A photographer’s eye view of the Roadrunners on opening night

Pat Hallmark. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Pat Hallmark, in the blue shirt, pays a visit to the mound to make a point in Friday night’s season opener. – Photo by Joe Alexander .

The UTSA Roadrunners play the UT Arlington Mavericks in a doubleheader today, with a seven-inning game set for noon, followed by a nine-inning game that will start about 3 p.m. Arlington broke out to a couple of nine-run leads early in the season opener Friday night and then held on for a 10-9 victory. I wanted to share a package of photos by Joe Alexander. Here are some of his best images:

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Relief pitcher Cooper Hrbacek worked two scoreless innings in the opener to help the Roadrunners stay in the game. Hrbacek is from Abilene where he attended Wylie High School. He also played for McLennan College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Hector Rodriguez. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Junior Hector Rodriguez joins the UTSA squad this season as a transfer from Galveston College. He played in high school at Houston Westside. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Zane Spinn. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Shortstop Zane Spinn hails from Holland, Tex. He’s played in college at Temple JC and at Sam Houston State. – Photo by Joe Alexander.

Lorenzo Morresi. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Lorenzo Morresi, from Macerata, Italy, started at catcher for the Roadrunners. Morresi has played at New Mexico Junior College. He also represented Italy in the Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Starting pitcher Robert Orloski. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Hard-throwing pitcher Rob Orloski comes to UTSA from Middleton, Idaho. The Boston Red Sox selected him on the 20th round of the draft last summer. He elected to play at UTSA. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Alex Olivo. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Alex Olivo started in the opener as a designated hitter. Olivo also plays first base. He comes to UTSA from Texas Southern. He played previously at Deer Park HS and Ranger College. – Joe Alexander.

Feeling the opening-night blues: UTSA rally falls short, 10-9, to UT-Arlington

Caleb Hill (15) hit two home runs. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Caleb Hill (15) hit two homers to highlight a two-for-five performance with three runs scored and four RBIs against the UT Arlington Mavericks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second game of the the season can’t come soon enough for the UTSA Roadrunners.

Why? Because, in the opener on Friday night, the Roadrunners made a few too many mistakes early, got burned by three home runs and fell behind by nine on two different occasions.

In the end, the Roadrunners scored eight unanswered runs in a spirited rally led by Caleb Hill and Mason Lytle, only to fall in a heartbreaker, 10-9, to the UT Arlington Mavericks.

Starting pitcher Robert Orloski. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA starting pitcher Robert Orloski, a freshman, worked 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs – four of them earned. He also walked only one and struck out five. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With Hill homering twice and Lytle making a grand UTSA debut by hitting a high-arc blast into the screen over the left field fence, the team nevertheless tasted defeat on what had been billed as a day of celebration, when officials welcomed fans into a remodeled Roadrunner Field.

The game just started off on a sour note all the way around for the Roadrunners, who watched as the Mavs built leads of 9-0 and 10-1.

They didn’t quit, though. A crowd announced at 785 started to generate noise when the home team erupted with three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, three more in the seventh and one in the ninth.

Hill sparked the uprising by crushing a line drive to right center for a three-run homer in the fifth. Not to be outdone, Lytle hit a solo shot in the sixth. He nearly homered again in the seventh but it was caught at the wall for a sac fly RBI. In addition, Hill scorched a sky-scraper that landed well beyond the right field wall to lead off the ninth.

“It was good but it wasn’t enough,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “We just didn’t play very good (early). We got to play better. We looked hesitant and passive way too often, which can happen, especially in the first game of the season, with the nerves.

“I’m sure it was nerves, but you got to get over it,” the coach said. “I was disappointed in the way we played and I was disappointed in the way I coached. I need to be better, too.”

The Mavericks were just too good for the Roadrunners in the early innings. With UTSA giving the ball to highly-touted freshman pitcher Robert Orloski to start the opener, Arlington made him pay by smashing two home runs.

Orloski yielded six runs, four of them earned, in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss. Against Orloski, Ryan Black delivered a one-out homer in the first inning to make it 1-0. In the second inning, Parker Airhart led off by belting one out of the yard to make it 2-0.

Isaiah Walker. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Isaiah Walker batted leadoff, stroked two hits and scored twice in the season opener against UT Arlington . – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the third, Orloski was still throwing well but the game started to get away from him. Black, swinging from the left side, laced an RBI double down the left field line. A relay throw to the plate from UTSA shortstop Zane Spinn was overthrown, allowing Black to take third base on the play.

He scored a few moments later on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.

Fans who watched the Roadrunners win 38 games in each of the last two seasons seemed a bit stunned at the outburst, but the Mavericks weren’t finished.

Lifting Orloski with two outs and two runners on base in the fourth, the Roadrunners called on junior Ryan Beaird, and Garrison Berkley greeted him with a three-run blast to break the game open. Like Orloski, Beaird was throwing well and firing hard. But he grooved one, and Berkley smashed it over the wall for a 7-0 lead.

Later in the frame, the Mavs tacked on two more runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Hallmark said he wasn’t displeased at all with the first outing for Orloski, who at this time last year was pitching in high school in Middleton, Idaho.

“He was OK,” the coach said. “The kid on their team, the (No.) 2 hole hitter, Black, is good. We knew he was good. The whole report was that this kid’s their best hitter, and he looked like it. So, I wasn’t disappointed in him getting hits off Rob.”

