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There are a few identifiers that summer 2023 is well underway. The temperature in San Antonio is climbing above 100° almost every day, my commute down 1604 is not as bad, but perhaps most importantly, kids of all ages are playing baseball in some shape or form. Most specifically, why you are probably reading this involves the UTSA Roadrunners involved in summer ball.
Shortly after the quicker-than-anticipated, disappointing end to an exciting 2023 UTSA Baseball team campaign, current players traveled across the state and country to continue working their craft in summer ball leagues. If Summer Catch is one of the first movies that pop into your head when you think of summer baseball, that’s okay! While we aren’t going to discuss Freddie Prince Jr. (too much) in this article, we might pay homage to the Cape League and a now likely UTSA Baseball alumnus to wrap things up.
If you spent this past season reading my blogs, I hope you’ve noticed that I always attempt to be transparent and objective. It’s important to note that these teams vary in what stats are available and how easy it is to watch them. At the time of writing, the ESPY’s were last night. Rather than list off a bunch of box scores, I thought it might be fun to list some of our UTSA Baseball Summer Ball Accolades. Not quite the ESPY’s but not a full-fledged Domey’s (redacted?) either.
Best Social Media Coverage
Seguin River Monsters – The Twitter/Instagram coverage from the Seguin River Monsters has been great! Thanks largely to Twitter user T.TexasTonyTurnstile, the ‘Sters are providing the most consistent and unique coverage this summer. Most of the Roadrunner representation this summer is in the Texas Collegiate League, with five current (and two incoming transfers) on the River Monsters, it makes it that much better to have great coverage available. Daniel Garza, Ruger Riojas, Preston Freeman, and newcomers Hector Rodriguez and Zach Longshore play for the ‘Sters. You can often find a stream of the game from T.TexasTony as well.
Honorable Mention: MLB Draft League – It almost seems unfair that the MLB Draft League be considered. I mean, should you be eligible if you have MLB in your name? At any rate, they are a summer baseball league, and Ryan Ward had the opportunity to spend the first half of this summer playing for the State College Spikes. What started in 2021, the MLB Draft League is split into two parts, with the first half being for amateur players with eligibility remaining and the second half specifically for those who have exhausted their eligibility. Their graphics team, highlights, and stats page is top of the line. In their third season, 86 players get drafted, and 50 others sign as undrafted free agents.
Ruger Riojas (RHP) – This summer Ruger has been doing what we saw him do all spring: deal from the bump. In 26 IP for the River Monsters, he has a very impressive 1.73 ERA, helped in part by his 4.29 K: BB ratio and 1.08 WHIP. His total strikeouts of 30 to just 7 walks is on par with how he came out of the gates as a freshman for the Roadrunners this past season. Riojas is someone to keep your eye on through the intrasquad fall ball season and, perhaps, a weekend starter next spring.
HM: Matt King (SS) – King has been out West playing in the California Collegiate League with the Walnut Creek Crawdads. Compared to the TCL guys, his ABs are about half, but I’m not sure why, as every summer league runs things differently. He has made the most of his time out there, however. In 51 AB, he is hitting .333/.404/.431 for a .835 OPS. The wood-bat league is not slowing him down, as his 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored helped land him as a starter for the North division in the CCL Showcase game recently. I’ll be curious to see who the to-be Junior is rolling double-play balls with this next season now that Leyton Barry has graduated.
Best Single Game Performance
Braylon Owens (RHP) – Owens is having himself quite the summer. He could easily be in the biggest surprise category we will cover next. I have him here because 1) his 6-shutout innings is likely the best any of the guys have delivered, and 2) we saw glimpses of what he has done this summer during the 2023 season. The RHP made local news for his last outing, where he didn’t surrender a hit through six innings while striking out 10 batters. Owens asked the Victoria Generals coach to pull him in an effort not to push it too hard. While the two are foes in the TCL this summer, he has a similar line as college teammate Riojas. Owens has a 1.69 ERA in 26.2 IP. His WHIP is well under one with a .75. With the help of his last outing, his summer strikeouts now total 31 to just 9 BBs. The Roadrunners will need this type of production out of Owens if they want to make a splash in their first season as members of the AAC.
