Conference USA tournament title team, worked the count to 3-1 before he unloaded with a ball that sailed over the fence in right-center.

The home run boosted the 49ers into a commanding 5-1 lead.

Early games

The top-seeded East Carolina Pirates rallied for 12 runs in the eighth inning and went on to record a 12-4 victory over the No. 8 Rice Owls on opening day of the American Baseball Championship.

Misplays on two Joey Berini fly balls into right field and an infield error on a potential inning-ending double play grounder doomed the Owls in the eighth. Jacob Starling capped the outburst with a two-run homer.

In the tournament opener, fourth-seeded Wichita State downed the mistake-prone No. 5 seed UAB Blazers, 8-2.

Tuesday’s results

Game 1: (4) Wichita State 8, (5) UAB 2
Game 2: (1) East Carolina 12, (8) Rice 4
Game 3: (7) Charlotte 9, (2) UTSA 5, 12 innings
Game 4: (3) Tulane 14, (6) Florida Atlantic 2, 7 innings

Wednesday’s schedule

Game 5: UAB vs. Rice, noon
Game 6: UTSA vs. Florida Atlantic. 47 minutes after Game 5

Thursday’s schedule

Game 7: Wichita State vs. East Carolina, noon
Game 8: Charlotte vs. Tulane, 47 minutes after Game 7

As the postseason dawns, UTSA fans are feeling all the emotions

Caleb Hill. UTSA beat Incarnate Word 13-3 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Caleb Hill and the second-seeded UTSA Roadrunners take on the No. 7 Charlotte 49ers today on opening day of the American Baseball Championship. The tournament runs through Sunday in Clearwater, Fla. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

How does everyone feel this morning? I’m talking about fans of the UTSA Roadrunners. Are you feeling anxious? Optimistic? Pessimistic? I’m here in San Antonio today, sorting it all out for you as the American Baseball Championship gets underway in Florida.

With UTSA this season, it’s understandable if you feel a mix of emotions going into Day 1 of the six-day event in Clearwater. As it happens with the nearby Gulf of Mexico, Roadrunners baseball has experienced its ebbs and flows over the past three months. Low and high tides. Cloudy weather, followed by sunny skies.

I am an optimist at heart, and I do think the Roadrunners have a decent shot of making it to Sunday’s championship game. But let’s start with a few reasons to feel sort of anxious or even pessimistic this morning, just to get those emotions out of the way. There aren’t many reasons to wring your hands. But let’s do it anyway, just to deal with reality.

First, the Charlotte 49ers, I suspect, will supply stiff opposition when the Roadrunners take the field this afternoon for the third of today’s four-game lineup. Their coach, Robert Woodard, has guided his team to NCAA tournaments in 2021 and 2023. He knows how to get it done this time of year.

Woodard and the 49ers, in fact, eliminated the Roadrunners from the Conference USA tournament in Houston last season.

Second, the 49ers have two effective left-handed pitchers that I remember seeing at Roadrunner Field on April 5. Cole Reynolds started and AJ Wilson relieved for the 49ers in the first of a three-game series, and it was a tough night for the home fans. Lefties tend to do well against the Roadrunners, and these two presented problems that night. In part because of the pitching of these two guys, and also because a couple of freshmen who jumped up and played well, Charlotte won, 10-5.

In this double-elimination format through the semifinals, you don’t want to lose the opener. You don’t want to get behind the proverbial eight-ball right off the jump. For the Roadrunners to heighten their hopes of making a long and successful run, they’ll need to play well against the 49ers, no matter who is on the mound.

Because, if they lose, it gets really hard. A losers’ bracket game would be played on Wednesday.

Then again, I’m not counting out the Roadrunners even if they lose today. No way. This team has impressed me from opening day with its steady resolve. Part of that resolve stems from players spending so much time around fifth-year Coach Pat Hallmark and assistants Zach Butler and Ryan Aguayo.

