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.

Division I baseball: UTSA prepares for home finale tonight against UIW

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The UTSA Roadrunners hope to see their offense come to life tonight in their home-field season finale when they host the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

The final non-conference game for both of San Antonio’s NCAA Division I baseball programs will get underway at 6 p.m. at Roadrunner Field.

Over their last 10 games, the Roadrunners have struggled offensively, hitting .257, almost 50 points below their season average. In that stretch, a team that has suffered from some injury issues has averaged 5.1 runs.

UTSA is 5-5 in its last 10, including 4-5 in the American Athletic Conference.

The Roadrunners perked up slightly last weekend, when they hit .272 as a team in three games at home against South Florida. But they left 16 on base on Saturday and 10 more on Sunday.

Fortunately for the Roadrunners, their pitching came through as they won two of three in the series and pulled to within one game of the lead in the American Athletic Conference going into the final weekend.

UTSA will take to the road for its final three games of the regular season on Thursday, Friday and Saturday against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Boca Raton. The AAC tournament will open a week from today in Clearwater, Fla.

UIW comes into the game on a slide, having lost six straight and 11 of their last 12. The Cardinals are also set to close out the regular season on the road with their final three in the Southland Conference Thursday through Saturday at Houston Christian.

UTSA is 19-12 in the series against UIW, including 12-6 at Roadrunner Field. UTSA has won five straight at home in the series. UIW hasn’t won at UTSA since 2016. The Roadrunners beat the Cardinals 7-4 on April 2 at UIW.

Records

Incarnate Word 24-26
UTSA 29-21

Coming up

For the UTSA Roadrunners
Non conference: Incarnate Word at UTSA
Tonight at 6

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 UIW Cardinals
Non-conference: UIW at UTSA
Tonight at 6

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

UTSA wins AAC series against South Florida, moves to within one game of first place


UTSA’s Ruger Riojas fans Rafael Betancourt for the last out Sunday as the Roadrunners beat the South Florida Bulls, 5-3. With the win, UTSA bounces back from a loss on Saturday and claims the series, two games to one. – The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

A game filled with miscues by players struggling physically near the end of a long season also contained its share of highlight-reel moments, most of them by the UTSA Roadrunners, in a 5-3 victory on Sunday over the South Florida Bulls.

Mason Lytle hit a go-ahead solo home run in a two-run seventh inning and reliever Ruger Riojas closed with a solid 3 and 2/3 innings of relief, allowing UTSA to take two of three for its sixth series win in the American Athletic Conference.

Entering the day two games behind front-running East Carolina and two in front of Tulane and Wichita State in the AAC race, the Roadrunners needed to find a way to win on their home field, and they did.

They also got help later in the day, with Tulane beating first-place East Carolina 10-9 in 10 innings and sweeping the series. As a result, second-place UTSA has moved to within one game of the lead.

In the moments immediately after the Roadrunners grinded out a victory on a hot and muggy Mother’s Day afternoon, they didn’t know about their impending good fortune in New Orleans. The Tulane game was still in progress.

To hear Riojas tell it at the time, players were just happy to win a series again after losing one on the road to Rice and another at home to Wichita State on consecutive weekends.

“This feels really good,” he said. “We needed this. It’s been (since April 19-21, against UAB) since we won a weekend. USF is a really, really good team. Just happy we won (so) we can start a streak.”

In the ninth inning, with South Florida at bat, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark stepped from his post at the dugout rail and into the shade to wipe a cool towel over his head.

At that moment, with a runner at first base and one out, red-hot Bobby Boser smoked a ground ball up the middle. It looked like a sure-fire single.

UTSA shortstop Matt King had other ideas. He dove, skidding on the dirt, and gloved the ball. Popping up, he flipped to second for the force.

“Great play,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “And that guy’s a really good hitter.”

Hallmark also talked about a “really good” play in the eighth inning when rightfielder James Taussig ran a ball down in the gap, robbing Rafael Betancourt of extra bases. Also, the coach applauded the pitching of Braylon Owens, Zach Longshore and Riojas, who held down an explosive Bulls offense.

On the flip side, nagging injuries are a problem for the Roadrunners right now with a Tuesday night home game against Incarnate Word looming, and after that a three-game AAC set at Florida Atlantic that will close out the regular season.

