Roadrunners top second-seeded UAB in Conference USA Tournament opener, 4-1
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Sometimes, when a team is facing the best pitcher in the conference, it doesn’t hurt to have a bounce go one’s way or a ball find a hole in the defense. Better yet, having a guy like Brock Hartson on the mound.
A bit of good fortune ignited a three-run fourth inning and Hartson did the rest, as the seventh-seeded UTSA (33-24) knocked off second-seeded UAB (35-20) and Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Chase Mallard in the first round of the C-USA Tournament on Wednesday evening.
Hartson allowed just five baserunners and struck out a career-high 12, the second-most in tournament history, in 8.1 innings of work. The sophomore right-hander allowed just two hits, walked one and also hit a batter in the 127-pitch gem.
“The first win for anybody is crucial,” Hartson said. “Coming in and playing a two seed like UAB, they’ve done a lot this year. They’ve turned some heads, and to get a win as a seven seed off them means a lot. Hopefully, we can just build off of that and play well and make it to Sunday.”
Hartson (7-3) was charged with an unearned run after UAB designated hitter Ryan Prinzing reached on error by first baseman Mike Warren and later scored on a two-out single by third baseman Nathan Vincent.
However, reliever Logan Onda struck out catcher Mitch Williams to end the game to send the Roadrunners into Thursday's 7:30 p.m. winners’ bracket game against No. 6 seed East Carolina (33-24). It will mark the fourth meeting between the two programs in the last week.
“I’ve been at UTSA 14 years and that may be the best I’ve seen,” Roadrunners head coach Jason Marshall said. “Brock just kept rolling the breaking ball in there and had a real feel for it. He just pitched his tail off, threw a lot of strikes and gave us a chance to win.”
After each team managed just one hit over the first three innings, UTSA broke through in the fourth against Mallard (9-3).
Shortstop Horacio Correa IIII hit a high chopper toward second base that bounded over the head of second baseman Matt Morse on the second bounce and into right field.
Third baseman R.J. Perucki then looped a double that landed in shallow left field a couple feet inside the foul line to put men on second and third and Correa made it 1-0 when he scored on a slow bouncer to second by catcher John Bormann.
Center fielder Jesse Baker then banged a ball down the left-field line that wound up in the corner for a run-scoring triple and designated hitter Tony Ramirez followed with a line-drive single to right field for a 3-0 lead.
“I don’t know if I believe in the baseball gods so much, but we had a ball bounce over the head of the second baseman, we had a bloop double and we had a four-bounce triple,” Marshall said. “If there is such a thing, they were smiling down on us in that inning.
“We have struggled for runs the last month of the season, so to scratch the board in that frame on Mallard, a really good, tough pitcher and the pitcher of the year, no matter how we got them, was important. It was good just to be able to breathe and continue to play and have some runs on the board.”
Bormann bumped UTSA’s lead to 4-0 in the eighth with an RBI single that scored Warren.
Mallard went eight innings for UAB, allowing four runs on seven hits, while striking out three.
Bormann and Ramirez both had two of UTSA’s seven hits, while Vincent had two of UAB’s three.