UTSA Baseball Bat Glove

UTSA Baseball splits opening weekend series with UT-Arlington due to slow starts and late mistakes

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There was a buzz around the Bird Bath early Friday afternoon. In anticipation of a new season, fans got out to the park early and in numbers, ready to watch UTSA Baseball. Perhaps due to the new facility updates and a respectable turnout from the visiting Mavericks, it was time for the 2024 campaign. The visiting team got off to a hot start, not the Roadrunners. While UTSA would fight back to get as close to within one, UT-Arlington taking the season opener would help them eventually split the series with UTSA. Perhaps a split is appropriate, as there were some highlights from the Roadrunners over the weekend and a lot to work on. 

During media day, Coach Hallmark pointed to the hard-hitting bats the Mavericks carried. Fans saw this early and often on Friday as they immediately jumped on Freshman Robert Orloski. Overall, he showed promise. Striking out five through 3 and 2/3s is a lot to build on. I would have liked to see him get a chance to work out of the jam in the fourth inning. It is possible he was on a pitch count for the first start of the season and being a true freshman. 

It was promising to see UTSA have a similar fight they often presented last season. There was a deflation around the field when the lead quickly reached 9-0. Helped in part to a Caleb Hill 3-run homer, the Roadrunners started to chip away. This fight continued throughout the weekend and came in clutch at different moments. Despite a 10-9 opening-day loss, I felt much better after Saturday and the double-header sweep. 

The other highlight from Saturday was undoubtedly the pitching. Sophomores Ruger Riojas and Zach Royse both put forth solid outings. On a windy day, UTSA managed to play sixteen innings and only use four pitchers. The walk-off win in game two finished the day positively, moving into the Sunday finale. 

UTA started to widen the gap in what seemed like it would be another late-inning barn burner. Almost getting out of the sixth unscathed, the Mavericks jumped out to their second lead. They matched the production just as they had done throughout the weekend (outside of early Friday). UTSA got the bounces on Saturday and UTA on Sunday in a game of inches and bounces. In a moment where it looked like the Roadrunners would have their second walk-off in as many days, things quickly took a bounce (or turn), and the final score favored UTA for the series split. What seems to be some poor baserunning proved costly in a backbreaking double play. Now 2-2 on the season, the Roadrunners will look to rebound Tuesday against a familiar foe, Tarleton State University. 

The first reassurance is not to overreact. A series win, even a sweep, was in their grasp and would have left a much better taste going into the week, but this is just the beginning of a long season of college baseball. The Roadrunners must clean up some glaring mistakes from this past weekend. The good news is that there is still time, and the season is young. 

Those who have followed along know that this is a very new team in terms of chemistry. Plenty of questions remain regarding who fits best where and building off your teammates. Unfortunately, having Isaiah Walker and Tye Odom leaving the games yesterday with injuries complicates the depth. While there are no official updates, Coach Hallmark did mention to the media that both would be unavailable for Tuesday and next weekend. Both are dynamic players, so here is hoping it is nothing serious. 

The defense needs to get cleaned up. There were costly errors, and it seemed, at times, confusion on the field. While not extensively repeated, they were mistakes just enough to swing momentum the Maverick’s way. Some of this is new players getting reacclimated to live Baseball. With some position guys and pitchers injured last year, you can gain only so much of a feel from practice and scrimmages. I mentioned this to someone, but I would be more worried if these mistakes were still present in a month or during conference play. 

It would not be fair or accurate to act like there was no good defense. There were momentum swing plays in the infield and outfield. Matt King’s over-the-side wall grab that landed on Sports Center’s Top Ten plays Sunday morning was the most viral of them all. 

The hitting was there at times and not there at other times. This is understandable on a somewhat cold weekend, but Coach Hallmark acknowledged that it wasn’t good enough. As the season goes on, there will be some teams that have pitching as their strong suit. Twenty-two runs through four games is workable, but half the games saw the Roadrunners on the lower side of five runs scored. There will undoubtedly be games where the run production needs to be more present and earlier.  

Outside of Sunday, UTSA kept the strikeouts at the plate to a minimum. Hopefully, as the guys get more comfortable and into the season, those hard hits and batted balls will start finding holes and grass more often. Friday was the only game where more than two players had more than one base hit. This makes sense, with that being the highest run-producing game. It can also show not stringing hits together in multiple innings and a lack of getting runs across the plate. Getting more position players with multi-hit games will help the production. 

On the mound, Braylon Owens, Daniel Garza, and Ryan Ward had impressive stuff. I wondered Sunday afternoon if giving Garza the sixth was too many pitches. It is always easier in hindsight to look back. It will undoubtedly be helpful if he can continue and build on the production. I am also intrigued by the possibility of Ward settling in as the main closer. He has excellent stuff early, and he has made some changes to his motion that have helped with control. Owens is another one that showed promise last season. After a great summer in the TCL, he is also off to a great start from the mound. 

Caleb Hill and Matt King had big moments at the plate this weekend. Important RBIs and clutch hits woke up the Bird Bath. A more consistent offense will prevent opposing teams from pitching around them. Newcomer Mason Lytle started the season with a literal bang, hitting a towering home run toward the dorms in left field. He also was a few feet from putting the Roadrunners out in front late on Sunday. 

Across the four-game series, UTSA forced a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.32. That is about average for a pitcher, which means UTSA from the plate has to drive that number up. The eleven combined strikeouts on Sunday were a sore spot. The Roadrunners boasted several competitive at-bats, which is promising. 

This is a UT-Arlington team that is improving. 2nd-year head coach Clay Van Hook has them moving in the right direction. UT-Arlington leaving San Antonio with a split is a win for them. With getting the first series out of the way, Coach Hallmark and his staff have more to go off of and some areas to focus on for improvement. Their first opportunity will be Tuesday evening against Tarleton State University.

The Texans will look to make improvements themselves after a disappointing 1-2 opening weekend. They dropped two consecutive to Southeastern Louisiana after a comfortable opening day win. TSU is again projected to finish toward the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference. After opening the past two seasons against them in the weekend series, fans will see them this year in a midweek home and away. They will be led by first-year head coach Fuller Smith, with SEC playing and coaching experience at Ole Miss. 

At the plate, watch for veterans Trace Morrison and Mason Hammonds. Morrison brings the best stat line for the Texans, and Hammonds led the team in doubles and runs scored. Tarleton State will look to some familiar faces to take the step up in their rotation. Tuesday games are always a roll of the dice from how the pitching is approached. Over the weekend, the Texans gave up eleven total runs. Outside of Sunday’s starter, no pitcher gave up more than one earned run, although some didn’t see more than one inning. 

The goal for UTSA on Tuesday through my lens is simple. Better bats at the plate result in more runs and a more in-tune defense. I’m interested to see if UTSA looks for a consistent Tuesday starter or goes the opener, middle reliever route. At any rate, leaving Stephensville with a win is crucial.

One change we will try out this season is providing reactions to the midweek game via podcast form. Most weeks, I will look to bring on a guest to discuss the game and get their thoughts. That will be available on Alamo Audible’s main podcast feed, while the weekend series previews will continue to be Patreon Exclusives. Thanks, as always, for reading and your support. Birds Up! 

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