“We’re a little thin on the health side,” Hallmark said. “We just got to keep persevering and persisting, because the hitting can turn around. We haven’t hit good for a couple of weeks. People just aren’t healthy and strong right now.”

East Carolina closes its season with three games at home against the Rice Owls.

Series recap

Friday: UTSA beats South Florida, 5-2
Saturday: South Florida beats UTSA, 6-3
Sunday: UTSA beats South Florida, 5-3

Records

South Florida 24-27, 10-14
UTSA 29-21, 15-9

AAC leaders

East Carolina 16-8, 37-13
UTSA 15-9, 29-21
Tulane 13-11, 29-23
Wichita State 13-11, 27-26

Coming up

Non conference: UIW at UTSA
Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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

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

JB’s video replay


UTSA’s Matt King reaches base in the bottom of the third on a chaotic misplay in the infield by the Bulls. – The JB Replay


South Florida scores on an infield error to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth. UTSA tried to turn two, but the play went awry. – The JB Replay


Mason Lytle hits a solo homer in the seventh for a 3-2 lead that the Roadrunners would not surrender. – UTSA athletics


Later in the seventh, Riley Skeen throws a wild pitch that allows UTSA’s Zane Spinn to score from third, as the Roadrunners take a 4-2 lead. – The JB Replay

Second-place UTSA trails East Carolina by two in the AAC race

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

John Montes led off with a solo home run to spark a five-run rally in the top of the fifth inning Saturday as the South Florida Bulls claimed a 6-3 victory over UTSA to spoil Senior Day festivities at Roadrunner Field.

UTSA rallied in the eighth inning with a Zane Spinn solo homer but came up short in Game 2 of a three-game series in the American Athletic Conference.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Roadrunners had runners aboard at second and third, with one out, and couldn’t capitalize.

At that point, Bulls right-handed reliever Chandler Dorsey got a fly ball and a grounder to end the game, handing the Roadrunners a costly loss.

If there were any consolations to be found for the Roadrunners, they did catch a break later Saturday evening, as the first-place East Carolina Pirates continued to struggle. The Pirates lost 7-3 to the Tulane Green Wave, meaning that they failed to pick up any ground on the second-place Roadrunners going into Sunday.

With four games left in conference for both teams, East Carolina holds a two-game lead on UTSA. On Sunday, the Pirates will close out their series with the Green Wave in New Orleans, while the Roadrunners hope to bounce back with a victory over the Bulls in San Antonio.

UTSA has five games remaining overall, including the South Florida series finale, a Tuesday night non-conference home contest against UIW and three on the road in the AAC at Florida Atlantic, starting Thursday. East Carolina plays its final series at home against Rice.

The Roadrunners last won a regular season title in 2008 when they finished first in the Southland Conference under Coach Sherman Corbett. The Roadrunners claimed Southland regular-season titles in both 2007 and 2008.

On Saturday, UTSA took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first against South Florida starter Jack Cebert. One run crossed on a bases-loaded infield single by Diego Diaz. Another scored on Mark Henning’s ground ball.

In the end, Cebert escaped the jam, retiring the side with two runners on base. UTSA would leave 16 runners stranded in the game.

The Bulls got on the board in the fourth with a solo homer by Joaquin Monque. In the fifth, Montes led off by hitting another ball over the fence, South Florida’s fourth home run against UTSA pitching in two days.

One out later, the Bulls strung together five straight hits and scored four more runs. During the uprising, a throwing error in the UTSA infield kept the rally alive.

South Florida leadoff man Bobby Boser tormented UTSA pitching for the second straight game. Boser, a promising prospect that Roadrunners coaches believe is capable of playing in the major leagues, had three hits to give him five in the series.

Monque picked up two hits and two RBIs.

Series glance

Friday: UTSA wins 5-2
Saturday: South Florida wins 6-3

Records

South Florida 24-26, 10-13
UTSA 28-21, 14-9

AAC leaders

East Carolina 16-7, 37-12
UTSA 14-9, 28-21
Tulane 12-11, 28-23
Wichita State 12-11, 26-26

Coming up

For the UTSA Roadrunners
AAC series: South Florida at UTSA
Game 3: Sunday at 11 a.m.