Not shy about throwing a high fastball, Orloski at times was impressive by inducing the Mavs into futile swings and misses. And yet other times, a couple of his mistakes proved costly. In the end, he pitched 3 and 2/3 innings and yielded six hits and six runs — four of them earned — while he walked one and struck out five

“Rob can pitch better,” Hallmark said. “I bet his strike percentage was somewhere around 58 percent, which is a little low. But he didn’t pitch poorly at all. I wasn’t disappointed at all with Rob. He was fine. He’ll be back out there.”

Hallmark tipped his cap to an old friend, Clay Van Hook, the UT Arlington coach who is in his second season with the Mavs. Years ago, both worked together as assistant coaches at Rice University under the Wayne Graham. Hallmark is also friends with Arlington assistant Mike Taylor.

“Mike and I go way back,” Hallmark said. “We played against each other. Both of them, they’re good baseball people. They bounced back last year. They won a bunch more games last year than they did the year before. He’s doing a good job. Clay knows baseball.”

Coming up

Saturday — UT Arlington at UTSA. Doubleheader. First game starts at noon.
Sunday — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m.

Mason Lytle. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Mason Lytle made his UTSA debut a memorable one by smashing a high-arc home run into the screen over the left field wall. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Opening day: UTSA baseball coach on the lookout for ‘hunger and determination’ in his players

UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners will open a new baseball season at home today against the UT Arlington Mavericks. First pitch is at 4 p.m. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Over the past few seasons, baseball players at UTSA didn’t always match up in talent with the players they were tasked with defeating.

The one thing they did have was a core of leaders that embraced competition so eagerly and so completely, that the Roadrunners won 38 games in each of the past two years.

With that, UTSA athletes also won the undying respect of their coach, Pat Hallmark.

In retrospect, Hallmark will tell anyone who will listen that those two intangibles — a hunger to compete and a determination not to lose — are foundational to any winning program.

Two years ago, players such as Johnny Tapia and Ryan Flores just didn’t want to concede defeat. Same thing last year. With Luke Malone and Simon Miller and others, the Roadrunners found inspiration to play at a higher level.

With a new UTSA baseball season dawning today, all four of those players and others have moved on in their lives and in their careers, which is a bit unsettling for the coach.

Why? Because even though he knows he will have quite a bit of talent at his disposal this weekend against UT Arlington and in the coming months, he doesn’t know for sure whether his new players will have the essentials.

In other words, the hunger and the determination.

“We’ve certainly seen some signs of that,” Hallmark said a few days ago. “But until you get someone with a different color uniform that kind of hates your guts and wants to take something away from you, you don’t really know. So, we’ll find that out starting Friday.”

“It’ll take a little time to figure that out, who likes that confrontation.”

Through fall practices and conditioning, the coach said he can’t always tell who will bring the intangibles to the table.

“We’re about to play some people that don’t want the best for us,” he said. “And, likewise. We need to find 10, 11 guys that enjoy that (confrontation). That’s what we’ve had the last couple of years.”

Will it manifest itself today? The coach will be watching.

Coming up

Game 1 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 4 p.m. today.
Games 2 and 3 — UT Arlington at UTSA, doubleheader, with the first game at noon on Saturday.
Game 4 — UT Arlington at UTSA, 1 p.m. Sunday.

Notable

Pitching rotation: For UT Arlington — Zach Norris (2-2, 4.63 ERA last season) today. On Saturday, it’s Aaron Calhoun (0-1, 8.16 last season at Oklahoma) in the first game and then Caylon Dygert, a freshman, in the second game. Sunday’s starter is TBA. For UTSA — Freshman Robert Orloski today. On Saturday, Ruger Riojas (5-0, 4.11) in the first game and then Zach Royse (0-1, 9.58). On Sunday, TBA.

Outfielder Mason Lytle, a University of Oregon transfer, has opened eyes with his athleticism. But he’s not the only outfielder on the UTSA roster with speed and ability. Both Isaiah Walker and Tye Odom can run and track the ball, as well.

James Taussig. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

James Taussig is expected to bring some home-run power to the Roadrunners this season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I would say this is a very athletic outfield,” third baseman Matt King said. “We have depth, whether it’s starters or the guys coming off the bench. I think they’re all athletic. They’re all going to make some plays. They can all play defense. So, yeah, outfield defense is something we should not have to worry about.”

Who will have home-run power? Among the newcomers, keep an eye on first baseman / designated hitter Alexander Olivo, infielder/outfielder James Taussig and infielder Zane Spinn. Also, among returning players, both King and Caleb Hill have both shown the ability to send the ball out of the yard.

Olivo may be the one to watch in the power department. He produced 13 homers and a .706 slugging percentage last year at Texas Southern. In addition, Taussig is known around the batting cage for exit velocity of more than 100 mph, tops on the team.

Charlotte wins 79-70 and hands UTSA its fifth straight loss

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Playing a slow-down game in their home arena, the Charlotte 49ers emerged Thursday night with a 79-70 victory over UTSA, handing the Roadrunners their season-high fifth straight loss.

The surprising 49ers, who are nothing if not masters of a methodical pace, nearly led the game wire to wire.

