SAN ANTONIO — UTSA will open its 23rd season of play this weekend when it hosts Lamar for a three-game series at Roadrunner Field. The Roadrunners and Lady Cardinals will play a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday and conclude the series with a noon tilt the following day.
UTSA, which was picked to finish eighth in its first season as a member of Conference USA, returns 12 letterwinners and 90 percent of its run production from last season’s squad that won 27 games and finished fifth in the Western Athletic Conference. A total of 10 newcomers join the fold for 2014, including pitchers Kacy Freeze, Nicole Merrill and Chelsea Parker, and that group will be tasked with replacing departed hurlers Haylee Staton and Alyssa Vordenbaum.
Leading the group of returners for first-year head coach Michelle Cheatham are preseason All-C-USA picks Darian Blake and Megan Low.
Blake, an outfielder from Katy, paced the offense last season out of the leadoff spot with a .360 batting average, 54 hits, six doubles, three triples and a .407 on-base percentage. In addition, she stole seven bases in as many attempts and earned first-team All-WAC honors following the campaign. Meanwhile, Low hit .326 a season ago with 13 doubles, five home runs and a team-leading 32 RBIs.
The Roadrunners, which will play the first game of the season at home for the first time since 2002, and Lady Cardinals will open the season for the second consecutive year. Lamar took two of three contests in Beaumont to start the 2013 campaign in its first games since the 1987 season.
Second-year head coach Holly Bruder’s squad returns 14 letterwinnners and each of its starters from last year’s 24-35 team that finished fifth in the Southland Conference. Southland sports information directors tabbed the Lady Cardinals to finish in fifth place, while the league’s head coaches selected Lamar to finish sixth.
Candyce Carter posted a .339 batting average a season ago with 14 doubles, 10 homers and 31 RBIs, while Ashley McDowell hit .277 and led the team with 12 round-trippers. In the circle, Shannon Millman is the team’s returning pitcher after recording a 17-16 mark with a 4.30 ERA in 205.1 innings.