Special for The JB Replay
Just after UTSA’s Simon Miller shut the door on the Houston Cougars with two innings of shutout relief pitching, Matt King and pinch-hitter Clark Henry laced back-to-back triples down the right-field line Wednesday night to spark a major offensive uprising, lifting the UTSA Roadrunners to a 12-2, run-rule victory.
In all, the Roadrunners victimized the Cougars by stroking 13 hits, including three for extra bases. They also drew nine walks as Houston, a runner-up at the American Athletic Conference tournament last year, used 11 pitchers, with only a few of them doing much to aid the cause.
On the heels of a convincing victory, the Roadrunners improved to 3-1, with all games being played at home. They’ll host the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Gaels in a four-game set starting Friday night at Roadrunner Field.
As Miller hung zeroes on the scoreboard in the fifth and sixth innings against Houston, UTSA responded with multiple runs both times against the bedraggled visiting pitching staff. The Roadrunners scored twice in the fifth and six times in the sixth for an 11-0 lead, sending the game into the realm of garbage time.
Even though Houston rallied to score twice in the seventh, UTSA’s Daniel Shafer notched a strikeout to end the threat with the bases loaded. UTSA added a clinching run in the seventh on a Tye Odom RBI double for a 10-run margin, prompting officials to call it a night.
“To win fairly big is nice,” UTSA coach Pat Hallmark said. “We pitched OK. We can pitch better. We didn’t throw enough strikes. Simon Miller was great. A lot of people try to use their best bullpen arm late, but I’m going to try to use Simon when the game’s on the line, and it was.”
UTSA had scored one run in the first inning and two in the third for a 3-0 lead. The score remained the same leading into the top of the fifth, when Hallmark made the call for Miller to enter the game.
“It worked out (for us),” Hallmark said. “It’s not always going to work out that way. You might wake up in the ninth inning and wish you had him and you already pitched him, but I’m not going to let him go to waste. I’m going to use him when we need him, and we needed him right there.”
Miller, a hard-throwing righthander, yielded a couple of hits to lead off the fifth inning, but he escaped from the jam. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Miller struck out pinch hitter Jacob Schoenvogel. Next, Brandon Burckel flied to right field to advance a runner to third base. But in crunch time, Miller won the battle, with Brandon Uhse grounding out to end the threat.
In the sixth, he retired three straight, finishing it off with another ground ball out, this one from preseason all-AAC pick Anthony Tulimero.
Houston entered the mid-week game coming off a three-game home series against the Cal Bears of the Pac 12. The Cougars dropped the first two games of the season before bouncing back to win the third. UTSA hosted third-year Division I entry Tarleton State for three last weekend, winning the first two and then losing the third in extra innings.
Saint Mary’s, Calif., at UTSA, Friday, 6 p.m.
Saint Mary’s at UTSA (doubleheader), Saturday, first game at noon.
Saint Mary’s at UTSA, Sunday, 1 p.m.
By the numbers
Four games into the season, newcomer Antonio Valdez leads the team with a .438 batting average.
Starting at third base in all four games, the Baylor transfer was hitless on opening night, but has since punched out two, three and two hits, respectively, in his last three games. In the field, he’s made two errors in 15 chances but has fielded cleanly without a miscue in the last two games.
As far as his views on how the team has fared, Valdez said he isn’t satisfied.
“We’re 3-1, which is great, but I think we all know that there’s room for improvement,” Valdez said. “We’re all going to keep working harder and harder. You know, 3-1 is great. A win tonight is great … But, we’re shooting for something nice this year.”
Shortstop Matt King (.412) and Tye Odom (.400) have also been swinging the bat well. King leads the team with six RBIs.
Miller, one of four preseason all-Conference USA choices for UTSA, has fared well in two appearances. He’s yielded one earned run on five hits and three walks, while striking out eight.