By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The UTSA Roadrunners snapped a season-long, four-game losing streak Thursday by holding off the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 18-16 in 11 innings at Ruston, La.
In the Conference USA series opener, the Bulldogs rallied from deficits of 9-5 and 13-8 to send the game into extra innings tied at 14.
Taylor Smith and Leyton Barry homered in a four-run 11th for UTSA. It was Smith’s third home run of the game. In the bottom half, Louisiana Tech scored twice off UTSA relief ace Simon Miller before its last rally was finally shut down.
With runners at first and third base, Adarius Myers bounced one back to Miller, who tossed to first base for the final out, ending a game that lasted about four hours and 20 minutes.
Miller (8-1) pitched the last five innings, throwing 85 pitches, to pick up the victory. Barry had four hits, and Smith, Barry and Matt King each had four RBIs.
Leadoff batter Dalton Davis led Louisiana Tech with two home runs and six RBIs. Ethan Bates (4-3) was the losing pitcher after giving up the two home runs in the 11th.
The Roadrunners play two more games in Ruston against LA Tech, which beat UTSA last year in the C-USA title game.
UTSA 20-7, 37-16
Louisiana Tech 14-14, 26-28
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Friday, 6 p.m.
UTSA at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, noon
Conference USA tournament, May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston
The UTSA baseball program has won 20 conference games for the first time in the Conference USA era. The Roadrunners have been in the C-USA since 2014. In that time, their previous best efforts within the league came in 2015 when they finished 17-13 and last year when they finished 19-11. The Dallas Baptist Patriots, at 23-5, have clinched the C-USA title. The Roadrunners, now 20-7, will finish second going into next week’s tournament at Houston. Overall, UTSA’s 37 wins are two shy of the school record of 39, set in 1994 and again in 2008.
Ending the skid
UTSA entered the series opener in Ruston on a four-game losing streak. The Roadrunners were swept in three games at home last weekend by Dallas Baptist for their first lost series of the season. Following the sweep, they played on the road Tuesday and lost 10-8 to the Abilene Christian University Wildcats of the Western Athletic Conference. The four-game skid was the longest for UTSA coach Pat Hallmark since his team lost five straight to end the 2021 season.
Rolling in home-run city
UTSA and Louisiana Tech combined for nine home runs in the first game of the series. For the Roadrunners, Taylor Smith hit three of them, and Garrett Poston and Leyton Barry had one apiece. For the Bulldogs, Dalton Davis hit two homers, and Ethan Bates and Phillip Matulia one each. Matulia’s grand slam came in the bottom of the first inning, off Luke Malone, and it catapulted LA Tech into a 5-2 lead.
Riding Smith’s hot bat
Taylor Smith, a senior transfer from Texas A&M, has hit four home runs in two games this week. He hit a grand slam in the fifth inning Tuesday in a 10-8 loss at Abilene Christian. Against Louisiana Tech, he socked a solo homer in the first inning, a two-run shot in the fourth and a solo homer in the 11th that broke a 14-14 tie. Smith’s long-ball surge has boosted him to a team-leading 15 home runs on the season.
Looking at Barry’s numbers
Leyton Barry, one of the all-time great hitters in school history, had four hits in five at bats against Louisiana Tech. He also drove in four runs. He had a single in the first inning, a two-run double in the third, a deep fly ball out to center in the fourth, a walk in the fifth, a ground out in the seventh, a two-out, two-strike double in the ninth and a two-run homer in the 11th. Approaching the end of his UTSA career, Barry has totaled 210 hits and 39 doubles in 175 games. He also has 21 career homers.
UTSA pitcher Luke Malone, the team’s workhorse, Friday-night starter over the last two seasons, has been vulnerable to opponents making solid contact in his last five appearances. Over that stretch, his earned run average is 10.67. Against FIU, UAB, Rice, Dallas Baptist and Louisiana Tech, the senior from Round Rock has yielded 45 hits and 34 earned runs in 28 and 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in 3 and 1/3 innings against LA Tech.