By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Freshman Tye Odom delivered an RBI single for the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, and the UTSA Roadrunners held in the bottom half to beat the Rice Owls 4-3 on the road in the opener of a Conference USA baseball series.
The series will continue with single games Saturday and Sunday at Reckling Park in Houston.
UTSA managed just enough offense to win for the 11th time in 12 games behind the pitching of starter Luke Malone, relief ace Simon Miller and closer Daniel Shafer.
After Malone pitched 5 and 2/3 innings, coming out in the sixth after he was hit by a batted ball, Miller entered and worked masterfully through the next 4 and 2/3, earning the victory and improving his record to 6-0 on the season.
Though Miller yielded the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, UTSA stayed with him, and he pitched into the 11th.
All told, he threw 78 pitches. Miller, the nation’s earned run average leader at 0.38 entering the series, yielded one run on four hits and one walk. He struck out seven.
Trying to close the game, Miller hit Drew Holderbach with a pitch to open the bottom of the 11th.
After Holderbach was erased on a Connor Walsh fielder’s choice, UTSA coach Pat Hallmark took Miller out and replaced him with Shafer, who induced Max Johnson to pop up.
In the final sequence, Shafer earned the save when he fanned Aaron Smigelski to end it.
The game started fast with UTSA’s Antonio Valdez clubbing a two-run homer off Rice starter Parker Smith in the top of the first. Rice responded in the bottom half when Guy Garibay Jr. smashed a two-run homer off Malone.
UTSA took a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Leyton Barry bunted for a single and took second base on a throwing error by Smith. Barry advanced to third on a fly ball and then raced home on a wild pitch.
Undeterred, Rice scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth against Miller to tie it.
Manny Garza started the uprising with a two-out single. At that point, Johnson entered to pinch run. Smigelski followed with an infield single to the right side, putting runners at first and second. Pinch hitter Paul Smith, a freshman, stroked an RBI single to right to tie the game.
UTSA 19-4, 4-0
Rice 11-11, 3-1
UTSA at Rice, Saturday, 2 p.m.
UTSA at Rice, Sunday, 1 p.m.