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.


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.

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