Coach Pat Hallmark UTSA

UTSA drops series against Wichita State following Saturday’s doubleheader losses

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The Roadrunners have dropped their second consecutive American Athletic Conference series. Following their first Friday night win in three weeks, they could not keep the positive momentum on Saturday. With a less-than-ideal weather forecast on Sunday, the decision was made to play a doubleheader on Saturday. 

The results were also unideal. 

Wichita won both games on Saturday convincingly, and the pitching I mentioned in the preview podcast mostly shut down the UTSA offense across the three games. With two more weekends of conference play remaining, the Roadrunners now find themselves essentially out of contention for a regular season championship. With Sunday results trickling in, they now are on the edge of being mixed up with the log jam of teams ranked 3-9 in the conference standings. 

The Good…

While it took the bats a while to get going on Friday – not getting a hit until the 5th inning – UTSA produced runs in three consecutive innings to both take and pad a lead over the Shockers. After a brief rain delay that forced the Wichita State pitcher out of the game, Tye Odom pinch-hit in his return to the lineup. The infield chopper was just enough to allow Odom to reach safely and bring in two runs. The Roadrunners would take the lead for good on Friday night following a bases-loaded walk and Isaiah Walker hitting a hard ground ball that resulted in an error and two more runs. 

Each game featured some unfavorable pitching lines. However, there were some solid individual performances which the staff can hopefully build on. 

Sophomore Zach Royse opened Friday evening with 2.2 IP, striking out two. Royse allowed two hits, which Garza helped him get out of the jam. 

After a difficult second inning of work for Ruger Riojas, Fischer Kingsbery entered to close things out on Friday, preserving the one-run lead. The two outs recorded gave Kingsbery his sixth save of the season. 

While it would be washed away by Wichita’s late-inning rally on Sunday, Braylon Owens had his strongest outing of the season. Logging 6.1 IP, he allowed three hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. He would have one earned run credited to him after Riojas entered. Owens has struggled at times this season; however, his last few outings have been positive. 

The Not So Good… 

The Wichita State pitching staff kept the UTSA bats almost non-existent. With each of the Shocker’s starters logging at least five innings, they completed 19.2 of the 27 innings. Caden Favors threw a complete game Saturday afternoon, highlighting this. 

Across three games, the Roadrunners scored twelve runs, nine of which were earned. Only twice did they respond on the scoreboard to the Shockers scoring runs in the top half. 

Hitting-wise, they never reached double digits for any game and left almost as many runners on as base hits. Of the eighteen hits across the series, they only generated five extra-base hits. 

At the start of conference play, UTSA was run-ruling teams and scoring double-digits at least once in almost every series. However, the offense has stagnated and lost momentum. The lack of offense is likely not attributed to one reason. At any rate, the Roadrunners must return to the consistency they had at the end of March into April. 

The way this team is built, they often need at least five or six runs. You don’t want to go into the tournament with your offense missing. This was the case last year, leading to an early exit. 

Five to one. Those numbers represent two different stat lines. The Shockers hit five home runs to the Roadrunners one, and UTSA hit five ground ball double plays while only turning one themselves. Continuously struggling to get out of the inning and lacking the home run ball has plagued UTSA all season. Loading the bases to only bring one run in or being unable to generate double-play-worthy ground balls can draw things out. Speaking of loading the bases, it was a grand slam by the Shockers in the series finale that put the game out of reach and secured the series. 

There is also certainly some concern for the pitching staff. In the three games, the UTSA Roadrunners averaged eight runs allowed. Some of that is on the defense, as not all runs were earned. 

The pitching staff fell behind early and had several 3-2 counts where the Shockers were able to fight off pitches and draw walks. The overall walk total wasn’t terrible; getting behind early and laboring in at-bats is not ideal. Finding ways to generate swings and misses helps reduce this. 

Looking Ahead…

There is no Tuesday game for UTSA this week. Just seven games remain in the regular season. Home against USF, a Tuesday home game against UIW, and a weekend series at FAU make that up. 

Even after last week’s series loss to Rice, it appeared that at least the two-seed was all but secured. Now, UTSA still holds on to the two-seed but with a much smaller gap from the rest of the field.  

Unless something changes, Charlotte is likely to lose the series finale against Rice. That would put Charlotte and maybe Tulane two games back from the Roadrunners. UTSA has the tiebreaker against both of those teams. If the Roadrunners don’t figure things out, they could easily find themselves with a lower seed entering the tournament. 

Throughout conference play, what has remained constant is that just about every team can beat each other. So, UTSA returning to their hitting ways is more important than the seed. This takes the pressure off the pitching staff, allows Coach Hallmark to use his high-leverage relievers more strategically, and instills the confidence needed to reach and Win Sunday. 

All I can say at this point is buckle up. It likely will be a wild final three weeks of the regular season. However it turns out, I am confident this team will give it everything they got.

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