The score was tied briefly at 10-10 early in the first half. But other than that, the 49ers kept the Roadrunners at arms length, and they won again to keep a promising season alive in front of the home fans at Halton Arena.

Center Dishon Jackson led the 49ers with 19 points.

Guard Lu’Cye Patterson had 17 and Nik Graves 12 as Charlotte won its second straight and remained in contention for the American Athletic Conference title. The 49ers played solid defense for most of the game, shot 48 percent from the field and marched to their 10th win in their last 11.

As a result, a log-jam remained at the top of the AAC standings, with South Florida leading the 14-team pack at 11-1, followed by Charlotte and 24th-ranked Florida Atlantic tied for second at 10-2. Not bad for a Charlotte team picked in the preseason poll to finish 13th.

For UTSA, the frustration continued.

The Roadrunners aren’t anywhere near the league leaders and haven’t won since Jan. 24, at home against Tulane. Since then, they have fallen, in succession, to South Florida, Rice, Wichita State, East Carolina and now Charlotte. Consequently, they’re tied for 12th place with Wichita State at 2-10, ahead of only the Temple Owls, who are 1-11.

UTSA had its moments against Charlotte. At the end of the first half, they rode the hot shooting of PJ Carter and whittled what had been a 13-point deficit to two at the break. But after intermission, UTSA went cold and stayed cold for the rest of the game, shooting a second-half field goal percentage of only 25.7 percent.

Carter emerged as the only legitimate scoring threat on the night with a career-high 22 points. Even then, the 49ers bottled him up after halftime, holding him to only three points the rest of the way. Christian Tucker had 13 and Dre Fuller Jr. 11. Both made some plays down the stretch, but they weren’t enough.

Jordan Ivy-Curry, UTSA’s leading scorer, couldn’t find a rhythm for the second time in his last three outings. He scored five points on 2 of 10 shooting, nearly matching his 1 for 10 effort from a few games ago against the Wichita State Shockers.

Ivy-Curry wasn’t alone in his struggles. Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr. finished 2 for 9 and scored four points. Guard Adante’ Holiman shot 0 for 3 and went scoreless.

In the first game between the two this season, played at San Antonio, the 49ers won 66-58.

“We played better,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told Andy Everett on the school’s radio broadcast. “In the first half, to put up 44 on them is a pretty big accomplishment. They’re a really good defensive team. (With their) pace of play, that was a lot of points to put up.

“I thought like we looked like ourselves in the first half. Ball was moving pretty good. Beginning of the game, they had a pretty good flow going. We kept telling out guys, ‘Just hang in there.’ And all of a sudden, we felt like our guys turned it up defensively a little bit.”

Henson said even though UTSA didn’t shoot well in the second half, he felt good about his players’ competitive spirit to the final buzzer. “It was one of our better overall efforts in terms of intensity,” he said.

Records

UTSA 8-17, 2-10
Charlotte 16-8, 10-2

Coming up

UTSA at Temple, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Down by 13 at home, Tulsa rallies late to beat UTSA, 74-70

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Temira Poindexter and Mady Cartwright sparked a huge fourth-quarter rally Wednesday night as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, playing at home, stormed from behind to edge the upset-minded UTSA Roadrunners, 74-70.

In an American Athletic Conference women’s basketball thriller, the Roadrunners fell behind by nine points in the first half, but then started to play well and steadily built what evolved in a 13-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the game.

At that point, the Golden Hurricane heated up and turned the game around with a 20-3 run over the next six and a half minutes. When Poindexter hit two free throws with 29 seconds left, the Golden Hurricane’s lead ticked up to four points at 73-69.

On the other end, UTSA’s Madison Cockrell missed a three with 16 seconds left. The rebound went to forward Idara Udo, who was fouled, and she hit one free throw to make it a three-point game.

On her one miss, Kyra White grabbed the offensive rebound to give the Roadrunners hope, but she also missed a three with 13 seconds remaining. For Tulsa, Katia Gallegos responded by driving, drawing a foul and knocking down one free throw with seven seconds left for the final point.

With the win, Tulsa (18-7 overall, 8-4 in the American) registered a possible momentum-turning victory after losing two of its last three. UTSA (12-11, 6-6) came into the game feeling good, winning at home Sunday and knocking the UAB Blazers out of first place.

Now the Roadrunners face a Sunday afternoon road game against the AAC heavyweight North Texas Mean Green. UTSA coach Karen Aston said on the postgame radio show that her team let one get away against Tulsa.

“We didn’t manage the clock very well,” she said. “We started shooting too quick … just didn’t have an understanding that we have four and a half minutes left. We needed to move the ball and make them play a little bit longer. Youth played a part in that, but credit to Tulsa. They did what they had to do to win.”

The story of the game was the fourth-quarter rally by the Golden Hurricane. During the 20-3 run, Poindexter, a 6-foot-1 junior from Sapulpa, Okla., took over. She scored eight points in the stretch. Cartwright also contributed during the run with six points.

For the game, Poindexter led the Golden Hurricane with 20 points. Guard Delanie Crawford added 15 and Cartwright had 13. Together the threesome knocked down seven of Tulsa’s nine three-point baskets. Tulsa shot 50 percent from the field for the game, including 55 percent in the fourth period.

