Sugar Land Baseball Classic 2024

Missed Opportunities at the Plate Lead to 1-2 Weekend for UTSA Baseball

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The Roadrunners wrapped up a disappointing 1-2 weekend on Sunday at the Sugar Land College Classic. While they got back in the win column Friday afternoon after coming from behind against Stephen F. Austin, they went on to drop two closely contested matchups. Each game had one inning where the defense allowed at least three runs. UTSA erased that production on Friday but could not do so on Saturday or Sunday. That proved to be the difference.

On one hand, it was encouraging to see them in each game. On the other hand, it leaves fans wondering when the offense will find their groove. UTSA is now 3-5 on the season. They face off against the Houston Cougars this Tuesday in Houston. It will be a Tuesday rematch of last year’s game. 

The Good…

There were a handful of UTSA pitchers that had solid bounce-back performances. Fischer Kingsbery and Braylon Owens found their form as they worked to keep Sunday’s loss against Lamar within reach. The pair combined for three innings while allowing no runs on four hits. They also worked around minor jams, leaving runners on base and in scoring position. 

Robert Orloski took a step forward on the mound. Looking at the box score, you may wonder what I’m talking about. The freshman gave up a few more home runs and left some runners on that he was credited with when Ryan Beaird entered in relief. He also went over five innings in just his second start and struck out eight through 5.1 innings pitched. He is possibly facing the most talented offense in his pitching career, and there is undoubtedly still a learning curve. 

Ruger Riojas, Daniel Garza, and Conor Myles logged extended relief and kept things at bay. After starting last weekend, those in attendance saw Ruger come out of the pen on Friday. It may still be a few more weeks until his role is solidified. Through 2.2 IP, he struck out more batters (3) than he walked or allowed a hit to. Keep an eye on Garza and Myles regarding whether they settle more in as starters or stay in the middle relief spot as the season progresses.

As a whole, the hitting falls more in the “Not so good” spot this week. There were some performances I wanted to mention that can hopefully help kick-start this offense. Accordingly, the win on Friday was the best offensive day. UTSA scored seven runs on thirteen hits. The most important was Broc Parmer’s pinch-hit two-run home run. The go-ahead homer proved the difference as UTSA held on for the one-run victory. Caleb Hill had an excellent two-hit game on Saturday, accounting for the Roadrunners’ lone RBI. 

A big kudos to Aiden Baumann for hitting his first collegiate home run. The two-run shot woke up the UTSA contingency. Baumann was within a few feet of one-upping his earlier home run with a go-ahead three-run shot to the same spot. While it came up short, he has had some big moments early this season. 

The defense, while not perfect, was improved. There were some run-saving plays at different points throughout the weekend. Ty Tilson had a smooth flip and tag to Broc Parmer on a sac bunt attempt, and Diego Diaz made an acrobatic catch with the wind blowing to keep the deficit reasonable. There is still a lot of movement with different players, finding what works best and matchups, and some players are still banged up. 

The Not So Good… 

UTSA has already seen some unfortunate breaks (no pun intended) through two weekends of play, with injuries. Utility player Isaiah Walker and outfielder Tye Odom are still out after exiting early during the UTA series due to injury.

During Saturday’s game against Creighton, Matt King exited after a scary moment where he collided with the wall while attempting to come up with a foul pop-up. After getting up on his own and being assessed by the trainers, he was unable to continue. Without getting into too many details, the result of the collision doesn’t seem like it will keep him out too long.

Mason Lytle was also missing from Sunday’s lineup, although no official details were given. The last thing UTSA needs is to have their depth tested early on. It also prevents getting different players comfortable and builds on the chemistry required in the field. 

Across the three games, UTSA only plated eleven runs. Over half of those came on Friday, with the Roadrunners scoring just four runs across two games. UTSA left twenty-three runners on base which added to the offensive frustration. Some of that is a credit to the opponent. Both Creighton and Lamar benefited from solid middle infield defense. The other factor is just how baseball sometimes goes, whether it be hard hits right at a defender or adverse playing conditions. 

The hitting remains to be a point of emphasis for UTSA. The Roadrunners recorded four one-out singles Sunday afternoon but only scored one run before an inning-ending double play left them trailing. They must improve in reducing the LOB column and increasing the extra base hits and RBIs. 

If pinch-hitting could be comparable to 4th down conversions, UTSA went an underperforming 2-8 across the weekend. It would be unfair not to mention Broc Parmer’s home run. That paid off. It is only one hit away from a solid .375 from your pinch hitters. You want it to improve so UTSA can win the situational chess matches. There is also the hindsight of how the at-bat turned out, and it was a match-up move that increased the percentages. 

Outside of Broc Parmer’s critical home run, UTSA underperformed in crucial pinch-hit opportunities. The Roadrunners went just 2-8 in these scenarios, a disappointing outcome for the situational chess matches required to win close games against strong opponents. This is one area that UTSA will need to improve in down the stretch to return to form by the time conference play begins.

The Look Ahead…

After spending the weekend just outside of Houston, UTSA will play in Houston on Tuesday. The afternoon slate has the Roadrunners in a rematch against the improved Cougars. Last season, Houston visited UTSA and was run-ruled, losing 12-2 in seven innings. Houston would go on to have an above-average season in their final campaign as a member of the AAC. They finished second in the regular season and made the conference tournament semi-finals before being eliminated by eventual surprise champions, the Tulane Green Wave. 

Now, as they prepare for their first baseball season as members of the Big 12, they are off to a great start. The Cougars are 6-1 through two weekends, outscoring their opponents 75-21. While their opponents may not be ranked, the team’s offense has looked strong, and they just secured a series win against a quality St. John’s program.

Houston is projected to finish middle of the pack in their inaugural Big 12 season. Take that into consideration, though, that it is a conference that still contains teams like Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. 

As a team, they have hit ten home runs with fourteen additional base hits by way of doubles and triples. A familiar face will be one of their transfers, Tre Jones. He gave UTSA fits last year playing for Corpus Christi. Jones’ season is off to a terrific start. He is hitting .476/.522/.905 with a double, triple, two home runs, and nine RBIs. 

Pitching-wise, they look to be just as dangerous. The highest ERA from one of their starters is 3.24. So far, the rest of their starters all have ERAs under 1.0. I must point out that outside of their obvious weekend guys, they don’t have anyone who has logged more than five innings. We will see on Tuesday if that is a depth approach or wanting to get everyone a chance early. 

UTSA needs this win for several reasons. Beating teams from power programs is always nice. It would also bring significant momentum and confidence for the week going into the Grand Canyon series. Hopefully, they can get some guys back in their lineup and put forth a start-to-finish solid performance. 

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