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The Roadrunners wrapped up an overall productive weekend of baseball. It saw them win 4 out of 5 games, including run-ruling a future Big 12 school and taking the weekend series from St. Mary’s (CA). They produced their first back-to-back high-scoring games of the season. Despite their loss on Friday night, they had a chance to win until the end. Following this weekend’s games and the trouncing of Houston on Wednesday, UTSA is now 6-2 on the season. Their early RPI is now at 100, and they outscored their two opponents 36-17!
When it comes to RPI, I am saying early because I am not putting too much weight into it at this point. The season is still very early! There have been upsets all-across Division 1. The RPI calculator will fluctuate significantly by the time the end of May rolls around. As long as the Runners continue to have weekends like this one, everything should work out just fine. This is going to be a busy week for the UTSA baseball team. They travel to Waco on Tuesday for a single game against Baylor. They are then back at the Birdbath Wednesday evening to face UIW before a three-game weekend series against the University of Utah.
Before entering the rest of this column, I watched Friday night and Sunday’s game on CUSA.TV. If you have ever watched this stream, you know it is not the best. I do appreciate the commentary, and it is better than nothing. I say that because some of what I will mention for improvement areas might not have been as bad of a play as it looked. There were also some plays that I completely missed because the camera could not switch in time. With that being said, let’s get into it.
WHAT I FELT GOOD ABOUT…
Hits, Hits, Hits – UTSA recorded thirty, yes, thirty hits across the doubleheader on Saturday. It might have been even more than that if not for an agreed-upon seven-inning game two that lessened the damage. This takeaway was especially crucial in game 1, where SMC scored eight runs on seven hits and two UTSA errors. UTSA kept matching the SMC offense before pulling away in the 5th and 6th inning. I’m okay with 20 LOB across two games when you put almost twice that on base and plate 20 runs.
Defense Up the Middle – Coach Hallmark has mentioned how UTSA looks up the middle a few times this offseason. This includes the catcher, the 2B/SS, and the CF. Leyton Barry and Matt King showed up throughout this weekend. King made a diving catch, Barry snagged one in mid-air, and they showed great range to either assist with the put-out or keep a base hit to a single. There was one sequence where from what I could see, Leyton either didn’t get to the bag in time or was off the bag before he received the ball. This was a challenging play as the ball took a second hop on King, costing him a second or two.
Extra-Base Hits – While UTSA didn’t hit any home runs this weekend (more on that in a moment), they put up 13 extra-base hits across the five games. Getting on base is most important, but the ability to get those extra bases and keeping a runner in scoring position puts pressure on the defense and helps those runs come across.
Limited Runs Allowed – I wanted to mention the pitching because there were several good things to take away. In three of the five games, less than two runs were allowed, and only four runs in another. This is crucial as the lead doesn’t seem insurmountable, and if the offense is rolling, the guy on the mound can settle in.
WHAT I DIDN’T FEEL GOOD ABOUT…
Leadoff Hitter Struggles – Friday’s game was a pitcher’s duel. Coincidently enough, both starting pitchers had the number 34. Seven out of nine leadoff hitters recorded an out in the game. Sometimes when a pitcher rolls like Derek Eaquinto, you cannot do much about it. In any case, getting that leadoff man on is so important. It instantly puts pressure on the defense, adds to the pitch count, and opens opportunities. It stung seeing Luke Malone pitch as well as he did, and UTSA gets goose egged. Sometimes that just is how baseball goes.
Mistimed Dives – This is one of the take it with a grain of salt I was talking about because I couldn’t see any of the three diving catch attempts on Friday night. I heard that the first-inning one was a couple of feet to Odom’s right, so maybe it gets by him anyway, depending on where he was playing. The attempt in 5th by Isaiah Walker, unfortunately, led to the only run scored by either team. Again, I didn’t see it very well, but knowing who is on the mound for you and where the game is, it might have been better to play it safe and keep McDonald to a single. Had that been the case, when Malone got the ground ball to 2B on the next batter, it likely might have been an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately, I could not see how Barry was forced to play the ground ball.