But I think most of it is the players and how they approach the game. Take Ulises Quiroga, for instance. Quiroga wasn’t healthy in February as the season opened. But he was determined to have a good season, and he did.

I suspect Quiroga will be on the mound for the Roadrunners today, so that is one good reason to be hopeful. The senior from Baytown had a great year, fashioned an 8-1 record with a 3.59 earned run average and made first-team all conference.

Ideally, for the Roadrunners, they take an early lead and then start to grind down the 49ers. Keep the lead and then turn it over to a bullpen that has been good for most of the season, especially Ruger Riojas, only one of two pitchers in the nation with as many as 10 victories and seven saves.

Riojas, surely, will be a highly motivated player this week. On Monday, the AAC announced its postseason honors. One reliever, East Carolina’s Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman, made the first team. Riojas was second team.

I’m sure that Lunsford-Shenkman, with a 1.20 earned run average and a .218 batting average against, would have felt the same way if he had been second team. But Riojas had as much to do with his team’s success as any player in the conference this season, and I suspect he will be out to make a point this week.

Quiroga and Riojas, you have to think, will be motivated and determined. Combined with their skill, I believe it gives UTSA a fighting chance to make it to Sunday.

Offensively, the Roadrunners had some issues down the stretch of the regular season. They hit around .255 as a team during a spell of four losses in seven games from late April through early May. But they will come into the tournament with the likes of Mason Lytle, Alexander Olivo and Matt King — all first-team, all conference — all of them hitting well north of .300.

They’ve also got players with first-team ability who didn’t make it. Caleb Hill is one of them. If Hill can get hot, the Roadrunners should be able to do damage and score some runs. Also, keep an eye on Diego Diaz. He’s another X-factor, type player. A member of the conference’s all freshman team.

Like I say, I think the Roadrunners have enough good players to win some games early this week. If they win today, they’ll play either Tulane or Florida Atlantic on Thursday. Based on past results — sweeping to three wins at Tulane earlier this year and beating FAU two of three last weekend — they should be OK in Game 2, as well.

As for their chances beyond that, a lot will depend on pitching depth. As everyone knows, the Roadrunners have had some struggles in that area over the past month or so. Freshman Rob Orloski, their Friday night starter in March, is working his way back into form after enduring a tough month of April.

To win a title this week, they’ll need him, along with Zach Royse and Fischer Kingsbery and Braylon Owens and Daniel Garza and Ryan Beaird and all the others to dial up A-game performances. They’ll need the defense to lock down and make the plays, as well.

Oh, and I almost forgot. They’ll need some intangibles, for sure.

Momentum. Good fortune. More momentum. A few more good breaks … They haven’t had a full week of that type of thing since 2013, when they swept through the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Grand Prairie all the way to an NCAA Regional in Corvallis, Ore.

So, hey, maybe it’s been so long, they are due. Maybe the stars will align and the tide will come in for them this week. I guess we will soon find out.

American Baseball Championship

Tuesday, May 21
Game 1: No. 5 UAB vs. No. 4 Wichita State | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 2: No. 8 Rice vs. No. 1 East Carolina | 47 minutes after Game 1 | ESPN+
Game 3: No. 7 Charlotte vs. No. 2 UTSA | 3 p.m. | ESPN+
Game 4: No. 6 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 Tulane | 47 minutes after Game 3 | ESPN+

Wednesday, May 22
Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 | noon | ESPN+
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 5 | ESPN+

Thursday, May 23
Game 7: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 | noon| ESPN+
Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 7 | ESPN+

Friday, May 24
Game 9: Loser of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 5 | noon | ESPN+
Game 10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 6 | 47 minutes after Game 9 | ESPN+

Saturday, May 25
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 9 | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 10 | 47 minutes after Game 11 | ESPN+
Game 13: Loser of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 11 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+
Game 14: Loser of Game 12 vs. Winner of Game 12 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+

Sunday, May 26
Game 15: Semifinal Winners | 11 a.m. | ESPNEWS

Postseason honors: UTSA lands four on AAC first team

Four baseball players from the UTSA Roadrunners have been named all-conference first team in the American Athletic Conference, according to a news release.

