UTSA opens a three-game AAC baseball series at Rice

Alex Olivo. UTSA lost to UT-Arlington 10-9 in the Roadrunners' baseball season opener on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Roadrunner Field. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Infielder/designated hitter Alexander Olivo batted .462 with four RBI in four games for the Roadrunners last week. – File photo by Joe Alexander.

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

For the UTSA Roadrunners, winning baseball games against the Rice Owls once seemed like a nearly insurmountable challenge. Winning on the road at Rice? Well, that once seemed to border on the impossible.

Lately, the tables have turned, according to a game-by-game account of the series in the UTSA baseball record book. Rice holds a 28-22 edge, but UTSA has won 15 of the last 21 since 2018, including the last four.

More surprisingly, UTSA is 9-4 against Rice in the last 13 meetings at Houston. Quite a change from the early days of the series when the Owls once went 13-0 at home against the Roadrunners over the first 11 years of the series.

Naturally, except for historical context, none of that matters when the Roadrunners open a three-game road series against the Owls at Reckling starting tonight.

With both competing in their first season among the 10 baseball-playing members of the American Athletic Conference, UTSA comes into the weekend tied for first place with the East Carolina Pirates. Rice enters tied for eighth, though the Owls have started to show more consistency of late.

Coached by Jose Cruz Jr., the namesake son of a 1980s-era Houston Astros standout, the Owls have won six of their last seven overall. They are 5-1 in their last six AAC games after sweeping three at South Florida last weekend.

Led by slugging Treyton Rank, the Owls scored in double figures in each of their three games against the Bulls. Rank, a junior from Monticello, Fla., hit .581 with three doubles, a homer and eight RBI in the series.


UTSA 24-16, 11-4
Rice 15-25, 6-9

Coming up

A three-game American Athletic Conference series. UTSA at Rice, Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m. Freshman Robert Orloski is scheduled to start the opener for the Roadrunners against the Owls’ Parker Smith.


UTSA head coach Pat Hallmark is 12-5 against Rice, where he once played for a season and later served as a longtime assistant coach under Wayne Graham. Hallmark’s Roadrunners went 5-1 against Rice last season. Hallmark played at Rice in 1995 and worked as an assistant coach there from 2006-16.

After an up-and-down start to this season, Hallmark’s Roadrunners are 14-5 over their last 19 games. Last week, UTSA went 3-1 at home, winning two of three on the weekend against the UAB Blazers.

The Roadrunners have remained in the AAC title race with East Carolina despite the loss of injured Tye Odom. UTSA is 7-3 without Odom, a multi-skilled outfielder, since he went down with a high ankle sprain at home against Charlotte on April 5. His availability for the Rice series is uncertain.

UTSA worked utility man Isaiah Walker back into the lineup last weekend against UAB. Walker, one of the team’s best defensive players at multiple positions, has played in only six games this season.

The Roadrunners have won all five series they have played in the AAC, including road series wins at Tulane (3-0) and Memphis (2-1). UTSA players in the hunt for postseason honors include pitchers Ruger Riojas and Ulises Quiroga, outfielders Mason Lytle and Caleb Hill and infielder Matt King.

Riojas leads the AAC in saves (six), is second in wins (seven) and third in ERA (2.49). In his last outing, the sophomore from Wimberley took the loss, the first of his career. Last Friday night, he yielded four runs in 3 and 2/3 innings as UAB beat UTSA, 7-3.

Quiroga (5-0 3.92) has emerged as the team’s stopper on Sundays. The senior from Baytown is 4-0 in his last four starts. In three of those starts, he has yielded two or fewer earned runs in six or more innings.

Lytle (with a batting average of .388) ranks second in the AAC in hitting. He and Alexander Olivo (.368), Hill (.354) and King (.333) rank among the AAC’s top nine in average. Olivo batted .462 in four games last week.

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