HM: Ryan Ward (RHP) – I mentioned the MLB Draft League above. It seems like a cool new concept for summer baseball that will be fun to follow moving forward. While just out there for a month with how their league is set up, Ward put forth some good outings. One of those was very quickly after arriving in Pennsylvania. Ryan finished the win for the Spikes going 2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 BB, and 4Ks. I imagine he will still be working on his control this fall (11 BBs/7 WPs) but look out when he is rolling. In the 15.2 IP for the Spikes, Ward struck out 22 batters. He will look to have a big senior year for UTSA next spring.
Aiden Baumann (OF) – There are a handful of reasons I was mostly surprised by Baumann this summer. Perhaps the main one is something I didn’t even know he does, pitches. Playing in the M.I.N.K. Baseball league (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) this summer, his stats include a 3.27 ERA in 11 IP. He has a 1.27 WHIP and five strikeouts. Baumann’s eligibility went in to play late last season as an option for the injury-plagued outfield. It took him a little time to adjust; however, he made some noise. Playing for the Jefferson City Renegades, he has a .319 BA and .524 OBP. The gap between the two comes from his 16 BB to just 13 K. Baumann is taking a page out of the playbook of UTSA teammate Caleb Hill with his ability to wear pitches. He has been hit 16 times. His OBP leads the M.I.N.K. league and has 12 stolen bases this summer.
HM: Preston Freeman (IF) – While Freeman did not see any action this past spring, there was likely not much the freshman could do about it. Backing up the likes of Leyton Barry, Matt King, and Antonio Valdez is no slouch of a lineup. We are back to the River Monsters when discussing Freeman. He has spent most of the summer between SS and 2B. Hitting .284/.344/.303 has helped him log 31 hits in 109 At-bats. The power hasn’t quite been there this summer, but the TCL is a wood-bat league. His performance was still impressive enough to land a spot in the TCL All-Star game. I look forward to seeing how he continues to develop, and the fall season he puts out.
Putting In the Work
Let’s not forget the other Roadrunners putting in the work this summer. Daniel Garza, Ryan Beaird, and Zach Royse have also been playing this summer. Garza and Royse have had some ups and downs for the River Monsters and Generals. They have also had some good numbers, particularly Garza’s 22 Ks in 20 IP and Royse’s .212 BAA. While Beaird’s numbers haven’t been the best, he also had some good outings. The RHP also gets the award for 2nd furthest traveled (behind King in CA), as his team is based in Canada. He has been pitching for the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the Northwoods League. Some notable names to come out of the NWL? Max Scherzer, Brandon Crawford, Chris Sale, and Pete Alonso, to name a few.
Before We Bid Adieu
Last summer, it was Luke Malone; this summer, multiple All-American recipient Simon Miller got to pitch in the widely popular Cape Cod League. Some saw it as a draft stock tune-up, others as a “duh, it’s the Cape.” Regardless of the reason why, Miller got the opportunity to pitch for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Miller’s summer performance has been on par with most of his College Baseball season, posting a 1.3 WHIP, 17 K, 4 BB, and 2.70 ERA in 10 IP. To wrap up my Summer Catch moment, this was the team that absolutely rocked Freddie Prince Jr. I’m going to spoil the movie here (it came out 22 years ago), but it has a good ending. FPJ’s character Ryan Dunn signs a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and their farm club. What does that have to do with Simon Miller? Well, in case you haven’t heard yet (I’m going to play spoiler again), Miller was drafted in the 12th round of the MLB draft by the…Cincinnati Reds. Same colors, however. But in all seriousness, another huge congrats to Simon Miller. While he has not officially signed with the Reds organization at the time of writing, I am confident he will sign a well-deserved pro contract very soon. And for the other most recent Roadrunner to play in the Cape? Luke Malone? He recently signed an Independent Baseball contract with the Boise Hawks. More on that soon. For now, Birds Up!
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