UTSA’s backcourt of Sidney Love and Kyra White led the Roadrunners in scoring. Love totaled 16 points and White had 15. Forwards Jordyn Jenkins and Idara Udo had 11 points apiece. Jenkins, in her second game back after sitting out most of the season, also had seven rebounds. Freshman guard Aysia Proctor scored 10.

Generally, UTSA played well on the road on the home floor of one of the better teams in the conference. From midway through the second quarter to midway through the fourth, the Roadrunners went on an extended roll, outscoring the Golden Hurricane 40-18.

Records

UTSA 12-11, 6-6
Tulsa 18-7, 8-4

Coming up

UTSA at North Texas, Sunday, 2 p.m.

First quarter

Tulsa’s Caranda Perea hit a long jumper and a three-pointer in the last minute of the first quarter. Capping a hectic period, UTSA’s Kyra White followed a missed shot with a three of her own. Tulsa emerged with a 22-19 lead going into the second,

Second quarter

Playing fast and running the break, the Golden Hurricane pushed out to a couple of nine-point leads before the Roadrunners rallied at the end. Sidney Love missed a jumper in the final seconds as UTSA went into the dressing room down by only four at 38-34.

Guard Delanie Crawford sparked Tulsa in the half with a team-high 12 points and seven rebounds and three assists. Temira Poindexter had eight points on three of six shooting.

For UTSA, freshman Idara Udo had eight points and four boards. Also, Sidney Love had seven points and Jordyn Jenkins, in her second game back after sitting out the first 21 in knee rehabilitation, scored six.

Third quarter

UTSA stepped up the defensive pressure and started forcing turnovers. Meanwhile, Sidney Love and Kyra White started to turn it on offensively. The Roadrunners outscored the Golden Hurricane 21-13 in the period.

A highlight came late when Maya Linton got a steal on one end. On the other, Kyra White dribbled down court on the break, made a Euro-step move at the bucket and twisted in a layup. The Roadrunners will take a 55-51 lead into the fourth quarter.

Orloski earns opening-day start on the mound as UTSA rolls with a talented freshman

UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

The batting cage was alive with activity Tuesday as UTSA hosted media day and prepared for Friday’s opener against the UT-Arlington Mavericks. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Last year, the UTSA baseball team relied on a time-tested veteran as its starting pitcher on Friday nights. Senior Luke Malone was the man to open most three-game series. When games got dicey, the Roadrunners called on reliever Simon Miller.

Coach Pat Hallmark. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Pat Hallmark announced that freshman Robert Orloski will start the season opener Friday at home against UT-Arlington. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Bases loaded in the fifth? With the opponent’s cleanup man at the plate? UTSA trying to protect a one-run lead? Everyone at Roadrunner Field knew that Miller would get the ball in that situation.

Ultimately, UTSA rode the Malone-Miller combination to a 28-8 start that vaulted the Roadrunners into the national Top 25 for the first time in school history.

This season, they’ll open their first series of the season at home Friday afternoon with a different look altogether. Instead of veteran savvy on the mound, Coach Pat Hallmark will roll with a freshman. He announced Tuesday afternoon on media day that he’ll start highly-touted righthander Robert Orloski against UT Arlington.

As a matter of fact, the Roadrunners will stay young in the second game of the four-game series and in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, as well, going with sophomore righty Ruger Riojas. So, with Miller scheduled to pitch this season in the Cincinnati Reds’ minor-league system, who will take his place?

Who will fill that all-important bullpen role? Hallmark admittedly doesn’t have an answer just yet.

“I don’t know,” Hallmark said. “Multiple people at this point. Hopefully that evolves. From a pure talent standpoint, I don’t think we have a Simon Miller. Simon … had a major league breaking ball. He could keep his breaking ball from 87 to 90 miles per hour and keep it depthy. We just don’t have someone that’s going to do that, right?

Ruger Riojas. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ruger Riojas is set to open the season as the Roadrunners’ No. 2 starter. Riojas, from Wimberley, was 5-0 with a 4.11 earned run average out of the bullpen last year. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We do have some guys that are pretty good. Daniel Garza’s solid. And others. But that’s an evolving role at this point.”

UTSA is banking on Orloski to have the chops to withstand all the pressure that comes with being an opening-day starter. Last spring, he was pitching in high school in Middleton, Idaho. In July, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder with the low 90s fastball and good command was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.

Ultimately, he turned down the opportunity and decided he wanted to attend college instead. “He’s talented,” Hallmark said. “He was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in the 20th round, so you know he’s got some talent. And he’s mature. I don’t think Rob will be rattled. I could be wrong, right? But eventually Rob’s going to be a very good college pitcher, so we might as well start finding out when right now.”

Orloski already rates as one of the most-watched pitchers on the team by the veterans. Junior third baseman Matt King said he enjoys watching him work. “I have a lot of high expectations for him,” King said. “I like watching him. He pounds the zone. He throws hard. He’s one of my favorite pitchers on this team.”

Matt King. UTSA baseball media day and practice on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Matt King is expected to play third base this season after starting most of the last two seasons at shortstop. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Honored as Gatorade Pitcher of the Year in Idaho in 2023, Orloski will hardly be the only newcomer on the field for UTSA on opening day. It is probably a safe bet that fans will see veterans Matt King, Isaiah Walker and Caleb Hill on the field somewhere. King, a preseason All-American Athletic Conference pick, likely will be at third base. Walker and Hill will be out there somewhere.