Non conference: UIW at UTSA
Tuesday at 6 p.m.

AAC series (to close the regular season)
UTSA at Florida Atlantic
Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Friday at 3 p.m.
Saturday at 11 a.m.

For the East Carolina Pirates
AAC series: East Carolina at Tulane
Game 3: Sunday at 1 p.m.

Non conference
Campbell at East Carolina
Tuesday at 5 p.m.

AAC series (to close the regular season)
Rice at East Carolina
Thursday at 5 p.m.
Friday at 5 p.m.
Saturday at noon

x-all times Central

UTSA’s Hallmark on Robert Orloski: ‘He’s eager to pitch, and I’m eager to pitch him’

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said late Friday night that freshman pitcher Robert Orloski is healthy and that he possibly could return to game action as early as this weekend against the South Florida Bulls.

“Rob’s fine,” Hallmark said. “For a freshman, it’s a long season. It’s a longer season than (freshmen) are used to. He had a little spell there where he wasn’t pitching his best. I just think it was at that point, where a lot of freshman hit a little bit of a wall physically.”

Orloski, from Middleton, Idaho, opened the season with some fanfare, starting in Game 1 for the Roadrunners. In 13 appearances this season, mostly as a Friday night starter, he has worked 48 and 2/3 innings.

Over that stretch, he has posted a 3-4 record with a 6.10 earned run average.

The hard-throwing righthander seemed to be at his best in March, when UTSA won home games against the Grand Canyon Lopes and the 10th-ranked East Carolina Pirates. In each game, the Roadrunners won against formidable opponents and quality pitchers.

Notably, Orloski pitched six innings to beat East Carolina and All-American righthander Trey Yesavage at Roadrunner Field on March 22. In April, however, the freshman suffered a few tough outings.

As a result, Hallmark decided to sit him down for awhile.

“He said he was fine,” the coach said. “His velocities were fine. But, when you’re used to playing — at the most — 30 to 35 games, and we’re (approaching) 50 now … For freshmen, it’s more than they’re used to, so we just gave him a little break.”

Asked if Orloski might pitch either of the final two games against South Florida, Hallmark stopped short of saying it would definitely happen.

“He’s ready,” the coach said. “He’s healthy. He’s eager to pitch and I’m eager to pitch him. So, I think you’ll see him. If you don’t see him this weekend, it’s because we’re pitching really well (which) is a good thing.

But we’re looking to pitch him.”

As of Friday night, Hallmark said he planned to start Zach Royse in Game 2. His Game 3 starter? Undetermined.

Grand finale at home: Quiroga pitches UTSA to a 5-2 victory

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

Ulises Quiroga yielded two runs in 8 and 1/3 innings and earned the victory Friday night against the South Florida Bulls. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With a group of family and friends totaling about 30 people in the grandstands, and with emotions running higher than usual, Ulises Quiroga took the mound on a breezy Friday afternoon for what likely was his last outing at home as a member of the UTSA Roadrunners.

He made the most of the experience during the game, pitching into the ninth inning and leading UTSA to a 5-2 victory over the South Florida Bulls. He also had a good time afterward, taking time to greet everyone from his hometown who turned out to support him on UTSA’s Senior Weekend.

For a good 15 or 20 minutes, the senior from Baytown lingered, talking with family members and posing for pictures. Poignantly, he ended the festivities by walking around and hugging just about everyone.

Later, perhaps thinking about moving on in his baseball career in the near future, he described his feelings on the evening and on the moment as bittersweet. Sweet to win on the home field one last time. A little sad, however, to think about nearing the end of a joyful three-year run at UTSA.

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

Mason Lytle recorded assists with throws from center field in both the first and the third innings. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Right now it feels good (to win),” Quiroga said. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

All the nostalgia aside, Quiroga’s performance was important on a few different levels. First, he helped lift the spirits of the Roadrunners after they had endured two tough weeks. They arrived at the ball park with a 3-4 record in their last seven games, and they exited with newfound momentum.

Later in the evening, they gained something even more tangible. The Roadrunners picked up a game in the race for the regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference.

