SAN ANTONIO — UTSA will open its 22nd season of play this weekend when it travels to Beaumont for a three-game series at Lamar. The Roadrunners and Lady Cardinals will play a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday and conclude the series with a 2 p.m. tilt the following day.
UTSA, which will play its first game of the season as a true road game for the first time since 2008, returns eight letterwinners and three starters from last year’s squad that went 24-28 and placed third in the Southland Conference with a 12-8 league mark. Second-year head coach Amanda Lehotak welcomes newcomers Victoria Birdwell, Darian Blake, Ashlee Garcia, Paige Hamilton, Cosette Hernandez, Crystal Moreno and Alexis Ramirez to the fold.
Leading the group of returners is senior pitcher Haylee Staton and sophomore catcher Megan Low, who both earned preseason All-Western Athletic Conference honors.
Last season, Staton led the pitching staff with a 15-8 record, 2.54 ERA and 151 strikeouts. The marks were all career highs for the Austin native and her 15 victories in the circle were the most by any UTSA hurler since Amanda Nikolenko’s 23 in 2006. A third-team All-Southland pick, Staton started all but 18 games and tossed 179 innings.
Meanwhile, Low started all 52 games, including 50 contests at catcher, and earned Southland Freshman of the Year and first-team all-league accolades after hitting .375 with 26 runs, nine doubles, five homers and 28 RBIs. In all, she led the team in eight offensive categories, including batting average, slugging percentage (.533), on-base percentage (.456), RBIs, home runs, total bases (81), walks (20) and sacrifice flies (3). Additionally, Low recorded a .987 fielding percentage behind the plate with just four errors in 298 chances.
The Roadrunners will be facing a Lamar squad that will be playing its first game since the conclusion of the 1987 season. The Lady Cardinals are led by head coach Holly Bruder, who came to Beaumont following stints at NCAA Division III Denison University (2002-07) and Morehead State (2008-11). She enters the spring with a 260-211 (.564) record in 10 seasons as a head coach.
Bruder’s team is made up of 10 freshmen, four sophomores and four juniors. Two of those juniors, Candyce Carter and Tina Schulz, along with sophomore Casey Cromwell, were selected by the coach as team captains this season.
This weekend’s series will mark the first meetings between UTSA and Lamar.