But after that, it’s hard to read Hallmark’s mind on who will be where. What is known, at this point, is that the newcomers will face expectations. UTSA won 38 games in each of the last two seasons. Both teams finished high in the Conference USA race. Everyone in the renovated ball park this spring will want to see all that, and more.

“It’s new, right?” Hallmark said. “There’s certainly expectations after the last two years, which is wonderful. We don’t shy away from it. That’s what we want. We talk about it. But (there) are new players. They haven’t done it before. So, we need to tee it up and see how they do.

“It won’t be perfect, right? We’re going to have bad games and some bad play. But I think we’ll figure it out. We just need to figure it out as soon as possible.”

Hallmark said a conference championship is the next step for his program.

“We finished second in the conference last year and third the year before,” he said. “I think it’s easy and appropriate to say the next step is to win a conference championship and to play in the NCAA tournament. Those are the two things that are the next step.”

Coming up
UT Arlington at UTSA

Game One – Friday, 4 p.m.
Games Two and Three — Doubleheader on Saturday, first game starting at noon
Game Four – Sunday, 1 p.m.

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Building a foundation of success: UTSA baseball opens a new season this week

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark. 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 coach Pat Hallmark will lead the Roadrunners into a season-opening series at home this weekend against UT-Arlington. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

College baseball season has arrived, with UTSA coach Pat Hallmark and a few players expected to address the media later today to talk about their hopes and dreams.

Topics of discussion are expected to include heightened expectations in the wake of back-to-back, 38-win seasons and what’s expected in the way of a lineup for the opener Friday at home against UT-Arlington.

In addition, we will surely hear questions asked about the renovations at Roadrunner Field and the transition from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.

The playing surface at Roadrunner Field has been fixed after it unexpectedly sustained damage during construction last month. As a precaution, the Roadrunners spent at least the first weekend of official practices in late January at off-campus locations.

“The team has been practicing and playing intrasquad games at Roadrunner Field for the past two weeks,” a school spokeswoman said in a text last Friday.

Despite the issues related to their field, the baseball program is on solid footing. A winning culture has been established. Last year’s team played much of the second half of the season ranked in the Top 25.

I had a chance to visit with Coach Hallmark a few weeks ago. In that interview we talked about the expectations this season — UTSA is picked third in the AAC — and how the personnel might be utilized.

Some of the information I have had in my notebook may be a little outdated by now in the wake of recent practices and evaluations, but I wanted to share it with you, anyway.

Given all that, here is a look at the Roadrunners, position by position:

Catcher — JUCO transfers Andrew Stucky, Broc Parmer and Lorenzo Moressi are expected to split duties through the early portion of the season, with freshman Whitt Joyce from Medina Valley waiting in the wings. The three from JUCO all enjoyed productive seasons at the plate last year. “They all look good,” Hallmark said. “They’re all fighting for the No. 1 spot.”

First base — Senior transfer Alex Olivo, a senior transfer from Texas Southern, and returning player James Taussig both hit with home run power. Also, JUCO transfer Mark Henning is in the mix. All three bat from the left side. Hallmark says first base is “fairly open” at this point. “We have multiple guys that can hit. We’re looking for that combination of hitter-best defender, and one of those guys could end up at DH,” the coach said.

Second base — Isaiah Walker, a .273 hitter a year ago who sat out down the stretch with a hamstring injury. “Isaiah,” Hallmark said, “is a guy we wish we had nine of him, because he can play anywhere on the field. Good defense everywhere.” Also, either of three newcomers, Hector Rodriguez, Zane Spinn or Diego Diaz.

Shortstop — Rodriguez and Spinn. Also, Diaz. Rodriguez played in high school at Houston Westside and at Galveston College. Spinn, from Holland, Tex., also has played at Temple JC. He was at Sam Houston State last year but did not play for the Bearkats, who won a mid-week game off UTSA at Roadrunner Field. Spinn, at 6-4 and 218 pounds, has the potential to hit home runs. Diaz is from the Rio Grande Valley, from Pharr and Sharyland High School.

Third base — Matt King is UTSA’s most accomplished returning player. Over the past two seasons, he has played in 108 games and started 99. He hit for a .318 average last year, slugged six home runs and produced 58 RBIs. “Matt had a good year last year,” the coach said. “We’re looking for him to do that again.” In case of injury, the coach said any of the players at second or third could move over.

Outfielders — Look for returning players Caleb Hill, Isaiah Walker, Tye Odom, James Taussig and Dalton Porter, plus newcomer Mason Lytle, a transfer from Oregon, to play. Hill, who hit .318 with seven homers and 41 RBIs last year, is solid in left field. “Lytle, Odom and Walker, all of ’em are terrific defenders,” Hallmark said. “Any of ’em could be in center. Any of ’em could be in right.”

Pitching — Ulises Quiroga, Ruger Riojas, Daniel Garza, Drake Smith and Ryan Beaird, in that order, logged the most innings pitched for the Roadrunners last year. Coaches are counting on those five along with Ryan Ward to step up their productivity. Also, Braylon Owens looked sharp in early workouts. Braden Smith, a standout from two years ago, is healthy again after missing all of last year.