The four included centerfielder Mason Lytle, who was also named as the AAC’s Newcomer Position Player of the Year. The others were pitcher Ulises Quiroga, shortstop Matt King and designated hitter Alexander Olivo.

Landing on the second team were a pair of UTSA players in relief pitching ace Ruger Riojas and leftfielder Caleb Hill. All-Freshman honors went to UTSA’s Robert Orloski and second baseman Diego Diaz.

The postseason honors were announced in a release on Monday afternoon. UTSA is set to play the Charlotte 49ers Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla., on opening day of the six-day American Baseball Championship, a tournament consisting of the top eight teams in the AAC.

AAC Baseball Honors

Player of the Year – Carter Cunningham, Sr., 1B, East Carolina

Pitcher of the Year – Trey Yesavage, Jr., East Carolina*

Newcomer Position Player of the Year – Mason Lytle, Jr., OF, UTSA

Newcomer Pitcher of the Year – Tommy LaPour, Fr., Wichita State

Defensive Player of the Year – Ryley Johnson, Jr., OF, East Carolina

Coach of the Year – Cliff Godwin, East Carolina

First-team all conference

P – Blayze Berry, Sr., UAB*
P – Trey Yesavage, Jr., East Carolina*
P – Ulises Quiroga, Sr., UTSA
P – Caden Favors, Sr., Wichita State
RP – Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman, Jr., East Carolina
C – Justin Wilcoxen, Sr., East Carolina
1B – Carter Cunningham, Sr., East Carolina*
2B – Bobby Boser, Jr., South Florida
SS – Matt King, Jr., UTSA
3B – Gavin Schulz, Jr., Tulane
OF – Jacob Jenkins-Cowart, Jr., East Carolina
OF – Ryley Johnson, Jr., East Carolina
OF – Mason Lytle, Jr., UTSA
DH – Alexander Olivo, Sr., UTSA
UTL – Ben Rozenblum, R-Sr., South Florida

All-Conference Second Team

P – Colin Daniel, So., UAB
P – Danny Beal, Sr., East Carolina
P – C.J. Williams, Sr., Florida Atlantic
P – Tommy LaPour, Fr., Wichita State
RP – Ruger Riojas, So., UTSA
C – Colin Tuft, Jr., Tulane
1B – Brady Marget, Jr., Tulane
2B – Connor Rasmussen, So., Tulane
SS – Gavin Lewis Jr, Jr., UAB
3B – Camden Johnson, Fr., Wichita State
OF – Caleb Hill, Sr., UTSA
OF – Derek Williams, Jr., Wichita State
OF – Logan Braunschweig, Jr., UAB
DH – Ryan McCrystal, Jr., East Carolina
UTL – Michael Lombardi, So., Tulane

All-Freshman Team – Bristol Carter, OF, East Carolina; Ethan Norby, P, East Carolina*; Trey Beard, P, Florida Atlantic; Emilio Gonzalez, INF, Florida Atlantic; Diego Diaz, 2B, UTSA;
Robert Orloski, P, UTSA; Tyler Dobbs, P, Wichita State; Lane Haworth, OF, Wichita State; Camden Johnson, INF, Wichita State; Tommy LaPour, P, Wichita State*

* – Denotes unanimous selection

UTSA draws Charlotte in opening round of AAC tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second-seeded UTSA Roadrunners will face the No. 7 Charlotte 49ers in the opening round of the American Baseball Championship on Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla.

The postseason tournament for teams from the American Athletic Conference will run from Tuesday through Sunday, May 26, at the BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater.

It’s a double-elimination format through the semifinals, with a winner-take-all championship set for May 26. The winner earns the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Top-seeded East Carolina likely is the only team in the eight-team field that could reach the NCAAs without winning the AAC tournament. The Pirates have won 40 games and have been ranked in the Top 25 all year.

