SAN ANTONIO — UTSA will head east this weekend for five games, three of which will be against ranked teams, at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic. The three-day tournament gets underway on Friday.
The Roadrunners will open the event at 11 a.m. on Friday against No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette before a 2 p.m. tilt with Mississippi State. UTSA will continue play on Saturday with an 11 a.m. matchup with Chattanooga and a 2 p.m. contest versus 14th-ranked South Alabama. Finally, the Birds will wrap up play at the classic at 12:30 p.m. the following day against No. 12 Baylor.
UTSA (7-8) will be playing in its final early season tournament after hosting events each of the last two weekends. The classic also will serve as a tune-up for the start of Conference USA action, which will begin with a three-game series against Louisiana Tech on March 8-9. Megan Low leads the Roadrunners with a .429 batting average, while her eight home runs and 19 RBIs lead C-USA. The junior hit four homers in last weekend’s UTSA Mid-Major Classic to push her slugging percentage to 1.071. In the circle, Nicole Merrill’s 3.26 ERA leads the team, while Kacy Freeze tops the squad with four wins and 43 strikeouts.
The Rajin Cajuns (9-5-1) are coming off a 3-2 weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic last weekend in Clearwater, Fla. The squad is led by Haley Hayden’s seven home runs and 19 RBIs, while her .396 average is just behind Natalie Fernandez (.400) for tops on the squad. The Rajin Cajuns are batting .270 as a team and the pitching staff owns a 4.23 ERA. Christina Hamilton leads the hurlers with three wins and a 2.24 ERA, while Jordan Wallace is 5-1 with 49 strikeouts and a 3.76 ERA.
The Bulldogs (14-0) will test their perfect record and are coming off a three-game sweep of Iowa last weekend. The team has a .279 batting average and boasts five players hitting at least .300. Caroline Seitz leads that group with a .341 mark, while Sam Lenahan is hitting .324 with a team-leading five homers and 18 RBIs. Mississippi State has been dominant in the circle with a collective 0.45 ERA and seven shutouts. Teams are hitting just .120 against Bulldogs pitching. Alison Owen has thrown the majority of the innings (42.2) and is 7-0 with 64 strikeouts and a 0.49 ERA.
The Mocs (8-6) have won each of their last six games. Anyssa Robles paces the team, which is hitting .296, with 17 hits and a .405 batting average. Criket Blanco’s 14 RBIs are tops on the squad, while Alyssa Taylor has a team-best four home runs. Taylor Deason has thrown the majority of the innings for Chattanooga and is 4-3 with 29 strikeouts and a 0.79 ERA.
The Jaguars (11-1) also own a six-game winning streak heading into play this weekend. Blair Johnson leads the team with a .429 batting average and 13 RBIs, while her two home runs are just behind the three from Alex Breeden. The team boasts 19 doubles through 12 games, including six from Chloe Rathburn. Farish Beard leads the pitching staff with a 6-1 record, 54 strikeouts and 0.24 ERA.
Perhaps UTSA’s toughest test will be saved for last against a familiar Baylor squad. The Bears (11-3) have faced a tough schedule early in the season with four contests against ranked opponents and are 3-1 in those games. Baylor is hitting .327 on the season with seven players batting better than .300. Kaitlyn Thumann leads the team with a .417 average, while Clare Hosack sports a .368 average with a team-leading three home runs and 16 RBIs. Whitney Canion returns to the pitching rotation this season and the lefty is 7-2 with 65 strikeouts and a 1.10 ERA to lead the staff.
UTSA trails in the all-time series against Louisiana-Lafayette (1-6) and Baylor (12-20), while it will meet Chattanooga, Mississippi State and South Alabama for the first time.