Coming into the weekend, the front-running East Carolina Pirates led the second-place Roadrunners by three games. Their lead was trimmed to two after the Roadrunners won and after the Pirates lost 6-5 on the road to the Tulane Green Wave.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark, discussing the AAC race before the East Carolina game had been completed, said the Pirates would be “hard to catch” with only a handful of games left on the schedule. Both East Carolina and UTSA now have five left to play in conference.

“We’re just trying to win games and play good ball whether we’re in second place or not in second place,” the coach said. “We can only control what we can control.”

Immediately, UTSA will focus on trying to win the three-game series against South Florida. Game Two is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. A third game will be played either later Saturday night as part of a doubleheader, or on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Regardless of the fluidity in the schedule, Hallmark felt good about winning the opener. Looking over the box score immediately after the game, he was asked what numbers he liked the most, and he replied with a wry grin, “The score.”

Some of the other numbers weren’t that great from the Roadrunners’ perspective. For instance, South Florida slammed two homers and out-hit UTSA, 10-7. But Hallmark was fine with it on the whole because his team played a better overall game, spiced with sound defense and pitching.

Two outfield assists by centerfielder Mason Lytle erased runners off the basepaths in the first few innings. One of those assists factored into one of three UTSA double plays. Not to be overlooked, the pitching of Quiroga and Ruger Riojas was solid.

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

UTSA second baseman Diego Diaz makes a play and fires to Isaiah Walker at first. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Between the two of them, UTSA pitching didn’t walk a batter all night.

“Zero walks from Uli and Ruger, (that) was very important on a night with the wind blowing in like it was,” Hallmark said. “It’s important on any night, but this team can really hit the ball. So (to have zero walks), that was big.”

Quiroga (7-1) struck out four in 8 and 1/3 innings and succeeded mainly by pitching to contact and letting his fielders make plays. He allowed all 10 hits, including solo homers by Bobby Boser and Drew Brutcher.

Trailing by three runs entering the ninth inning, the Bulls made it interesting with two straight, one-out hits, a double past third base by Ben Rozenblum and a single by Rafael Betancourt. The shot by Betancourt glanced off Quiroga’s lower body, which kept the ball in the infield and forced Rozenblum to hold up at third base.

With runners at first and third and the potential tying run coming to the plate, Riojas entered the game to finish off the Bulls with two straight outs. He fanned Joaquin Monque and retired Brutcher on a foul fly ball.

Offensively for the Roadrunners, Matt King led the way with three hits and Caleb Hill had two. Diego Diaz and Hector Rodriguez produced two RBI each. Rodriguez smashed a two-run double that highlighted UTSA’s three-run fourth inning.

Defensively, Lytle led the way with two assists from center field. One came in the first inning, on the game’s first play. Fielding a base hit on the bounce, he threw to second base to cut down Boser, who was trying to stretch it into a double.

In the third inning, Eric Snow was aboard at second base when Lytle caught a middle distance fly ball. Snow was tagging on the play, but he seemed to get a bad jump. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Lytle’s throw beat him to the third by quite a bit, completing a double play and erasing another scoring threat.

Records

South Florida 23-26, 9-13
UTSA 28-20, 14-8

Coming up

AAC series: South Florida at UTSA
Saturday: 2 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.

Note: It’s possible the teams will play a doubleheader Saturday afternoon and evening depending on the weather forecast for Sunday. The decision on the schedule is expected to be made Saturday morning.

JB’s video replay


South Florida’s Rafael Betancourt smashes a ball that hits UTSA senior righthander Ulises Quiroga and goes for a ninth-inning infield single. It was Quiroga’s last pitch on a night that likely was his final performance at Roadrunner Field.


Hector Rodriguez lines a two-RBI double to left to cap a three-run fourth inning for the Roadrunners.

AAC baseball: UTSA looks for a bounce-back weekend against South Florida

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second-place UTSA Roadrunners have seven games remaining in the regular season, including three at home this weekend against the South Florida Bulls, to rekindle their title hopes before the American Athletic Conference tournament.

Pat Hallmark. UTSA beat A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 in non-conference baseball on Tuesday, April 15, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA has lost two straight and four of its last seven, but history shows that it only takes a spark to ignite a Pat Hallmark-coached team in May. – Photo by Joe Alexander

First pitch between South Florida and UTSA is at 6 tonight.

