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You know it is a crazy week when two half innings across two games completely change your outlook about the said week and the tone your recap can present. If you look at box scores, percentage odds, and the play-by-play, UTSA was a stone’s throw away from us discussing an entirely different week. Instead, ninth-inning heroics twice have the #25 UTSA Roadrunners wrapping up a 3-1 week. Some parts still lead to concern, and the ‘Runners need to clean those things up. What they showed, though, was their unwillingness to go down without a fight. They scored late despite their lone loss on the week to lessen the defeat. The Roadrunners are now 33-11 and 16-4 in C-USA.
WHAT I FELT GOOD ABOUT…
Roadrunners getting healthy – Midway through the MTSU series and following the Texas State game, UTSA had lost two outfielders and a utility guy to injury. Sirdashney, Walker, and Odom all went down with an injury of some sort. It appeared that not only was the offense suffering, but the depleted roster was also wearing on the starters. Poston has been able to fill in at 1B. However, this means Diaz and Killeen were forced to play daily, and the two could not split time behind the plate for relief. While Odom is still out, Walker and Sirdashney both appeared this weekend. They also both contributed in different ways. It was encouraging to see them get some time back in the field. Hopefully, the Roadrunners can continue to get healthy and stay that way the rest of the season.
Home Runs – Fans have seen the Roadrunners win in various ways this season. They played the small ball game a lot this weekend against UAB, but they also relied on the home run ball this week. Kickstarted by Josh Killeen’s two-run home run against HCU, the Roadrunners would hit two home runs in the series’ first games against UAB. The total of five on the week brings their season total to fifty-two. UTSA is now just seventeen home runs from matching last season’s total.
Patience at the plate: UTSA got out-hit in three of four games this week. They also drew more walks than their opponent in three of four games. Fans have seen this patience throughout the season. It was again displayed as the Roadrunners reached on balls twenty times this week. There is a pros and cons aspect of reaching on a walk. Sure, it doesn’t put the ball in play, and you aren’t going to clear the bases with one. However, it is a momentum downer for the defense and the pitcher; it can lead to mental lapses in the field, wears down a pitcher, and gets guys on base. On Sunday alone, UTSA’s leadoff man reached base with a walk several times. It also is nice to have the patience approach in your back pocket when the wind is hanging balls up, like on Sunday.
Ninth Inning Heroics: I wasn’t going to include this since I mentioned it above. I wanted to pay attention to how both wins were against the odds—D1Baseball partners with 6-4-3 charts to give win probability charts for every game (subscription required). Going into the bottom of the ninth against HCU, the Huskies had an 87% chance of winning. When Killeen came to the plate, it was 96.7% in favor of the Huskies. After UTSA tied the game, it completely switched and went in UTSA’s favor with 70%. The story was similar on Saturday. At the end of the eighth, the Blazers had a 93% chance of winning. It was still 89% in UAB’s favor during Valdez’s at-bat. The three-run home run gave the Roadrunners the lead and flopped it again, this time 82% for the ‘Runners.
What I Didn’t Feel Good About…
Giving Up Hard Hits: I mentioned that the Roadrunners got out hit in three of four games. The biggest tally in this metric was sixteen hits by HCU. Coach Hallmark said in the post-game interview that they are a team that hits well. UTSA also got hit hard this week, giving up twelve extra-base hits. Maybe surprisingly, in the one game they lost, they only gave up one. This isn’t always a slight on your pitching staff, some teams just hit well. It can imply that your pitchers are leaving balls up or over the plate, and hard contact is tough to make a putout on.
Location issues: If you watched Sunday’s game, you might have seen Coach Hallmark being tossed from his second game this season. This followed a half-inning where some very questionable balls and strikes were called from the home plate umpire. One occasion even had the UAB play-by-play broadcaster being perplexed by the call. That doesn’t mean every walk was on the UTSA pitchers this weekend. There were at-bats on more than one occasion where the pitchers missed their spots. A few times, there were four-pitch and five-pitch walks. Overall, the UTSA pitching staff is much improved from last season. Hopefully, this week was just an off week for the WHIP metric, and the staff can get back to form.
Slow Start/Missing Offense: This seems like a weird point when the Roadrunners went 3-1 and outscored their opponents 26-21. I am taking a different approach to it, however. When you have games that are either very close or you trail in, the coaching staff will go with their more consistent bullpen guys. This can wear on your bullpen arms, and it also burns guys early in the week. Even Sunday’s win, while the final was 9-4, UTSA only had a three-run lead late in the seventh with two Blazers on base. You are going to have close games in baseball, but so many in a row can hurt you down the road.