An intriguing story is Idaho native Robert Orloski, a 6-foot-3 righthander who signed with UTSA and then was drafted in the 20th round of the major league draft by the Boston Red Sox. On Tuesday afternoon, Hallmark named Orloski as his opening-day starter, with Riojas second in the rotation.

UTSA women sizzle in blowout victory over first-place UAB

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins (top) is hoisted in the air by freshman Idara Udo (at right) after UTSA defeated the UAB Blazers Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center. Teammate Hailey Atwood is in the foreground. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Forward Jordyn Jenkins played as hard as she could for as long as she could, and her return to basketball on Sunday afternoon following 10 months of knee rehabilitation seemed to inspire the UTSA Roadrunners to a 76-58 victory over the first-place UAB Blazers.

With the victory, UTSA improved to 3-0 at home this season against teams coming into the Convocation Center in first place in the American Athletic Conference. The Roadrunners have beaten the Charlotte 49ers, the North Texas Mean Green and now the Blazers at home in AAC play.

Jenkins, the 2022-23 Conference USA Player of the Year, scored 11 points in 12 minutes off the bench.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Jenkins scored 11 points in 12 minutes Sunday in her return to basketball 10 months after she suffered an offseason knee injury. – Photo by Joe Alexander

More than just the raw statistics, it was a joyful afternoon for Jenkins, who could be seen smiling and laughing even during pre-game stretching. On her first shot attempt, she swished a three. After the victory was complete, the native of Kent, Wash., was bear-hugged and hoisted off the floor by freshman Idara Udo.

During the second quarter, Coach Karen Aston utilized Jenkins creatively, at intervals, using her on set offensive possessions and then bringing her back to the bench on defense. The coach managed the situation deftly, as the Roadrunners started to take control of the game with a second-quarter outburst.

UTSA played the game without rebounding and shot blocking leader Elyssa Coleman. Asked about Coleman’s status for a scheduled Wednesday night road contest at Tulsa, Aston said, “I think she’ll be fine. We were making sure that we’ve got her down the stretch (of the season). It really was precautionary today. I wasn’t happy about it, but it’s what’s best for our team.”

For the Roadrunners, the last three games seem to have underscored the up-and-down nature of their season.

First, they defeated the Mean Green at home by eight points in overtime on Jan. 31. Four days later, the Tulane Green Wave came into San Antonio winless in AAC road games and walloped the Roadrunners, leading by more than 20 in the second half and eventually winning by 11. Now, UTSA is riding high again after demolishing the Blazers.

Kyra White. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA senior Kyra White looks to attack the basket against the UAB Blazers. White produced 12 points and five rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I hope that we understand that every game is a big game,” Aston said. “I think that the league really has a lot of parity. I said this last week. You see a team (that is) second or third in the league, getting beat by somebody that’s in the bottom half … I just think that there’s a lot of parity. If you don’t play the way we did today, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

With Aysia Proctor, Jenkins, Kyra White and Sidney Love all scoring in double figures, the Roadrunners also did a number on the Blazers defensively, holding them down to 37 percent shooting. From three-point range, UAB started off well but finished eight of 26 from behind the arc for 31 percent.

UTSA also dominated the boards, as usual, winning the battle 46-33, including 18-9 on the offensive end.

In the AAC, with so many teams roughly equal in talent, Aston said it’s all a matter of playing with urgency. The Roadrunners definitely had it going against the Blazers as they kept pounding the glass and building the lead to as many as 24 points with three minutes left. Clearly, the effort was the difference.

“I’m not saying that’s easy,” Aston said. “I think it’s easier said than done to bring the type of energy and attention to detail that we did. But when we do that, I really think we can compete with anybody.”

It was a big moment for the team when Jenkins checked into the game with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter. After a few possessions, she made her presence known, swishing a three-point shot from the left wing. Her teammates stood and cheered the moment, as the fans joined in.

“I’m just excited,” said Jenkins, a USC transfer who averaged 20.6 points at UTSA last year. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve been on the court, you know … I don’t know, it was just exciting. I worked out earlier today and was getting a whole bunch of shots up on that play specifically. As soon as coach ran that play, I kind of already had it set … I said, OK, let me come off this (screen) hard and make the shot.”

Records

UAB 17-7, 8-4
UTSA 12-10, 6-5

Coming up

UTSA at Tulsa, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m.
UTSA at North Texas, Feb. 18, 2 p.m.

Individuals

UAB coach Randy Norton. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UAB coach Coach Randy Norton’s UAB Blazers came out with energy early but couldn’t sustain it, becoming the third first-place team in the American Athletic Conference to lose this season at the UTSA Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UAB – Kylee Schneringer scored 12 points to lead the Blazers. Guard Mia Moore had 11 points and six rebounds. Also, guard Denim DeShields, the team’s offensive catalyst, produced seven points and three assists. Together Moore and DeShields shot a combined 6 for 21 from the field. Moore left the game in the second half with a lower leg injury. Ashton Elley came off the bench to score nine points. She hit three from three-point range.

UTSA – Aysia Proctor scored a team-high 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Kyra White had 12 points and five boards. Jenkins and Sidney Love both scored 11 points apiece. Jenkins hit three of 12 shots from the field and one of three from long distance. She added four-for-four at the free-throw line. Idara Udo scored nine points and tied Proctor for the team-high with seven boards.