For the Roadrunners to be successful, they must stay away from an opening-day loss against Charlotte. A loss would send them into a losers’ bracket game on Wednesday.

If they can beat the 49ers, they get a day off before they play again on Thursday against either third-seeded Tulane or No. 6 Florida Atlantic.

Should the top two seeds make the finals, it would be a single-game rematch of UTSA’s opening-weekend series victory over East Carolina in San Antonio.

UTSA and Tulane are the only two AAC teams in the field to win a series against East Carolina this season.

The Roadrunners have been playing well over the past eight days. They won two of three at home from South Florida. They won 13-3 at home last Tuesday against Incarnate Word in non conference. Finally, they won two of three at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.

They beat the Owls 14-1 (on the run rule, in 8 innings) on Thursday and 3-2 (in 10 innings) on Friday before giving up two late runs to fall in Saturday afternoon’s finale, 6-4.

American Baseball Championship

Tuesday, May 21
Game 1: No. 5 UAB vs. No. 4 Wichita State | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 2: No. 8 Rice vs. No. 1 East Carolina | 47 minutes after Game 1 | ESPN+
Game 3: No. 7 Charlotte vs. No. 2 UTSA | 3 p.m. | ESPN+
Game 4: No. 6 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 Tulane | 47 minutes after Game 3 | ESPN+

Wednesday, May 22
Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 | noon | ESPN+
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 5 | ESPN+

Thursday, May 23
Game 7: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 | noon| ESPN+
Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 7 | ESPN+

Friday, May 24
Game 9: Loser of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 5 | noon | ESPN+
Game 10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 6 | 47 minutes after Game 9 | ESPN+

Saturday, May 25
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 9 | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 10 | 47 minutes after Game 11 | ESPN+
Game 13: Loser of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 11 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+
Game 14: Loser of Game 12 vs. Winner of Game 12 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+

Sunday, May 26
Game 15: Semifinal Winners | 11 a.m. | ESPNEWS

Teams at a glance

1) East Carolina – The Pirates (19-8, 40-13) entered the final weekend on a five-game losing streak before winning three in a row at home against the Rice Owls to nail down their fifth straight AAC regular-season title.

2) UTSA – The Roadrunners (17-10, 32-22) won consecutive weekend series against South Florida at home and against FAU on the road to give them seven series wins out of nine in their inaugural AAC campaign.

3) Tulane – The Green Wave (15-12, 31-24) will enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams, having won five of their last six games, including three straight at home from May 10-12 against East Carolina.

4) Wichita State – The Shockers (15-12, 29-27) were slumping badly coming into San Antonio in May. At Roadrunner Field, they started a string of three straight AAC series wins against UTSA, Charlotte and Memphis, respectively. They took two of three games at UTSA en route to a 7-2 finish.

5) UAB – The Blazers (13-14, 26-27) won two of three against South Florida in Tampa over the weekend, so they will have an easy commute to the tournament ballpark in nearby Clearwater. UAB can be dangerous. The Blazers won Friday night games against both UTSA and Tulane.

6) Florida Atlantic – The Owls (12-15, 26-27) seemed a bit anemic offensively against the Roadrunners on Thursday and Friday but came alive late in the final game on Saturday to win the series finale.

7) Charlotte – The 49ers (12-15, 23-32) are in a funk. They’ve lost seven of their last eight, including two of three at home this weekend against the Tulane Green Wave. Coach Rob Woodard can be a difference-maker in the postseason. Even though this team is down, his 49ers squads have made NCAA tournaments in two of the past three seasons.

8) Rice – The Owls (11-16, 22-34) will open the tournament against East Carolina. Not a great draw for Coach Jose Cruz’s team given that it was swept by the Pirates over the weekend in Greenville, N.C.

Is UTSA’s Ruger Riojas one of only two pitchers in Division I with 10 wins and seven saves?

