Leyton Barry's drive to right scores two in the B9, lifting the
UTSA Roadrunners to a 3-2, season-opening victory over the Tarleton State Texans. Story to come. https://t.co/hyCDEtJ4sq pic.twitter.com/EKXFXebRHv
— Jerry Briggs (@JerryBriggs) February 18, 2023
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The feeling never gets old for UTSA’s Leyton Barry.
A year ago, he smashed a single to left field that scored the winning run on the last play of a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Stanford Cardinal.
Jubilant teammates chased him into the outfield in celebration of a win over the No. 2 team in the nation.
Fast forward 12 months to a cold Friday night at Roadrunner Field, and the dramatics unfolded in much the same fashion.
After fouling off five straight pitches, Barry crushed a fastball into the gap in right field for a triple, scoring two runs and lifting UTSA to a 3-2, season-opening victory over the Tarleton State Texans.
Once again, the Roadrunners streamed out of the dugout and mobbed their man in shallow left field as the fight song played on the public address.
“It was a fastball, basically right down the middle,” Barry said. “Typically, when you foul off so many pitches in a row, at least what you hope as a hitter, if you keep doing your job and keep fighting up there, you’ll get rewarded for it eventually.”
UTSA had to scramble to secure the win from Tarleton, a baseball program in only its third year in NCAA Division I.
The Roadrunners scored in the third inning, bringing in a run from third base on a ground ball to the right side.
It would be the only run for either team entering the ninth, which made it seem like a great opportunity for UTSA to win in a 1-0 shutout. Tarleton, however, had other ideas.
The Texans produced three, one-out singles off Simon Miller in the top of the ninth to load the bases, bringing Trace Morrison to the plate.
After Morrison grounded a ball toward Barry, the UTSA second baseman, he flipped to shortstop Matt King covering the bag for the force out.
Subsequently, King’s relay skipped past first base for a throwing error, allowing the second run to score on the play and giving the Texans a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Tarleton sent reliever Jake Burcham to the mound. Burcham, from San Antonio’s Reagan High School, faced his first opponent in UTSA’s Garrett Poston and struck him out looking.
At that point, Burcham started to lose his touch, issuing back-to-back, six-pitch walks to Shane Sirdashney and Taylor Smith. With Barry at the plate, the tension mounted.
“I was thinking, try and fight,” Barry said. “I know they brought in arguably their best pitcher for the last inning, so I knew it was going to be tough, especially when I got to two strikes.
“I just thought, I’m going to have to fight every pitch and remain calm.
“You know, a lot of guys will maybe tense up in that moment. So, I just tried to remain calm and see the ball well, and it worked out in the end.”
With the count at three balls and one strike, Barry started his foul-ball spree. On the first one, he lofted it high over the net and slightly to the left. The next four, he sprayed them off to the side.
Next came a fastball down the middle, which Barry ripped into the gap in right field.
Initially, it appeared as if right fielder Kooper Shook might run down the ball and make a spectacular catch. But as he sprinted into the gap, the drive started to sink like a backhand with top spin in a tennis match.
Shook didn’t have a chance to get a glove on it, and the game was over.
UTSA coach Pat Hallmark lauded Barry’s clutch hitting, calling it “terrific.”
“He had three or four fouls balls prior to the base hit, but he’s done it before,” Hallmark said. “He did it in the Stanford game. He hit .340 (in batting average) the last two years. Hitting is difficult. You’re never going to produce every time. But I’m not surprised (at Barry). He’s been a producer now going on three years.
“It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Pitchers ruled in the opener between the Roadrunners of Conference USA and the Texans of the Western Athletic Conference.
Luke Malone, UTSA’s top starter from a year ago, worked six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits. He walked one and struck out five.
In earning the victory, Miller struck out seven in three innings. He allowed three hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.
For Tarleton, starter Will Stevens worked four frames, throwing pitches that topped out on one radar gun at 101 mph.
Beset with wildness, he walked seven, but he also displayed great stuff and fanned five.
Texans reliever Piercen McElyea also was tough, allowing only two hits while striking out six in four innings. Pitching the ninth and getting only one man out, Burcham took the loss.
Malone set the tone early for UTSA by mixing a fastball and a breaking pitch that he seemed comfortable in throwing on any count.
“Honestly, what a better way to open up the season,” Malone said. “Hell of a pitchers’ duel, awesome defense throughout the game and some timely hitting and great base running.
“What a great way to start the season off.”
Tarleton State at UTSA, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Tarleton State at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.