Pitcher Zach Murphy rears back to deliver the pitch. Tristan Ipock, The Paisano

Baseball is back, and it feels sweeter than ever. The smell of freshly cut grass and worn leather surrounded Roadrunner Field this past weekend for the first time since last summer when the players took the field for opening day.

UTSA baseball opened  their 2017 season with a four-game home series against the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

On opening day, Feb. 16, UTSA took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after the offense capitalized on a leadoff double by Jesse Baker. However, the Bobcats quickly answered with two runs of their own in the top of the second after second baseman Ryan Nelson hit a bases-clearing double down the right field line.

In his first game back after missing all of last season due to injury, center fielder Kevin Markham ripped a solo home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Bobcats three run lead to two. “It was a tough night, but it felt great to be back out there with my team again,” said Markham postgame. Markham’s home run was immediately followed by another home run from left fielder Skyler Valentine that got the crowd on their feet, and just like that the Roadrunners held the momentum and cut the lead down to just one with the score at 4-3.

The Roadrunner’s momentum was quickly squandered as Bobcat DH Liam Scafari blasted a home run to left field extending their lead back to two, but Valentine answered in the eighth inning with his second homer of the game to put the ‘Runners back within one.

The ‘Runners had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second, but Quinnipiac was able to escape with the victory after Jesse Baker flied out to right for the final out.

“Somebody’s got to lose and somebody’s got to win on opening day. We were just a little careless with the baseball, and that was the difference in the game,” said Coach Jason Marshall regarding his team’s four defensive errors.  “It’s not something to be expected throughout the season,” said All-American UTSA outfielder Jesse Baker, who also missed the entirety of last season. “We should have and will do better in the future,” he stated. “Those guys that made the errors, that’s just not who they are.”

In the first game of Saturday’s double header, the fans at the Bird Bath were treated to some offensive fireworks from UTSA. The Roadrunners offense bounced back in a major way as they exploded to score 12 runs in a 12-1 victory over the Bobcats to even out the series.

Markham’s 4-6 day at the plate highlighted the ‘Runners ’14 hit performance, and it seemed as though the loss on opening day had been a fluke.

After a short half-hour break, it was time for game three of the four game series. Markham’s hot bat became even hotter as he was responsible for two RBI’s on three doubles, and Skyler Valentine hit his third home run of the series. Nonetheless, the Runners found themselves down by one in the bottom of the ninth. Markham came up big once again and hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

The game remained scoreless until the 12th inning when Quinnipiac was able to plate a run on a base hit up the middle that would prove to be the game winner, and the Bobcats took the third game 8-7.

Offensive power was the theme for the fourth and final game of the series. Both Quinnipiac and UTSA combined for 22 runs. The game was closely contested until the Bobcats batted around the lineup and scored nine runs in the top of the seventh inning to put them on top 12-4. UTSA stormed back in the bottom of the eighth and scored six runs to cut the lead to only two, but that was as close as they would come. Quinnipiac took the victory 12-10 and won the four-game series 3-1.

Despite losing their opening series, the team is very confident about the new season, “I think things are really looking up for this team,” stated senior outfielder Jesse Baker. UTSA struggled offensively last season without Baker and Markham in the lineup, but having them back for the 2017 season may make a real difference. After lacking power in the lineup last season, UTSA launched nine home runs in four games, which could mean good things to come. “Our goal is to compete for a championship and play in postseason,” said head coach Jason Marshall.

UTSA baseball has gotten off to a slow start, but it’s a long season and there’s plenty of time to get settled in before conference play begins.

UTSA will host SFA in a three game home series beginning Feb. 24 at the Bird Bath.

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