Ruger Riojas. UTSA beat South Florida 5-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, May 10, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Ruger Riojas apparently is one of only two pitchers in NCAA Division I with as many as 10 victories and seven saves. The other is Nick Wissman of Dayton. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA’s Ruger Riojas earned his 10th victory of the season last night in Boca Raton, Fla., when he pitched the Roadrunners to a 3-2 victory in 10 innings against the Florida Atlantic University Owls.

Based on what I see in the NCAA Division I online statistics, Riojas may have joined some exclusive company when he struck out FAU’s John Schroeder to end the game. Apparently, he is now one of only two pitchers in the nation with as many as 10 wins and seven saves.

The other is senior Nick Wissman of the Dayton Flyers. Wissman, from Dayton, Ohio, is 10-1 in the Atlantic 10. Riojas, from Wimberley, Tex., is 10-3 in the American Athletic Conference. Each has seven saves.

Notable

Here is a list from the NCAA Division I statistics of pitchers with 10 or more victories this season. This morning, I cross-checked each one of the 10 pitchers on the list to see how many had seven or more saves. The only two I found were Wissman, a Howser Award semifinalist, and Riojas.

Michael Ross, Samford, 12-0, 0 saves
Carter Gaston, Portland, 11-1, 2 saves
Trey Yesaage, East Carolina, 11-1, 0 saves
Matthew Matthijs, North Carolina, 11-4, 0 saves
Tyler Bremer, UC Santa Barbara, 10-0, 0 saves
Chase Burns, Wake Forest, 10-1, 0 saves
Nick Wissman, Dayton, 10-1, 7 saves
Ryan Johnson, Dallas Baptist, 10-2, 0 saves
AJ Causey, Tennessee, 10-3, 1 save
Ruger Riojas, UTSA, 10-3, 7 saves

UTSA beats FAU 3-2 in 10 innings to clinch second in the American

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners scored on a catcher’s interference call in the top of the 10th inning and then held on in the bottom half to beat the Florida Atlantic University Owls, 3-2, Friday night to secure a second-place finish in the American Athletic Conference baseball race.

UTSA ace Ruger Riojas earned his 10th victory of the season when he closed the door in the last inning. With a base runner at third, he fanned FAU’s John Schroeder, who checked his swing but was called out.

Just about the same time that the UTSA-FAU game was going into extra innings in Boca Raton, the 13th-ranked East Carolina Pirates clinched the AAC title with a doubleheader sweep of the Rice Owls.

The Pirates completed their regular-season schedule by winning 15-5 on the run rule in eight innings and then adding a 6-4 victory in the nightcap. In the second game, East Carolina fell behind 4-2 but rallied to win.

In Boca Raton, UTSA led most of the way against FAU behind the pitching of Zach Royse and Daniel Garza. The home-team Owls made it interesting at the end, scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth to tie it.

Garza started the eighth and allowed a couple of hits to open the inning, putting runners at first and second base. At that point, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark called on his ace, Riojas, who replaced Garza.

Riojas appeared to have good stuff but Jalen DeBose greeted him by fighting off a pitch and blooping it into right field for an RBI single.

After a sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third, Schroeder hit it hard down the line in left. The drive was caught by Caleb Hill, but it brought in the tying run to make it 2-2.

With Danny Trehey pitching for FAU, opposite Riojas for UTSA, neither team could score in the ninth inning. Trehey was good in the clutch. Following a two-out walk to Alexander Olivo, he struck out UTSA’s Caleb Hill to end the inning. Then it was Riojas’ turn, and he retired three straight.

The 10th inning was tense for both teams.

UTSA loaded the bases against Trehey on an error and a couple of walks. With two outs, injury-hobbled Tye Odom entered the game as a pinch hitter. On a 2-1 count, Odom swung and missed, but the home-plate ump called catcher’s interference.

FAU asked for a review, but umpires upheld the original call. Florida Atlantic catcher Andrew McKenna was ruled to have interfered with Odom’s swing.

With the bases still loaded and UTSA looking to improve on its one-run lead, Trehey got out of the jam when Mason Lytle flied to right field.