After three quarters

Playing for the first time this season with Jenkins on the floor, the Roadrunners recovered from a shaky start to build a 51-38 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Roadrunners ran an effective offense and outscored the Blazers 38-20 in the middle two periods.

By the end of the third, Proctor had 12 points, Jenkins had nine and Udo and Love six apiece.

In the second quarter, UTSA blew out UAB by a 19-6 count to take an eight-point lead at intermission. After intermission, the Roadrunners took control of the game. They outscored the first-place team in the AAC 19-14 in the third period.

Notable

UTSA promoted the game for cancer awareness. “I think it’s a reminder to all of us that there is a bigger battle going on for a lot of people across the world,” Aston said.

As she was leaving the interview room, UTSA’s Jordyn Jenkins announced her favorite in the Super Bowl. “Go Usher,” she said, referring to the singer/entertainer extraordinaire who was scheduled to serve as the halftime entertainment at the NFL championship game in Las Vegas.

Aysia Proctor. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Aysia Proctor from San Antonio-area Clemens High School led the Roadrunners with 14 points. She hit six of nine from the field and two of four from three-point distance. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA beat UAB 76-58 on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in American Athletic Conference women's basketball at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins made her UTSA season debut on a minutes restriction Sunday, totaling 12 minutes for the game. Regardless, she made a significant impact on the game, coming off the bench for 11 points and six rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Breaking: Jordyn Jenkins is on the floor, warming up for UTSA

Editor’s note: It appears that UTSA forward and 2022-23 Conference USA Player of the Year Jordyn Jenkins will make her season debut on Sunday against the UAB Blazers. Jenkins, who averaged 20.6 points a year ago, is on the floor warming up for the Roadrunners. She hasn’t played yet this year after suffering a knee injury last April. It also appears that UTSA center Elyssa Coleman will not play. Coleman didn’t practice on Saturday and isn’t in uniform.

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA women’s basketball coach Karen Aston says she will have a conversation from time to time with forward Jordyn Jenkins.

Jordyn Jenkins. UTSA women's basketball lost to UTEP 74-67 in Conference USA on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordyn Jenkins is expected to make her season debut for the UTSA women’s basketball team today. – File photo by Joe Alexander

The two will talk about the player’s pre-game routine.

“I’ve told her, ‘Don’t put your uniform on unless you’re ready to play, because I might put you in,’ ” Aston said.

The coach said the two discuss this topic “every day before warmups.”

Presumably, that conversation will take place again Sunday before the Roadrunners hit the floor a 1 p.m. game at the Convocation Center against the UAB Blazers.

On Saturday, it became apparent that a decision is looming on whether Jenkins will try to play in the last few weeks of the season, or whether she will continue her workouts with an eye on not playing, which would allow her to maintain two full seasons of eligibility.

For background, the 2022-23 Conference USA Player of the Year injured a knee last April. The mishap occurred in the weeks after the Roadrunners were eliminated in the semifinals from the C-USA tournament. It was evident then that her recovery would take time, and indeed it has.

A 20-points per game scorer last season, she hasn’t played yet through 21 games. At the same time, she has made steady progress and has stayed steady with her rehabilitation and her commitment to the program. Jenkins has attended every practice that I’ve seen all season. Every game, too.

Lately, her workouts have been encouraging. For the past two weeks, she seems to do a little more each time out. On Saturday, she was banging against male practice players in the post.

Afterward, I asked the coach, “Is No. 32 getting ready to play?

“Um, she looks better,” Aston said. “She’s definitely coming along.”

At that, I followed up with a question on whether the two have talked about the implications of playing the last few weeks of the season and having it count toward a year of her eligibility.

“We talk about it, for sure,” Aston said. “So, we’ll see. I mean, (the season) is winding down.”

Do you think she might play (against UAB), I asked.

“Day to day,” the coach replied.

At that, I glanced at the coach and smiled. The coach, who has a world-class poker face, smiled back — slightly.

“I don’t know,” she said.

With seven games remaining in the regular season remaining, it’s logical that today could be the day, considering the Roadrunners might need her scoring to avoid dropping their second home game in a row.

So, as the coach is fond of saying, “We’ll see.”

Records

UAB 17-6, 8-3
UTSA 11-10, 5-5

Coming up

UTSA at Tulsa, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

East Carolina rides early surge to an 84-73 victory over UTSA

PJ Carter. East Carolina beat UTSA 84-73 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Guard PJ Carter scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half during a UTSA rally that fell short in an 84-73 loss to the East Carolina Pirates. – Photo by Joe Alexancer

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The East Carolina Pirates showed up at the UTSA Convocation Center Saturday wearing T-shirts in warmups with three letters across the front — GPM. The acronym represented the team’s mantra for a ‘Game Point Mentality.’ In other words, play every play as if it will determine the outcome of the game.

Bringing an aggressive mentality from the start, the Pirates built a 23-point halftime lead and then held off the Roadrunners 84-73 in the American Athletic Conference. Forward Brandon Johnson made seven three-pointers and scored a season high 30 points to lead the third victory for East Carolina (12-12, 5-6) in its last five games.

Sinking deeper into a hole in the AAC standings, UTSA (8-16, 2-9) lost its fourth straight game while dropping to 3-12 in its last 15. The Roadrunners had problems in giving up three pointers (13), offensive rebounds (16) and also in allowing the Pirates to capitalize on mistakes. East Carolina outscored UTSA 18-6 in points off turnovers.

