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UTSA Bounces Back from Friday Loss to Win Series against UAB

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After a disappointing Friday night loss to open the weekend series, the UTSA Roadrunners battled back to win the remaining two games against the UAB Blazers. The series win marked the fifth successful conference series in as many chances for UTSA. Despite being even in the conference W/L column as perennial favorites East Carolina, the Roadrunners still sit atop the standings by having the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Pirates. With only four weekends remaining before the conference tournament, UTSA will rest up with a rare off day on Tuesday before traveling to Houston to face the hot Rice owls. 

The Good… 

The Roadrunners are 19-5 when they score more than five runs. That number is even better since conference play started almost a month ago, in which they are 12-1. After only producing three runs on Friday evening, they would score seventeen runs across the remaining games of the series. On Saturday, they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, whereas, on Sunday, they piled runs on late, coming up just one run shy of their third conference run rule. The pitching is more settled with early run support, and it puts pressure on the opposing team’s bullpen. 

If you look at the entire weekend, the pitching was overall solid. Fans saw Ruger Riojas struggle late on Friday, and the top of the ninth got away from Daniel Garza a little bit. The former is uncharacteristic, and the latter -in my opinion- was giving Garza one more inning with a comfortable lead and attempting to preserve the bullpen ahead of the Sunday game. Across the three games, the pitching staff allowed twelve earned runs. They also struck out twenty-seven across the series and only walked nine. The other positive note is that the middle relievers are finding more consistency in their outings. 

Going into Sunday, UAB had only committed one recorded error. They certainly met their quota on Sunday, committing five errors, the same number of hits they had in the game. While some were mental lapses, others were partly due to the pressure UTSA creates on the bases. They tackle baserunning hard, and teams are learning that you can’t give them any extra seconds. 

One thing I mentioned in the preview was UAB’s starting pitching. The Roadrunners put up big numbers against the Blazer’s starters in two of the three games. UTSA continues to find ways to get to opposing teams’ starters. On Saturday, they scored six of their seven runs in the first three innings against Braxton Shelton. On Sunday, even though Colin Daniel logged six innings, UTSA scored five runs (three earned), and forced UAB to get creative with their bullpen while the ‘Runners put the game out of reach. 

The Not So Good…

Although it was just one game, UTSA had difficulty bringing runners in on Friday. From an On Base Percentage lens, they put eighteen batters on. They left fourteen on the bases. Facing a Friday night ace and needing a series sweep, that cannot happen. It seemed they couldn’t get the big hit when they needed to. They had runners on in three of those innings with only one out. UTSA cleaned it up the rest of the weekend, leaving only seven in Saturday’s game and eight on Sunday. 

Part of Friday’s struggles stemmed from baserunning mistakes, and UTSA still has trouble playing small ball. An error that likely prevented tying the game on a subsequent hit resulted in getting tagged out between second and third. Batters were unable to get the bunt attempt down when asked, with one of those attempts resulting in a foul pop-out late, with the game still very much in reach. 

There also remain some question marks on the defense. There are a lot of factors that go into a throw-down on a steal attempt. Not everything falls on the catcher. Nonetheless, UTSA wasn’t great this weekend when called upon. One throw-down skipped off Diaz’s glove and allowed the runner on third to score. The outfield sometimes struggled to effectively get the ball to the infield, although the wind caused some of that on Sunday. 

With gusts up to 30 mph at moments, both teams were dealing with challenging conditions. Like Ruger on Friday, Matt King made an uncharacteristic throwing error trying to get a runner out at home. At times, it seems the Roadrunners rush their throws and make a throw when it would be better to pocket the ball or overthrow the target/cut-off man. This can be cleaned up, and I hope that it improves. 

Looking Ahead… 

Over the next few weeks, UTSA will get two-midweek games off. This coming Tuesday is one of those. It will provide the opportunity to rest and recover, work on some of the things mentioned above, and be ready for what is looking like an interesting series against Rice University. 

In this week’s Patreon exclusive series preview, I’ll go more in-depth on Rice. They are a team that is playing good baseball at the moment. They have won six of their last seven, with the latest result being a series sweep against the USF Bulls. As for the conference standings as a whole? Only two games separate #3 Charlotte and #9 Rice. It will be another weekend where UTSA will face some solid pitching and the UTSA pitching has to show up. Lastly, in place of the Tuesday recap this week, keep your eyes peeled for a blog looking at what should be next (in my opinion, of course) for improvements at the Bird Bath. 

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