Not to be outdone, FAU tried to rally against Riojas, with Brando Leroux rapping a single to right field. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on a fly ball to center. At that point, Schroeder stepped to the plate.

On a 1-2 count, he tried to check his swing on a ball that appeared to veer outside the strike zone, only to be called out.

Riojas (10-3) earned the victory with three scoreless innings of relief. The sophomore from Wimberley allowed two hits and one walk and struck out three.

Trehey (3-3) was the hard-luck loser. The 6-4 senior pitched two innings, did not allow a hit and gave up the winning run, which was unearned. He walked three and struck out three.

Records

FAU 25-27, 11-15
UTSA 32-21, 17-9

AAC leaders

East Carolina 19-8, 40-13
UTSA 17-9, 32-21

Coming up

AAC regular-season finale: UTSA at FAU, Saturday at noon
AAC tournament, Tuesday through next Sunday (May 21-26), at Clearwater, Fla.

Notable

With 14-1 and 3-2 victories at Boca Raton, the Roadrunners have clinched the series. They have won seven out of nine series in their inaugural season in the American.

Ruger Riojas keeps stacking up some staggering individual totals. In 24 appearances, he has pitched 64 and 2/3 innings. Riojas has struck out 70 batters and walked only 17. In yielding only 23 earned runs, his ERA for the season is 3.20.

He is 10-3 in the win-loss column, with seven saves. In a quick check of NCAA Division I statistics, he may be one of only two pitchers in Division I baseball with the 10-win, seven-save combination, the other being Nick Wissman of Dayton.

UTSA run-rules FAU 14-1 to stay one off pace in AAC title chase

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners scored five runs in the top of the first inning Thursday and then cruised behind a two home-run performance from Alexander Olivo to a 14-1 victory over the Florida Atlantic Owls.

Playing in Boca Raton, the Roadrunners won after seven innings on the run rule in the first of a three-game series in the American Athletic Conference.

Second-place UTSA cranked out 14 hits to stay in the chase for the regular-season title in the AAC. First-place East Carolina, playing at home, defeated the Rice Owls 8-2 to remain one game ahead of the Roadrunners with two to play.

Ulises Quiroga (8-1) pitched 5 and 2/3 innings and allowed one run to earn the victory. Ryan Ward went 1 and 1/3 to finish off FAU. C.J. Williams (5-4) took the loss for the Owls.

UTSA has won three straight games and four of its last five. The Roadrunners’ last two wins have come on the run rule. UTSA beat Incarnate Word 13-3 in eight innings Tuesday night in San Antonio.

Individually for the Roadrunners, Olivo enjoyed a big day at FAU, reaching base four times and scoring four runs. He highlighted a two-for-three batting performance with solo home runs in the second and third innings. The homers were his fourth and fifth of the season.

Olivo is five for eight with five RBI in his last two games combined.

Another UTSA player swinging a hot bat is freshman Diego Diaz, who had three hits and three RBI against the Owls, giving him eight hits and five RBI over his last three performances.

Zane Spinn led off the fifth inning with a homer, his second in four games, as the Roadrunners erupted for six runs. Diaz and Mark Henning capped the outburst with consecutive two-run singles.

Records

UTSA 31-21, 16-9
Florida Atlantic 25-26, 11-14

Coming up

AAC series: UTSA at Florida Atlantic
Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday at noon

AAC tournament: At Clearwater, Fla.
May 21-26

In the race for a title in the American? For UTSA, it’s time to pump it up


UTSA players get their groove on with the ‘Pump It Up’ song playing in the stadium before the bottom of the eighth inning. After the music subsided, the Roadrunners came to bat, tacked on three runs and defeated the Incarnate Word Cardinals 13-3 on the run rule. – The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Up and down the lineup, everyone made solid contact. From Mason Lytle at the top of the batting order, to Zane Spinn in the nine hole, everyone seemed to square up the baseball at least once on Tuesday night.

Eight of nine UTSA starters had at least one base hit and the one who didn’t, Whitt Joyce, was robbed of a single on a hot smash that was speared by Incarnate Word Cardinals third baseman Ryder Hernandez.