For six UTSA players, the weekend has added meaning in that it’s likely the last time they will suit up at Roadrunner Field.

Daniel Garza, Ulises Quiroga, Ryan Ward, Alexander Olivo, Caleb Hill and Fischer Kingsbery all will be recognized Saturday in a Senior Day ceremony.

For the team, the last two weekends haven’t gone as planned. Rice won two of three from UTSA in Houston from April 26-28.

After the Roadrunners downed I-35 rival Texas State in non-conference, they hosted the Wichita State Shockers last weekend and dropped two of three on their home field.

Overall, UTSA is 3-4 in its last seven coming into the series opener tonight against South Florida.

UTSA’s last two games, in particular, dampened momentum considerably. Playing a doubleheader at home last Saturday, the Roadrunners dropped both to the Shockers, 11-2 and 8-4.

In the series finale, they established a 2-0 lead through six shutout innings behind starting pitcher Braylon Owens and couldn’t close the deal.

Even though the Roadrunners had posted a 21-1 record on the season with a lead going into the seventh, they couldn’t hold on.

But, as disappointed as fans may be at the moment, it’s best to remind that it only takes a few sparks to ignite a team coached by Pat Hallmark in May.

If the Roadrunners are looking for inspiration, they could consider their circumstances in 2022, when they were locked in the Conference USA title race in the last month and proceeded to drop three league games in a row.

Regardless, on the last weekend of the regular season, they bounced back from an 11-run loss at home to the UAB Blazers and beat UAB twice in the next two days.

At the C-USA tournament, they kept playing well, winning three in a row, including two straight from a nationally-ranked, top-seeded host in Southern Miss. The Roadrunners completed a 38-win season with a 9-8 loss to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the title game.

Tonight’s opponent, the Bulls, are deep in the doldrums.

They’re slumping at 3-12 in their last 15. Moreover, they’ve dropped their last three series in conference to fall into a tie for seventh in the standings, though they did defeat AAC leader East Carolina 5-4 on the road last Sunday.

Tampa-based South Florida traveled to Gainesville and lost Tuesday night to the Southeastern Conference’s Florida Gators, 4-1. Based on recent history, it would not be wise to count out Coach Billy Mohl’s Bulls, either.

In 2021, they enjoyed a memorable ride, taking a losing record into the AAC tournament before rising up to claim the conference’s postseason title and the NCAA automatic bid. The Bulls beat the Central Florida Knights to advance.

Later, they used the momentum to barge into the NCAA Gainesville Regional and won it, defeating host Florida in the opener and then Miami before knocking off South Alabama in the title game. Advancing to the Super Regional round, they were finally eliminated in Austin by the Texas Longhorns.

In two weeks, eight of the AAC’s 10 baseball programs will congregate in Florida to play for the NCAA’s automatic bid. The tournament is scheduled for May 21-26 in Clearwater. The NCAA tournament starts the next weekend.

Right now, East Carolina is considered as a strong contender to host an NCAA first-weekend regional.

Records

South Florida 23-25, 9-12
UTSA 27-20, 13-8

Coming up

AAC series – South Florida at UTSA
Friday – 6 p.m.
Saturday – 2 p.m.
Sunday – 11 a.m.

Non-conference
Tuesday, May 14 – UIW at UTSA, 6 p.m.

AAC regular-season finale
May 16 – UTSA at Florida Atlantic, 5:30 p.m.
May 17 – UTSA at Florida Atlantic, 3 p.m.
May 18 – UTSA at Florida Atlantic, 11 a.m.

AAC standings

East Carolina 16-5, 37-10
UTSA 13-8, 27-20
Charlotte 11-10, 22-27
Tulane 10-11, 26-23
FAU 10-11, 24-22
Wichita State 10-11, 24-26
South Florida 9-12, 23-25
UAB 9-12, 22-25
Rice 9-12, 19-30
Memphis 8-13, 21-28

This weekend

Memphis at UAB; South Florida at UTSA; Charlotte at Wichita State; East Carolina at Tulane, Florida Atlantic at Rice

AAC tournament

At Clearwater, Fla. May 21-26

Notable

The Bulls have played in the NCAA tournament four times since 2015, including twice under head coach Billy Mohl since 2018.

