After a disappointing finish last season, when the UTSA softball team lost eight of their last ten games, the ‘Runners look to rebound this season and earn a spot in the Conference-USA (C-USA) championship tournament beginning May 8 in Birmingham, Alabama. They got off to a good start, defeating Texas State University 3-2, in the opening game of the Bobcat Classic in San Marcos, Texas.
The Roadrunners skidded to a less than ideal end of the 2018 season last year, finishing 20-30 (8-16 in conference) and tying for last place. Going into next season, senior outfielder Bailee Baldwin will need to continue to lead the team like she did last season, finishing with a .362 batting average and 45 runs batted in (RBI). Additionally, junior outfielder Celeste Loughman and junior catcher Kylea Nix will need to support the offense, who finished last season slugging .419 and .254, respectively. The Roadrunner’s defense will largely depend on three pitchers who are brand new to UTSA this year. Sophomore Clarissa Hernandez posted a 1.78 earned run average last year at Stephen F. Austin University (SFA); sophomore Mackenzie Carpenter was named to the Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll last year at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette; and freshman Marena Estell is coming to UTSA as a pitcher/outfielder from Hooks High School. These three, with returning sophomore pitcher Madison Nelson, will make up this year’s pitching rotation.
The Roadrunners’ season began on Feb. 7 with the Bobcat Classic just up the road in San Marcos, TX against UTSA’s I-35 rival, Texas State University. Nelson, the only veteran pitcher, got the start against the Bobcats, and allowed one run and four hits in six innings. A few errors hurt the ‘Runners early, but Hernandez took over in relief and allowed only one more run, as well as escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. Baldwin led the offense, going 4-4 with a run and an RBI, and Loughman contributed with a hit and a run. All of UTSA’s offense happened in the third inning with Baldwin, sophomore Victoria Villareal and freshman Riley Grunberg each knocking in a run. These three runs ended up being enough for the defense to hold on and secure a 3-2 victory for the Roadrunners.
UTSA continued on to play Abilene Christian University (ACU) on Feb. 9. After some delay, Estell got her first college start, allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings. Hernandez came in again and closed the sixth inning with a strikeout and no hits allowed. ACU scored twice in the second inning, but junior Paige Pacher’s bases-loaded single in the bottom half of the second and Riley Grunberg’s two-run home run in the bottom of the third gave UTSA the lead at 3-2. Estell gave up a two-run home run in the top of the fourth, making the score 4-3 and returning a one-run lead to ACU. Sophomore Elexus Trenkle scored Victoria Villareal in the bottom of the fifth with an ACU error on a dropped third strike, and the game was once again tied at four. ACU loaded the bases in the top of the seventh for Hernandez, but she struck out two batters and again wormed her way out of it. UTSA was once again unable to plate the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, and ACU made them pay for it with two runs in the top of the eighth. The ‘Runners chipped away at the lead by scoring once on a wild pitch, but they weren’t able to complete the comeback and were defeated 6-5 in eight innings.
Immediately their loss to ACU, the Roadrunners stayed on the field to play North Dakota State University. Veteran Madison Nelson got her second start of the season, giving up four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings, and the UTSA offense was silenced until Hailey Garza’s two-run home run in the seventh inning. The Roadrunner rally ended there, and the NDSU Bison triumphed by a score of 6-2. Come see your Roadrunner Softball team in action at home against Baylor on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.