Errors – Across the four games this weekend, UTSA made seven errors. Some of these would have been tough plays to make, and a rushed throw or difficult throw accounted for it. It is still something that I didn’t feel great about this weekend. Errors extend the inning, can lead to free extra bases and can come at crucial times. SMC, on their side, only made three errors all weekend, and they all came on Friday night. UTSA couldn’t capitalize on any of those.
Daniel Garza – Garza entered Sunday afternoon with the Roadrunners down 2-0. He pitched 5.0 innings of relief, giving up 0 runs on three hits while recording five strikeouts. He was responsible for a throwing error on a failed pick-off attempt, but he retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
Caleb Hill – You may have seen me tweet about this on Sunday. Hill made two crucial catches late in the game while showing some athleticism. The first out came on a sliding catch after a long run in foul territory. After the next batter advanced to 2B on a throwing error, Hill made what appeared to be a run-saving catch while also ending the inning.
Josh Killeen – Killeen reached base five times in the first game on Saturday. His three hits and two walks put his OBP for the game at 1.000. That is excellent production no matter where in the lineup you are, but being on base for the top of the order pays off for your team’s offense.
Antonio Valdez – No surprise here. Valdez’s time at UTSA is off to a great start. Across these five games, he recorded nine hits, twelve RBIs, and crossed the plate himself seven times. Several of those hits were for extra bases. The season is still fresh, but he already has an impressive stat line of .440/.548/.640. Hopefully, he can continue with the hot bat as the season progresses.
Baylor Bears 2/28 @ 6:30 PM Waco, TX (ESPN +)
26-28 (7-17 Big 12). RPI 80 and a Non-Conf RPI of 34. SOS 21 and a Non-Conf SOS 37.
Went 0-2 in last season’s Big 12 tournament
They are predicted to finish 9/9 in the Big 12 by D1 Baseball and are not projected to make a regional bid.
They come in with a new coaching staff looking to turn things around. They have the potential for fantastic makeup regarding the pitching staff but still have some question marks on offense. Their 2023 season has gotten off to a rough start. They are 2-5 coming into Tuesday’s game. They were also swept by the Duke Blue Devils and outscored 52-7. So, that promising pitching hasn’t shown up quite yet.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
2B – Kolby Branch – Hitting .417 on the season with an OBP of .500. He has accounted for nine RBIs with three doubles and one home run.
CF – Kobe Andrade – While only hitting .286 so far, he has an OPS of .952 built from 3 doubles and two triples.
RP – Andrew Petrowski has made two appearances and has an ERA of 1.42 in 6.1 IP. He has also recorded eight strikeouts.
RP – Hambleton Oliver – 4.1 IP in two appearances. Has an ERA of 2.08. He has walked four batters while striking out three.
Of their starting pitchers, who have all started at least one game, the average ERA is 12.72.
UIW CARDINALS 3/1 @ 6:00 PM at the Birdbath (CUSATV)
21-31 (9-15 Southland Conf.) 2-2 at the conference tournament.
RPI of 182 and a non-Conf RPI of 149. SOS of 123 and non-Conf. Schedule of 75
They lost both games to UTSA last year; 6-0 and 6-4.
They are projected to finish 8/9 in the Southland Conference.
They will be looking to take a big step forward this season. Senior and starting catcher Hernan Yanez will look to lead the team. They also have some talented bats returning this year that could help the offense.
They are 3-4 on the season. They lost to Tarleton 5-3, Utah 13-6, but beat Houston 10-8. They play Texas State at home on Tuesday (2/28).
Players To Watch
RF – Wilson Ehrhardt – Has a 1.189 OPS with two doubles and two home runs. He leads the team in RBIs so far with 6.
1B – Alec Carr also has a productive OPS of 1.097. He is second on the team in BA and OBP and leads the team with two triples.
SP – Isaiah Zavala – a 3.97 ERA in 11.1 IP. Zavala has struck out 20 in those 11.1 IP.
RP – Luis Rodriguez – a 1.59 ERA in 5.2 IP. He has only struck out one batter in those 5.2 IP.
Two things I am looking forward to this week. UTSA is playing on ESPN+ and facing cross-town competitors UIW. I’m sure most of you are aware that UIW is Coach Hallmark’s former team. It is also where newcomers Antonio Valdez and Taylor Smith played under Coach Hallmark in 2019. Here is to hoping UTSA comes away with the two-day sweep in the midweek games.
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