The Roadrunners are in their fifth season under head coach Pat Hallmark. They won 38 games in each of the past two years but came up short of an NCAA bid each time. UTSA has not been to the NCAA tournament since the 2013 team made it under former head coach Jason Marshall, whose team claimed the automatic bid out of the Western Athletic Conference.

UTSA played in Conference USA in a 10-year span from 2014 through 2023 and before starting in the American this year.

Roadrunners freshman Rob Orloski, the team’s Friday night starter for most of the season, did not pitch in the Wichita State series last weekend. It was the first time this spring that he was not on the mound for a weekend game. His status for South Florida hasn’t been announced. Orloski, who memorably beat East Carolina in the AAC opener at Roadrunner Field on March 22, last pitched on April 30 against Texas State. He started and pitched to four batters before he was relieved.

Wichita State sweeps two from UTSA to win the series

Braylon Owens made his first start of the season and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings. UTSA played Wichita State in the second game of an American Athletic Conference doubleheader on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at Roadrunner-Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA’s Braylon Owens was masterful Saturday in yielding only one run on three hits in 6 and 1/3 innings against the Wichita State Shockers. Owens didn’t get a decision as the Shockers rallied late for an 8-4 victory to sweep a doubleheader. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Pinch hitter Josh Livingston ripped a grand slam to highlight a seven-run seventh inning as the Wichita State Shockers rallied for an 8-4 victory over UTSA and a sweep of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Roadrunner Field.

After winning 11-2 in the first game, the Shockers fell behind 2-0 early. UTSA, sparked by Mason Lytle, scored one run in the first inning and another in the second to get off to a fast start in front of the home fans.

The game continued to go UTSA’s way with pitcher Braylon Owens putting on perhaps his best performance of the season. Owens blanked the Shockers for the first six innings. In the seventh, he retired the first batter he faced and walked the second, prompting UTSA coach Pat Hallmark to make a change.

Ruger Riojas, however, couldn’t stop the Shockers. He gave up three straight hits, with the Shockers scoring once to pull within 2-1. At that point, Fischer Kingsbery entered in relief. But it didn’t slow down the visiting team.

Mason Lytle leads off the bottom of the first inning with a double. UTSA played Wichita State in the second game of an American Athletic Conference doubleheader on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at Roadrunner-Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Mason Lytle leads off the bottom of the first inning with a double. He later scored the first run of the game. – Photo by Joe Alexander

A sacrifice fly brought in a run to tie it and then Kingsbery issued a walk and hit a batter to bring in another run. With a one-run lead and the bases loaded, the Shockers called on Livingston to pinch hit, and he unleashed a swing that that sent a ball sailing over the right field wall for a 7-2 lead.

Wichita State tacked on another run in the eighth. Meanwhile, the Shockers’ pitching seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Brady Hamilton, Tyler Dobbs and Hunter Holmes and kept the Roadrunners off the scoreboard for six straight innings, from the third through the eighth.

In the ninth, the Roadrunners made it interesting against Nate Adler. Matt King doubled and Alex Olivo hit a two-run homer, slicing it down the line and off the left field foul pole. At that point, Adler retired Diego Diaz on a ground ball and struck out Mark Henning to end it.

Series glance

Friday: UTSA 6, Wichita State 5
Saturday: Wichita State 11, UTSA 2
Saturday: Wichita State 8, UTSA 4

Records

Wichita State 24-26, 10-11
UTSA 27-20, 13-8

Coming up

South Florida at UTSA, next weekend, May 10-12

Game 1 recap

Kam Durnin homered and produced four RBI, and lefthander Caden Favors pitched a complete game Saturday afternoon, allowing the Wichita State Shockers to snap a four-game losing streak with an 11-2 victory over UTSA at Roadrunner Field.

Wichita State pitcher Caden Favors. UTSA lost to Wichita State 11-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Wichita State’s Caden Favors pitched a complete game to beat UTSA 11-2 in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader at Roadrunner Field.- Photo by Joe Alexander

With the win, coming in the first game of a doubleheader, the Shockers evened a three-game series at one win apiece. The teams were scheduled to play the third game Saturday night.