East Carolina coach Michael Schwartz. East Carolina beat UTSA 84-73 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

East Carolina coach Michael Schwartz worked at UTSA in the 2004-05 season as an assistant coach under Tim Carter. – photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners turned it over only 12 times, but each time, it seemed that the Pirates would capitalize with a breakout or an easy look at the basket.

For second-year East Carolina coach Michael Schwartz, it was not only a big win for his program, but also a homecoming of sorts. Schwartz, who played a bit part as a player in the Texas Longhorns’ 1999 Big 12 regular-season title under Rick Barnes, snagged his first full-time assistant coaching job in 2004 at UTSA under former Roadrunners coach Tim Carter.

He worked one season (2004-05) under Carter with the Roadrunners in the Southland Conference.

“I was a video coordinator at Texas,” he recalled. “I spent two years at Texas and a year at Long Beach State, and then I came back to UT for two years. (Then) coach Carter gave me my first opportunity to be a full-time assistant. So I will always be indebted to him. I love him. I think he’s an incredible human being, husband and father. I learned so much from him.

“I just have great respect for him and I’m very thankful to him.”

It was a surprise for Schwartz when he came out on the floor for tipoff and saw Carter seated at the press table in his headset, preparing to do commentary on the UTSA radio broadcast. “We stay in contact, but I did not realize (he worked the games),” Schwartz said. “I saw him before the game, and I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to him before I leave.”

The other major surprise for Schwartz centered on his team’s three-point shooting. The Pirates made four of their first five shots from the field — all threes. A few were more than a few steps behind the arc. As the shots continued to fall, East Carolina gained confidence. The Pirates finished nine of 19 from behind the arc in the half, as they took a 48-25 lead.

Jordan Ivy-Curry. East Carolina beat UTSA 84-73 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 14 points on six of 11 shooting from the field. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“It means a lot for any team, home or away,” Schwartz said. “But it really meant a lot for us because we had struggled shooting the basketball, particularly the last four games. We won a couple of the games, in rock fights (with) scores in the 50s and the game with Temple, when we got 70, but it was in overtime. But, we had really struggled on offense.”

One other factor might have tilted the game to the Pirates, and that was preparation. East Carolina last played seven days ago at Charlotte. After losing 67-52 last Saturday, the Pirates had a short trip home to Greenville, N.C., and then had all week to work, to rest and to work some more. UTSA, meanwhile, had a long couple of days travel to Kansas where the Roadrunners lost on Wednesday night to Wichita State, 84-64.

After a long trip home and with less than two days to prepare, the Roadrunners just came out flat.

“Just really a disappointing start,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “They came out, I think, and knocked down four straight three pointers on us. Dug ourselves a hole again. (We) withstood that run and then they put another one on us. We just weren’t good enough in the first half, on either end of the floor … Johnson was terrific. (He) made tough threes, (grabbed) offensive rebounds.

“He was fantastic. But there was more to it than that. Their offensive rebounding was huge. They scored in the paint and they made 13 three pointers.”

Adante' Holiman. East Carolina beat UTSA 84-73 in American Athletic Conference men's basketball on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Roadrunners guard Adante’ Holiman moved into the starting lineup and finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry led the Roadrunners with 14 points, followed by PJ Carter with 12 and Adante’ Holiman with 11. In the first half, the offense was so sporadic, it seemed that the team would go a minute or two without even getting a good look at the basket. Part of that was East Carolina’s defense on Ivy-Curry, UTSA’s best offensive player, who was swarmed each time he touched it.

Ivy-Curry took only three shots in the opening half and made two. He finished the game six of 11 from the field and one of four from three.

Even though the Roadrunners are struggling, they do have seven games left in the regular season, which is ample time to find some chemistry, get hot and prepare for the AAC tournament in Fort Worth. PJ Carter said he and his teammates have a big week coming up with a trip to Charlotte and Temple. They don’t play at home again until Feb. 21 against South Florida.

“We got to just move on to the next opponent, because this is an important stretch for us,” Carter said. “We’re not going to be home for (awhile). As a unit, we have to buy in in practices. Stick close together.”

First half

East Carolina played one of its best halves of the season, shooting 55 percent from the field, in rolling to a 48-25 lead against UTSA.

Forward Brandon Johnson led the charge with 21 points. Johnson made five of the Pirates’ nine three-point baskets. In one stretch, he knocked down three from long distance in three possessions to spark a 15-0 run late in the half.

Records

East Carolina 12-12, 5-6
UTSA 8-16, 2-9

Coming up

UTSA at Charlotte, Thursday, 6 p.m.

It was a special day on Saturday at the Convocation Center. After the State of Texas Senate and House of Representatives issued a resolution proclaiming February 10 as “UTSA 210 Day,” fans gathered in the parking lot for a tailgate. An announced crowd of 1,535 attended an afternoon men’s basketball game.

The day is regarded as a celebration of the strong bond between UTSA athletics and the City of San Antonio.

UTSA Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos presented the resolution at halftime. The resolution was signed by State Sen. José Menéndez (District 26) and State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (District 116).

East Carolina forward Brandon Johnson gets loose for a breakout and a dunk against UTSA on Saturday afternoon.