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The Roadrunners wrapped up a busy week yesterday. They played a rare two-game midweek slate, including their first road game of the season. The weekend matchups saw them host the University of Utah Utes. While not necessarily a make-up, Utah attempted to visit the Birdbath back in 2021 only to have the weekend games canceled to an unexpected snowstorm. Talk about bringing the weather with you! It was another successful week for UTSA Baseball as they went 4–1 across the five-game spread. Each game offered its unique flair, some of which we will discuss. I’m also considering adding some small things to the blog, but we will stick to the usual format for now.
WHAT I FELT GOOD ABOUT…
Speed on the basepaths – Coming into this weekend, the Roadrunners only had one homerun on the season. They fixed that, hitting two on Saturday and three on Sunday! We’ve discussed that UTSA lost some power producers coming into this season. At this point last season, UTSA had already hit 17 home runs. Coming into this weekend, UTSA has relied on extra-base hits and speed to fill that gap up to this point. I have already lost count of how many double plays have been spared and how many times UTSA has advanced with awareness on the basepaths due to that speed. We saw this directly impact Wednesday’s game, with Antonio Valdez stealing home, which would be the winning run. Let’s hope the home run power we saw this weekend will continue, but it’s also nice having the speed.
Roadrunner Bullpen – One of the question marks coming into the season was UTSA on the mound. As a reminder, the team finished in the mid-100s last year in ERA at 5.41. They have yet to surrender double digits in a game and have only given up more than six runs twice. Depending on how you define the bullpen at the college level (since sometimes you have relievers start games), the Roadrunners only gave up (4) runs in relief across the five games. That production is great to have out of the pitching staff. Coach Hallmark mentioned during the Baylor game Tuesday (courtesy of ESPN+) that this might be the deepest UTSA pitching staff in his time here, which seems to be holding up to this point.
Bouncing Back – UTSA has yet to lose two games in a row this season. They responded to the extra innings loss against Tarleton State with a 12-2 run rule trouncing of Houston, and they answered back after Friday’s tough loss with an 11-5 win over Utah. They have put double digits on the scoreboard every win after a loss. Even though Sunday’s win wasn’t following a loss, the Roadrunners concluded the series finale with a decisive 14-3 victory.
WHAT I DIDN’T FEEL GOOD ABOUT…
Missed Opportunities – Three times in the loss on Friday, UTSA left the bases loaded to end the inning. Twice, they had them loaded with only one out. The third and final time came at the bottom of the 8th with the Roadrunners down by one run. The offense must capitalize on those situations in a close game like that. While it wouldn’t have guaranteed a win, the pressure late in the game would have been on Utah and not the other way around.
Double Play/Fielding Exchanges – Some ground balls could not be turned for a double play this weekend, and a fielder’s choice attempt on Friday would have ended the inning. That would have been huge, as Utah would have scored only one run instead of four. It was simply a slow grounder on some double-play attempts, and there wasn’t enough time to turn two. King went to second on the fielder’s choice, and the ball reached Barry too late. It appeared there was a chance to get the runner at first. I don’t fault King for making the shorter throw to second. It is always easier and partially unfair for people doing what I’m doing right now to say what should have happened. Matt and Leyton will get that transfer down pat.
Taylor Smith – A slow start to his 2023 campaign turned in the right direction starting Tuesday against Baylor. It began with a double in a five-run inning where Smith would eventually score on a wild pitch. Smith continued the hot-hitting with a triple on Friday and a two-run home run Saturday afternoon. While his batting average is slightly above .200, his OBP and SLG total an above-average .915 OPS.
Daniel Shafer – Shafer earned the unusual four-inning save on Tuesday against Baylor. After giving up one run off a solo home run in his first inning of relief, he settled in getting three strikeouts off two total hits and no walks. Shafer also has a 43.8% ground ball rate on the season.
Ruger Riojas – An honorable mention also goes to Ryan Ward and Simon Miller. The trio split Wednesday’s game, each contributing three innings and only giving up one run between them. Riojas had his best appearance of the season so far. In his three innings of relief, he only gave up one hit, one walk, and struck out six. Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come this season for the freshman.
Matt King and Antonio Valdez – I do not intend to do a disservice to their recognition by putting them together. It’s more so because I was all ready to mention that they produced a combined cycle on Saturday, and then King stretched an extra-base hit into his second triple of the day (totally fine with that, by the way). I already mentioned Valdez’s steal of home on the double steal which was the difference on Wednesday. King hit three triples this weekend. Valdez hit three home runs across two games. The pair combined for six extra-base hits between Saturday and Sunday. If people are going to recognize combined no-hitters, I reckon we can do the same with cycles. With how these two have been hitting this season, we may have another chance for the combined cycle, and I would not rule out them hitting for the individual cycle as well.
At Texas State (Sun Belt) Tuesday, March 7th @ 6:00 PM (ESPN+)
They followed up a disappointing 2021 campaign with one of their best seasons in recent years.
47-14 (26-4 Sun Belt). They barely missed out on advancing to Super Regionals, dropping the series to Stanford.
Projected to finish behind Southern Miss in the West Division. Projected to be a regional team.
Texas State has some crucial veteran players returning and is expected to pick up right where they left off last season. The pitching staff looks even better than last season, and the offense will be just as solid. Texas State has caught the eye of national baseball media.
So far, they are off to a 7-4 start and are coming off a losing series against WAC favorites Grand Canyon. Sunday’s game got away from them, losing 11-0. The only mutual matchup to compare so far is Texas State beating UIW 12-8 last Tuesday in San Antonio.
PLAYERS TO WATCH…
LF – Jose Gonzalez – Gonzalez has an impressive slash line of .441/.556/.971 and an OPS of 1.526. His most updated stats show five home runs, three doubles, seven walks, and three stolen bases on three attempts. He has only struck out six times in forty-five plate appearances.
1B – Daylan Pena – Pena is right behind Gonzalez in home runs with four. He has a slash line of .324/.378/.784 and an OPS of 1.162. He has a triple and two doubles on the season. Pena and Gonzalez have thirty-six RBIs between them. The rest of the Texas State team combined has forty-eight. Aside from their opening weekend against Northwestern, where they put fifty-six runs on the board in three games, the rest of their games have been more traditional Baseball box scores.
Texas State has some pitchers to watch out for. It is hard to know how different teams approach the mid-week game regarding a starting pitcher or having guys start out of the bullpen. Tony Robie is one of their primary relievers and maybe even their closer, as he has a 1.59 ERA in five appearances and 5.2 innings. Another one to look out for is Jack Stroud. Stroud has pitched 5.1 innings in four appearances, has a 1.69 ERA, and has eleven Ks.
The Roadrunners are coming off a productive week with a big game on Tuesday in San Marcos. Winning this game would be huge for RPI implications. Last year, UTSA was down 14-5 in the top of the ninth. While they would fall just short, they scored seven runs for a final score of 14-12. UTSA would also go on to beat Texas State at home a week later 14-8. UTSA is coming off an eleven-run win, and Texas State is coming off an eleven-run loss. This will be an exciting game, which I think the Roadrunners will deliver with another win!
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