Durnin drove in a run with a ground ball in the second inning. In the third, he singled and drove in two more, and in the ninth, he drilled a solo homer as the Shockers poured it on with three runs, expanding their lead to nine.

Favors (7-4) allowed only five hits and one earned run to earn the victory. Spotting his fastball and mixing in off-speed stuff, he shut out the Roadrunners from the fourth through the ninth innings.

Ulises Quiroga (6-1) took his first loss of the season. He worked five and 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four of them earned) on five hits.

The Shockers continued to hit the Roadrunners bullpen, which yielded five runs on 10 hits. For the Roadrunners, the final score ended up being their widest margin of defeat this season.

UTSA entered play Saturday in second place, two games behind East Carolina, in the American Athletic Conference standings.

Ty Tilson. UTSA lost to Wichita State 11-2 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA third baseman Ty Tilson has his eye on the ball during the opener of a doubleheader against Wichita State. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA takes Game 1 of the series, downing Wichita State, 6-5

Daniel Garza. UTSA beat Wichita State 6-5 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, May 3, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA senior righthander Daniel Garza pitched four innings in middle relief, giving up three runs while striking out five. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Relief pitcher Fischer Kingsbery came to the rescue, retiring two straight batters in the the ninth inning with the potential tying run at first base, as UTSA held off the Wichita State Shockers 6-5 Friday night at Roadrunner Field.

The Roadrunners won the opener of a three-game series in the American Athletic Conference despite giving up two solo home runs in the ninth and getting out-hit, 12-7.

James Taussig. UTSA beat Wichita State 6-5 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, May 3, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

James Taussig makes a play in right field on a night when the Roadrunners played error-free baseball – Photo by Joe Alexander

Lane Haworth led off the inning by cranking his second homer of the game, this one off UTSA relief ace Ruger Riojas. One out later, Derek Williams re-directed another pitch from Riojas over the wall to bring the Shockers to within one run.

After Riojas walked Dayvin Johnson, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark made a change. He brought in Kingsbery to end the threat. Kingsbery responded by retiring Mauricio Millan on a fly ball to right. Jaden Gustafson made the last out, bouncing to the second baseman.

With the win, second-place UTSA stayed within two games of the streaking, first-place East Carolina Pirates in the AAC race. Earlier in the evening, the Pirates won 11-1 in seven innings on the run rule over the South Florida Bulls. It was their ninth straight victory.

Meanwhile, on the UTSA campus, both the Roadrunners and the Shockers were locked in a 1-1 tie with one out in the bottom of the sixth when rain forced umpires to stop the game and wave teams off the field. UTSA had the bases loaded at the time. The game was delayed by about a half an hour.

Hector Rodriguez. UTSA beat Wichita State 6-5 in American Athletic Conference baseball on Friday, May 3, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA third baseman Hector Rodriguez contorts his body after fielding a ground ball and fires to first base. – Photo by Joe Alexander

When it started again, the Shockers had changed pitchers, with lefty Hunter Holmes in the game. The Roadrunners responded by going with a pinch-hitter, Tye Odom, who had not played for almost a month nursing an ankle sprain. Odom grounded to the right side for a 2-run single.

The ball high-hopped to the second baseman, who appeared to lose his footing and then did not field it cleanly.

With the Wichita State infielder having trouble picking it up, Odom made it safely to first base while both Alex Olivo and James Taussig scored. Olivo scored easily from third and Taussig, remarkably, came all the way around from second, lifting the Roadrunners into a 3-1 lead.

Records

Wichita State 22-26, 8-11
UTSA 27-18, 13-6

Coming up

Wichita State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Wichita State at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.

JB’s video replay


UTSA starter Zach Royse fans Wichita State’s Derek Williams to complete a 1-2-3 top of the first.


Wichita State freshman Tommy LaPour gets a strikeout at the end of the fourth inning. He had a no hitter and a shutout at the time. LaPour yielded three runs on four hits in 5 and 2/3 innings. He struck out nine.


UTSA’s Hector Rodriguez flares a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring teammate Isaiah Walker from third, to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth.