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UTSA baseball team
UTSA baseball team celebrates its historic SLC Tournament win

Roadrunners overcome adversity to earn school's second NCAA Regional bid

Join us in front of the Convocation Center at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, June 2, to send off the team and wish them well in UTSA's first postseason appearance in 11 years.

(May 31, 2005)--The University of Texas at San Antonio baseball team began the 2005 season with 11 straight losses and a list of player injuries bordering on the ridiculous.

So when the night before game one of the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament, a UTSA baseball player sat in the emergency room for the second time in as many days, the now unflappable Roadrunner squad simply shrugged their shoulders.

"You can either cash in your chips, or you can continue to play," said assistant coach Jim Blair.

The Roadrunners decided to double down. The move paid big with a Southland Conference Tournament title, their first since 1994, and a trip to an NCAA Regional.

The fourth-seeded Roadrunners will meet top-seed and host, Baylor, at 7 p.m., Friday, June 3, in Waco, Texas.

To earn their spot in Waco, the Roadrunners downed Lamar, 4-1, in the Southland Conference Tournament Championship game Saturday, May 27 behind the complete game effort of senior pitcher Aaron Rodriguez.

Rodriguez carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and held the Cardinals to just four hits and no walks in the win. Meanwhile, UTSA took advantage of a few Lamar miscues to score four unearned runs.

For Rodriguez, the game plan on championship Saturday was simple. "Just keep us one run ahead of them and that was it," he said.

A circus-catch by left fielder Mike McKennon in the ninth put the contest in the books and set the unlikely Roadrunners on the road to an NCAA Regional.

For UTSA, the path to the school's first NCAA bid in 11 years was anything but simple. Late one night last fall, pitcher Steven Vasquez was on his way home from watching the World Series with teammates when another vehicle slammed into the passenger side of his Dodge truck. The accident left Vasquez with a broken neck. A few months later, he slipped, fell and broke his hand.

While Vasquez fought his way to recovery, right fielder Stephen Holdren sat out the start of the season with a knee injury. Various pitchers joined the list of walking wounded with shoulder problems. Meanwhile, UTSA, holding a 1-13 record, faced the Alamo City Classic tournament field of Notre Dame, Oral Roberts and Southwest Missouri State.

"We never really got down [on ourselves] because we knew we were good and it was just a matter of time before we would click," said third baseman Ryan Saltzgaber. "Everybody just kept coming out here, kept motivating each other. The coaches never got frustrated with us. They kept telling us how good we were."

The Roadrunners won their next three games, then claimed two out of three games in their opening Southland Conference series, riding the new-found success all the way through league play to the SLC tournament.

"It was just a matter of time for us to jell and click -- getting the pitching and the hitting and the defense all going at the same time," said head coach Sherman Corbett. "We found where the pieces of the puzzle needed to go and started playing well and really the last two, two-and-a-half months have played really well."

Really well doesn't describe the squad-s postseason performance as much as clutch does. The Roadrunners opened the tournament against third-seeded Texas State and quickly found themselves in a 5-0 hole. Undeterred, the squad scored seven runs in the final three innings, capped by back-to-back home runs in the top of the ninth for the 9-8 come-from-behind victory.

The next day, a fully recovered Vasquez baffled Lamar hitters through eight innings and the Roadrunners picked up a 6-3 win.

Game three wasn't nearly as simple, yet the Roadrunners continued to find ways to win. Squandering three leads, UTSA committed six errors in the contest. With the score knotted at five in the eighth inning, Eric Moreno laced a double to right field, and Lee Todesco followed with a ball off the wall. Blair called for Marshall Davis to push a bunt up the first base line, and he did all the way past the charging first baseman and the bag for a double. The inning gave the Roadrunners an 8-5 lead.

But back-to-back Southeastern Louisiana home runs in the top of the ninth wasted the effort, tying the contest at eight before J.R. Voyles came through with a two-out, two-strike RBI-single up the middle to walk off with a 10th-inning victory and advance UTSA to the championship game.

It was only one of several clutch performances for Voyles, who joined five of his teammates (Ryan Crew - MVP, Sean Danielson, Holdren, Rodriguez and Todesco) on the all-tournament squad. It was Voyles and Crew who went back-to-back in the first game for the win. It was closer Jason Vecchio who dialed his fastball up to 96 mph for back-to-back saves. And it was the top four hitters in the Roadrunner lineup -- Danielson, Voyles, Crew and Holdren -- who finished the week 28 for 68.

The result is a long way from a broken-down 0-11. As a regional participant not many expected, the Roadrunners will face the No. 4 team out of the top eight national seeds in Baylor. Stanford and TCU join the regional field, setting a tough test for UTSA. Like a trip to the emergency room, the new challenge elicits a shrug.

"We have the ability and the talent to beat those guys and to beat anybody we play as long as we keep clicking," said Saltzgaber.

With Baylor on tap, the Roadrunners say they aren't done yet and, by the way, that's a swagger... not a limp.

--Leigh Anne Gullett

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Roadrunner fans are invited to ride the bus to the NCAA Baseball Tournament opening round Friday, June 3 in Waco, Texas, when Southland Conference post-season tournament winner UTSA meets Big XII regular season co-champ Baylor at 7 p.m.

The bus leaves the UTSA Convocation Center at 2 p.m., Friday, June 3, stops in Waco for dinner and returns to San Antonio immediately after the game. The bus trip and game ticket are $25.

To make bus reservations, contact Laura Baker at (210) 458-4182. The deadline for bus reservations is Wednesday, June 1.

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