Caleb Hill – While Hill delivered from the field and the plate on Tuesday, fans will likely look back on his excellent catch and throw as the highlight. Hill made a diving catch with no outs and a runner on in the top of the 8th. UTSA was still trailing by two runs, and the missed catch would have been a run scored and man on second. Instead, it was a double play that started the momentum shift. Hill was 3-4 with two RBIs and a triple on Tuesday. He also had an RBI in each UAB game, with a double and a home run on the weekend.
Josh Killeen – You likely know about Killeen’s Tuesday night. A two-run home run in the 3rd and a two-out RBI double with two strikes brought in the first of three ninth inning runs. The two-out double almost didn’t happen, however. Killeen took a Husky bat off the catcher’s helmet in either the top of the eighth or ninth. He, of course, stayed in the game and came up big.
Zach Royse – The freshman has some good stuff. However, some of his other appearances this season got away from him after an inning of work. He entered in the top of the third with two on and two outs and UTSA down 6-0. Despite giving up a fielder’s choice to the first batter faced, he struck out the next batter to leave the bases loaded. Royse would pitch 2.1 innings, giving up no runs on one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts. Hopefully, this signifies the young arm settling into the college scene.
Simon Miller – Miller entered Saturday’s game in the bottom of the ninth and Sunday’s game in the bottom of the seventh. He gave up a one-out double but worked around it with a fielder’s choice and a fly-out to end the game and leave the tying run on third. Sunday, he entered with a three-run lead but two runners on. He recorded two strikeouts before forcing a pop-out to 3B. The runners were stranded at 2nd and 3rd after a double steal. Miller would earn the three-inning save, surrendering no runs on no hits, two walks, and three strikeouts.
Antonio Valdez – If you listened to the weekend preview with guest Cory Davis, you heard him mention that Valdez has been struggling a little at the plate in conference play. He changed that and came through in a big way Saturday afternoon. With UTSA down two with one out in the top of the ninth, Valdez hit a three-run home run to give the Roadrunners a 6-5 lead. The go-ahead blast would be the winning run as Simon Miller closed things out in the bottom of the ninth. The senior now has nine home runs and fifty-five RBIs on the season.
Sammy Diaz – While not in the form of Slammy Diaz we have seen this season, the C/1B had some crucial hits that helped in the final box score of multiple games. His lone hit on Tuesday was huge, bringing in Killeen and tying the game. He also had two hits and two RBIs in Sunday’s win, giving UTSA the lead back in the fourth and the fourth RBI in a four-run 5th inning. Diaz made a pair of defensive miscues in Saturday’s game and some excellent fielding plays throughout the weekend. It helps to have both his and Killeen’s bat in the lineup.
Vs. Sam Houston State University Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023, 6:00 PM CUSATV
With the final Tuesday game at the Bird Bath this week, May College Baseball is officially here! The C-USA Tournament is a few weeks away. Before that, a tough Sam Houston team playing outstanding baseball now comes to town. SHSU is coming off their own mid-week win against Texas A&M (8-2) and just wrapped a series sweep against SFA, where they outscored the Lumberjacks 46-10. The Bearkats are 27-18 on the season and are atop the WAC Standings at 18-6. They have a two 1/2 game lead over Grand Canyon University.
The Roadrunners defeated Sam Houston 2-0 in last season’s matchup. That gave them a slight edge in the all-time series of 40-39. The 80th matchup between the teams is sure to be a good one. UTSA is 7-4 this season in the midweek game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyler Davis 1B – Davis leads the Bearkats in RBIs with forty-three. He is a patient hitter with more walks than strikeouts at 20/19. His stat line of .449/.513/.641 is suitable for an OPS of 1.154, second on the team. Davis also has a BABIP of .486. While he only has five home runs on the season, he is tied for first in doubles with fifteen.
Joe Redfield CF – Redfield has a slight lead over Davis in the OPS category coming in at 1.211. The difference is the slugging line. Redfield is tied with Davis in doubles but has twice as many HR (10) and triples (2). Redfield is slightly behind Davis in RBIs with thirty-seven. Redfield does lead the team in hits, though, with fifty-two.
Walker Janek C – While Janek’s BA and OBP are not overly impressive, his .510 SLG helps get him an OPS over eight. Janek is second on the team in RBIs at 42. Janek is dangerous at the plate and on the basepaths. He has nine home runs on the season and eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
The Bearkats have two guys who have 11 starts in 11 appearances. Those are likely their weekend guys. They have three pitchers with some starts but more appearances than starts. Their ERAs aren’t great, however. In fact, of the Bearkats who have made starts out of the two-weekend guys, none have an ERA under five. They have a trio with a more promising ERA, so perhaps they turn to one of these guys for a start. Their names are Braden Davis, Chandler David, and Alex Magers.
The Roadrunners inched a little closer to that elusive 40-win season. Tuesday will be no easy matchup against the Bearkats. UTSA’s next seven games are at home. If you can, I encourage you to make it out to a game or two at the Birdbath. You are guaranteed to see exciting baseball.
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