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This week’s games featured those unique things you don’t always see in baseball. It started with the opposing team using nine pitchers in nine innings. You then had a three-hour rain delay in-between an already attempted double-header battling the rain. Unfortunately, the rain did not cooperate the rest of the weekend. The series finale was canceled Saturday morning. The official release from UTSA Baseball stated there are no plans to make up the rubber match. The cancelation means a split series with Charlotte, and the Roadrunners finish the week 1-2. They have yet to lose a weekend series. The loss to UIW and Charlotte means they have split their first two season series of the 2023 campaign. Going into this week’s game against Texas A&M, UTSA is 24-8 (9-2) and has an RPI of 41.
WHAT I FELT GOOD ABOUT
Improved Situational Game: In the series versus Western Kentucky, the Roadrunners’ situational strategy did not work out how they wanted. The opposite was true in game one against Charlotte. The first strategical piece came in the top of the fourth with runners on the corner. Sammy Diaz laid down a bunt toward the first baseline. Caleb Hill would have scored anyway; however, the productive bunt resulted in a bonus when Diaz reached on a bang-bang play that the Charlotte pitcher fumbled. It was the first UTSA scoring sequence ending with a three-run inning. The second key tactic came four innings later. After reaching on a fielder’s choice with his speed, Antonio Valdez used his speed on the basepaths. He stole three bases to come all the way around to score, giving UTSA a much-needed insurance run. This was the second time this season that Valdez successfully stole home.
Double Digit Runs: I know what you probably think, but UTSA lost. It stung to see UTSA not only allow Charlotte to erase a six-run deficit but eventually win 12-10. Charlotte is a dangerous team with comebacks. They are also known for their pitching staff this season. The latter makes it promising that the Roadrunners could hang ten runs on a staff that leads C-USA in several areas. It also was the first game since the 31-run game versus Corpus Christi last month. UTSA has had several games with seven-nine runs, but there is something different about reaching that double-digit number. Hopefully, next time UTSA can be on the other side of it.
WHAT I DIDN’T FEEL GOOD ABOUT…
Tuesday Woes Continue: At first, it looked like UTSA would get back in the Tuesday win column; things unwound for UTSA in the second half, and UIW put the nail in the coffin with a five-run ninth inning that ended with a three-run smash. After starting the season 5-0 in midweek games, the Roadrunners have dropped the last three. I mentioned this on Twitter a few weeks back, but the Tuesday game can be a toss-up. Aside from the ebbs and flows of baseball, you travel day on game day. It also is a one-off, so the chance to get acquainted with the field and uniqueness of individual parks is shortened. The Tuesday slate doesn’t get any easier for UTSA in the coming weeks. They travel to College Station this week to face an offensive SEC team that is finding its place after having a rough start to the season. They then return to the Bird Bath to face Texas State. These are both must-win games.
Surrendering Big Leads – Twice in three games this week, UTSA got out to comfortable leads only to let their opponent claw back to eventually defeat UTSA. The Roadrunners led 6-1 against UIW going into the bottom of the fifth. That half-inning, the lead was cut to two. I mentioned above what the result of that one was. Fast forward to game two on Thursday against Charlotte. Just before the rain delay UTSA jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the second. Their lead would get as high as seven in the top of the fourth before Charlotte put up a six spot in the bottom half, with four of the six runs coming on two outs. The next five innings were a back-and-forth contest featuring at least UTSA or Charlotte scoring. UTSA again fell just short, dropping the game 12-10. Surrendering leads like these two games is probably the biggest momentum swing in baseball. It erases the cushion your offense produced and can deflate a team while invigorating the other. This is the first time this season that UTSA has allowed this to happen so hopefully it is just that ebb and flow of baseball I mentioned above.
Taylor Smith – Across the three games, Taylor Smith hit three home runs. He hit a solo home run against UIW to put UTSA on the board and two home runs in the second game against Charlotte. That was good for five RBIs and a team-leading nine home runs. While it took him a bit to get going, Smith now has a nice stat line of .333/.508/.701 for a 1.210 OPS.
Caleb Hill – While it might have been lost in the weeds with the defeat, Caleb Hill smashed one against UIW in the fourth inning. At the time, the 3-run home run gave UTSA a comfortable 6-1 lead. Hill also scored a run in the loss. Across the slate, there were multiple times when Hill beat out double play attempts or knocked infield singles with his hustle.
