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UTSA Baseball loses contributors to the portal for the first time in the Hallmark era

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The portal gives, and the portal takes away. The Roadrunner Baseball team has seen contributors and standouts throw their names in the portal for the first time since its inception. The same avenue that brought Taylor Smith, Antonio Valdez, Caleb Hill, and Mason Lytle has found its equilibrium. 

Roadrunner fans were stunned late last week when junior shortstop Matt King announced via X that he was entering the transfer portal. King has been a staple for the left side of the infield since his freshman year. Getting considerable playing time thanks to his glove, his bat would eventually come around as well. Tabbed as a pre-season All-Conference member and appearing on national position watch lists, the Kingswood veteran would make good on those projections. 

Finishing with a .335/.392/.462 line, along with his play in the field, was good enough for first-team all-conference honors. King was also positioned to be the most-tenured positional player next season for UTSA. Now, the Roadrunners will be tasked with finding his replacement. 

To be honest, I was worried about King’s departure. While his numbers this year were good, I’m not sure they were good enough to land him a draft number as a junior. The opportunity shrinks as a senior. He may be looking for a program to generate more attention and opportunities on a bigger platform. He may also be looking for some new scenery for his final season. 

I don’t blame Matt King’s decision or cast any animosity on him. With the reduction of the draft in recent years, it can be easy for mid-major guys to be overlooked or not given the same chance as a power school guy. He also may be looking to showcase that he can compete on the latter level. I hope it works out for him.

King gave three years to this program. He grew into a leader on the field and off. He moved positions in the fall when asked and moved back to shortstop when some new additions weren’t working out the way coaches thought they would. For that, I say thank you to Matt King. Good luck in your endeavors, and thank you for your hard play on the field. We will always have the over-the-fence catch that landed UTSA Baseball and Matt on SportsCenter’s Top 10. And the one that didn’t quite work out the following week. Now, for the rest of the purpose of this blog… 

The transfer portal has made it easier for guys to bounce around. Pair that with no transfer limit and baseball’s low scholarship allowance, and I believe we are seeing the new normal for College Baseball. 

King’s departure started a domino effect that, when combined with the graduating seniors, has delivered a hit to UTSA’s depth. 

Mark Henning, Zane Spinn, Hector Rodriguez, Preston Freeman, Tanner Sever, Aiden Baumann, Colin Carrejo, Cooper Hrbacek, Barret Johnson, and Ryan Beaird. 

That is the list of those who have entered the portal so far. Those guys could be put in a few groups based on why they likely left. 

A few names left mid-season. Some are freshmen who redshirted this season. Henning, Spinn, and Hrbacek were new arrivals for 2024 who likely did not deliver on the field the way they were hoping to. Beaird is most similar to King, who is likely looking for a different opportunity going into his final year of eligibility. 

Regardless of caliber, when nine players enter the portal, and UTSA has yet to be subject to that, questions follow. Primarily, fans and I seek an explanation that answers it all. With these names, I don’t know if there is one. Is it great? Of course not. Is next season, and the seasons that follow, lost? Not necessarily. 

Most recently, D1baseball.com’s transfer tracker had over 1,500 names in it. No team, especially mid-majors, is immune to the portal. 

USF has been hit hard, likely due to a coaching change. With eleven names entered, their preseason all-conference middle infielders, CF, 1B, and some pitchers are in the portal. 

Tommy LaPour, a freshman for Wichita State who pitched a gem against UTSA and helped the Shockers reach the AAC Tournament final, entered the portal. 

East Carolina, which is quickly becoming a conference rival on and off the field, has been hit hard. The Pirates’ biggest name, Zach Root, who would likely have been their Friday night ace, is in the portal. Root is joined by seven other players (for now), headlined by AAC All-Freshman selection Bristol Carter. 

Veteran Rice catcher Manny Garza entered the portal. 

Not every AAC team has been hit hard. Memphis, Tulane, and Charlotte have a handful or less of guys in the portal. 

When coaches and players discuss less playing time, a reduced scholarship, or another year of preferred walk-on at the end of the season, I understand why guys may want a fresh start. There is also the new challenge of developing a player only to have another, bigger school waiting in the waters to pull him away. It makes you wonder how the little guys will fare. 

Coastal Carolina’s CWS win in 2016 was the most recent year a mid-major team won the College World Series. Going back to 2008, a mid-major team has won it every eight years and four times total since Rice’s win in 2003. It certainly can be done. But those closest to the sport recognize how much harder the portal and NIL are making it. 

I don’t have the answer to the solution, and that probably warrants its own thousand-word blog. For now, it is here to stay. Coaches seem to be left to pair high school recruiting with portal finds and take it year by year. 

As for UTSA, recruiting will likely be busy in the summer and fall. It’s possible more names trickle into the portal. Unfortunately, there will also be players who are cut in the fall to trim the roster to the approved forty-man limit. For now, the current roster is slightly more than half from the end of the 2024 campaign. That includes the 2024 class and at least one recent addition by way of transfer. The portal gives, and the portal takes away. 

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