Alexander Olivo. UTSA beat Incarnate Word 13-3 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Alexander Olivo went three for five with two doubles and three RBI in UTSA’s home finale against UIW. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the end, UTSA won its 30th game of the season on the run rule, 13-3, on Mark Henning’s two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the eighth. All in all, it was a good way to finish the home schedule before embarking on a road trip to Florida.

Awaiting UTSA immediately is a three-game series in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic to close the regular season. The series starts Thursday, with UTSA sitting in second place in the American Athletic Conference.

After that, they’ll take a bus to Clearwater, where the postseason will commence. The AAC tournament will run from May 21-26 at the BayShore Ballpark..

Roadrunners designated hitter Alexander Olivo said the manner in which his teammates won the UIW game — in a rout, going away – was important.

“It’s good for us to get a little momentum going into Florida Atlantic and the conference tournament,” Olivo said. “You know how it goes. In postseason baseball, it’s who gets hot at the right time. So, we’re just kind of looking to get rolling. The pitching’s been great so far. Everything’s been great.

“We just need that little extra offense to get us going and I think we’ll be just fine, and we’ll use that momentum to go into the tournament.”

UIW's Dalton Beck. UTSA beat Incarnate Word 13-3 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UIW’s Dalton Beck came into the UTSA game ranking the Southland Conference in batting average at .391. Roadrunners pitching held him to one for four. The hit was a high-hop double that bounced over the first baseman’s head in the seventh inning. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Records

UIW 24-27
UTSA 30-21

Coming up

AAC series: UTSA at Florida Atlantic
Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Friday at 3 p.m.
Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

AAC tournament: At Clearwater, Fla.
May 21-26

Notable

Going into the final weekend, the first-place East Carolina Pirates (16-8 in the AAC, 37-13 overall) have a one-game lead on the Roadrunners (15-9, 30-21).

East Carolina plays its last three at home against Rice. For UTSA to come from behind to claim a share of the title or win it outright, and to do it on the road, it sounds like a tough chore.

Then again, who knows?

“I think the biggest thing for us is to not really focus on what everyone else is doing,” Olivo said. “We can only control what we can control. That’s kind of what Coach (Pat) Hallmark and (Assistant) Coach (Ryan) Aguayo have talked about all year.

Zach Longshore. UTSA beat Incarnate Word 13-3 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Lefty Zach Longshore pitched one shutout inning, in the fifth, allowing only a double to UIW’s Grant Randall. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Control what you can control. After that, we have to just leave it up to destiny and God … If we go over there to FAU and play our game, we have to hope that Rice helps us out. But first, do our job.”

Kind of strange to root for Rice, right?

“Yeah, it is,” Olivo said. “But, whatever it takes.”

Coming into the UIW game, the Roadrunners needed a boost. In their previous 10 games, they had struggled offensively, hitting .257, almost 50 points below their season average.

In that stretch, a team that has been suffering from some injury issues had averaged 5.1 runs per game. Things are starting to change just a bit, though. The Roadrunners hit .278 in winning two of three against South Florida last weekend.

They followed up with 12 hits in 34 at bats (.352) against the Cardinals, including five hits that went for doubles.

“We’ve been talking that, as an offense, since Rice, we haven’t been ourselves,” Hallmark said. “I think we’re a better hitting team than we were at Rice and in the two home series (against Wichita State and South Florida). But, tonight was good.

“We’ve just been trying to be a little more aggressive in the strike zone. Little what I call violent swings. A little bit dangerous.

“You know, maybe we might not crush it, but if you do hit it, they’re going to do some damage, instead of some of the most passive swings. I thought we did that tonight.”

Home finale: Roadrunners run-rule the UIW Cardinals


Freshman Diego Diaz rips an RBI single through the middle, boosting UTSA to a 3-0 lead. The Roadrunners later made it 4-0, getting off to a fast start in the bottom of the first against the Cardinals. – The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners won their home finale Tuesday night, rolling past the UIW Cardinals 13-3 in eight innings on the run rule.