Luke Malone/Simon Miller – The pair combined to throw all nine innings of UTSA’s 5-3 win against Charlotte. While Malone didn’t have any strikeouts on Thursday, he worked out of some early jams, kept the dangerous offense of Charlotte to three runs (really one mistake on the 2-run home run), and earned his fourth win of the season. Two days after Miller threw twenty-eight pitches across two innings of work, he was called upon to shut things down. Miller went 3.2 innings, throwing fifty-five pitches, allowing no runs on four hits and one walk. This outing was crucial, having the doubleheader and (at the time) a third game against Charlotte. Miller was also announced as a midseason second-team All-American by the staff at D1 Baseball.
@ Texas A&M – College Station; Tuesday April 11th, 2023, 6:00PM (SEC+)
The first thing that stands out in the above header is the game being on SEC+. The SEC+ network requires a cable/streaming subscription and is not included in the ESPN+ bundle. I am excited to see a game at Olson Field, a.k.a. Blue Bell Park, in person. It is a top-level baseball park (no surprise). UTSA will have the opportunity to catch more national attention against the SEC team. The Aggies began the season as #5 on D1 Baseball’s preseason Top 25. Some surprising non-conference results and a disappointing start to conference play has since dropped them out of the Top 25. They have had some key contributors return to the lineup, which has helped their record as of late. The Aggies are 5-2 over their last seven games, including series wins against Ole Miss and Auburn, and a midweek 10-9 win against Texas State. A&M’s RPI is 31, ten spots higher than UTSA at 41.
Texas A&M leads the all-time series 23-9. The teams most recently faced off in 2015, where the Roadrunners were defeated 11-1. The last time UTSA defeated the Aggies was in 2011 by a score of 3-2. 2005 was the last time UTSA defeated Texas A&M in College Station.
Texas A&M is coming off a season where they reached the College World Series, where the University of Oklahoma defeated them in the semifinals. Current Roadrunner Taylor Smith spent the past two seasons playing for Texas A&M before transferring over the off-season to finish his collegiate career where it began, under Coach Hallmark.
PLAYERS TO WATCH…
Hunter Haas (SS) -Haas is one of two Aggies with an OPS over 1.000. His slash line of .383/.477/.563 make that up. He leads the team in hits, tied for first in doubles, and of players that have carried most of the appearances, leads in strikeouts at the plate with just thirteen. With twenty-two walks, Haas has a K: BB ratio of 0.59. He is also hitting just below .400 on BABIP at .398.
Brett Minnich (RF) – If you look at Minnich’s stat line, you might not take it very seriously, with him having just 39 plate appearances in nine games. This is due to Minnich being injured most of the season until now and just recently returning to the lineup. It is no coincidence that the Aggies have seen an improved result since he has been healthy. Minnich is batting .387/.513/.806 for an OPS of 1.319. He has hit four home runs in nine games and has 10 RBIs. His BABIP is .400, but he is striking out more than he walks, with a K: BB ratio of 1.16. Fifty percent of his flyballs are going for home runs at the moment.
Jack Moss (1B) – Moss leads the team in walks and is near the top in several other categories. He also has a BABIP over .400. Moss has a pretty equal balance between flyballs and ground balls in the mid-30 % range. Only seven percent of his flyballs have gone for home runs, but he has seven doubles.
Wyatt Tucker (P) – With four starts in four appearances, Tucker might be the Aggies Tuesday guy, at least for starting on the mound. He has a 3.75 ERA through 12 innings of work. He has walked ten and struck out six. His WHIP is on the higher side at 1.92, but he has left 96 percent of runners on base. Tucker is primarily a ground ball/fly ball guy.
Evan Aschenbeck (P) – Look to the Aggies possibly asking Aschenbeck to eat a lot of innings if he is fresh and available. Outside of one pitcher who has only thrown one inning this season, Aschenbeck has the lowest ERA of the team with a 2.59 in 31.1 IP. He has logged the second-most innings of the pitching staff but has not started any games in eleven appearances.
This is a must-win game for UTSA. The obvious factor is getting back in the midweek win column. They also can capitalize on beating a top-50 RPI team, a pre-season contender in Baseball’s toughest conference, and showing the committee they can win big games on the road. If the opportunity presents itself, I fully intend on throwing the “Ball Five” chant back at the Aggies Tuesday night. Hopefully, you all can find a way to watch the game, and we can witness the first Roadrunner win in College Station in nearly two decades. Lastly, UTSA continues to catch the eye of national outlets, this time appearing in D1 Baseball’s first Round of 64 projection.
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