Originally, officials counted it as a 14-3 UTSA victory when two baserunners crossed home on Mark Henning’s single.

Later, a run came off the board. Because, technically, the game ended when the margin of victory reached 10 runs.

Records

UIW 24-27
UTSA 30-21

Coming up

For the Roadrunners
AAC series: UTSA at Florida Atlantic
Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Friday at 3 p.m.
Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

AAC tournament: At Clearwater, Fla.
May 21-26

For the Cardinals
Southland series: UIW at Houston Christian
Thursday at 2 p.m.
Friday at 1 p.m.
Saturday at 2 p.m.

Southland tournament: At Hammond, La.
May 22-25

Notable

*) One storyline in the second meeting of the season between the Roadrunners and the Cardinals centered on a return to action for UTSA freshman pitcher Robert Orloski. The first-year player from Idaho, who hasn’t played since April 30, started and pitched an inning and a third without allowing a run or a hit. He faced six batters. In the second inning, with one out, he walked two straight and was lifted.

Orloski made a name for himself by winning a couple of big games for the Roadrunners in March, including one against the nationally-ranked East Carolina Pirates. In April, he suffered a few shaky outings as a starter and one as a reliever. At Texas A&M, Orloski, pitching in the ninth, yielded a walk off home run against the SEC powerhouse Aggies.

*) After two innings, the Roadrunners have built a 5-0 lead. They scored four in the first inning off little-used UIW righthander Edward Mendoza. Mendoza had only pitched 3 and 2/3 innings this season. A hit by pitch and two walks led to the first-inning outburst, highlighted by James Taussig‘s two-run single and an RBI single by Diego Diaz. In the second inning, facing UIW’s Braden Berry, UTSA made it 5-0 on a run-scoring single by Matt King.


UIW third baseman Ryder Hernandez makes a nice play to end the bottom of the third for UTSA. He snares a hard-hit ground ball, comes up throwing and nips Whitt Joyce for the last out. Roadrunners lead 5-1 going into the T4. – The JB Replay

*) Mason Lytle’s quickness with the bat and speed on the bases ignited a two-run inning for the Roadrunners in the bottom of the fourth. Lytle, USA’s leading hitter at .365 coming in, led off by bashing a double into the left field corner. On the next pitch, he stole third. On the play, the catcher’s throw skipped into the outfield, and Lytle scored. The Roadrunners made it a 7-1 ball game when Alexander Olivo drove an RBI double to the base of the wall in left center.

*) Dalton Beck, a 6-2 UIW junior from Frisco, entered the game as one of the hottest players in the Southland Conference. Beck led the Southland with 16 home runs. He was also second in batting at .391. UTSA pitching has done a good job with the SLC honors candidate through six innings. Beck is 0-for-3 with a pop foul out and two fly balls to right. So far. He may get another turn or two tonight. In the bottom of the sixth, UTSA is batting and Mason Lytle is doing his thing again. On board via fielders choice, he stole second base. His second steal of the night. Just scored on a hard-hit ball by Olivo into right field. Now Olivo scores on a Matt King ground ball that was thrown away at first. The Cardinals’ fourth error of the game.


UTSA senior Alex Olivo smashes the first of his two RBI doubles tonight. This one came in the fourth inning. He had another one in the sixth. With the last three games of the season looming this weekend at Florida Atlantic, it’s a good time for Olivo to get hot. – UTSA athletics

*) The Cardinals got it going in the T7 against Conor Myles, the fifth UTSA pitcher of the game, scoring a couple of runs on two hits and a throwing error. Cameron Caley and Beck, UIW’s top two players, ignited the rally. Caley singled and Beck doubled. Beck’s hit bounded high in the infield and over the head of the UTSA first baseman. The Roadrunners picked up the ball in the outfield and threw it away, allowing Caley to score and Beck to take third. Myles retired the next two batters to end the threat.