Coming off their winningest season under Head Coach Sherman Corbett, the UTSA baseball team looks to come out atop the Southland Conference in what will be an exciting season to watch featuring new and old talents.

Last season, the Roadrunners finished tied for second place with rival Texas State, in the conference with an overall record of 37-22.

The team went into the conference tournament as a number three seed but fell short as they lost their opening game to Lamar followed with a win over Northwestern State and then a one point loss to UTA. The loss to UTA eliminated the Runners from the tournament.

“It was tough losing, but it wasn’t something to sulk on; we needed to move on,” senior Ryan Saltzgaber said.

This season will be the first time that the SLC will feature two divisions, an East and West division. Each division consists of six teams each. Come conference tournament time, the top three teams from each divsion will compete for the conference title.

UTSA, of the West Division, was picked in the pre-season poles to finish second by the sports information directors and third by the league’s coaches. Although this is the highest that the team has been picked in coach Corbett’s tenure, “[the] preseason poles don’t mean a whole lot, it’s about how you finish at the end of the year,” Coach Corbett said.

The team has three players that were honored with All-SLC selections, senior Josh Ruffin and sophomore Michael Rockett both getting first team selections and senior Ryan Saltzgaber was selected to the second team.

Although losing big names to graduation like Tadesco, Voyles, and McKennon, the team is returning 17 players from last years tournament crew. The team also brings in 19 new players; all are looking to make an immediate impact on the squad. A significant role is expected of the freshmen and transfers.

“We’re really excited about this team. We have depth in the pitching staff; we have a lot of young freshman arms, solid position players. So we have a lot of depth at each position,” Coach Corbett said.

Number one pitcher and team captain senior Josh Ruffin, looks to continue his stride from last year in which he posted an 8-3 record with a 3.17 ERA.

Last season, Ruffin pitched a school record of four shutouts, earning him two-time SLC Pithcer of the week.

Senior Blake Brannon will be the number two guy in the rotation. The season will begin for Brannon on a UTSA record 29 scoreless inning streak.

Brannon will most likely be followed by transfer Bradley Chavonec to be the number three man.

Losing a dominate pitcher in Noah Tritz definitely leaves a hole for the Roadrunner bullpen. But with six new pitchers, the Roadrunners look to have a lot of strength coming out of their bullpen. It’s a bullpen with four first-team all district selections and two first-team all-state selection. One of those all-state selections, J.T. Mackey, was a District 5A MVP.

“Our bullpen is probably the deepest in the SLC. I’m really looking forward to see our pitching. We have a lot of potential,” said Ruffin

Another of three captains, junior Zach Etheredge, will help anchor the team at Catcher in his third year. When asked about Etheredge, Coach Corbett had a lot of praise for the three-year started expecting him to step up as a leader on the field.

In the infield, the team looks to get big play from transfers Josh Wilson and Trent Lockwood on offense, who will try and fill the shoes of Lee Tadesco at first base.

Sophomore James Keithley, who had a great season as a true freshman making All-SLC honorable mention, will start at second base replacing J.R. Voyles.

“Keithley was more of a position player for us last year playing a little bit of everything. He has worked his way into a starting position,” Corbett said.

The third team captain, junior Marshal Davis, will continue starting at shortstop.

Preseason second-team All-SLC pick Ryan Saltzgaber, will close off the infield at third base with sophomore Danny Cornejo behind him.

“We have a great group of guys out here who are stepping up,” Saltzgaber said. “The older guys are taking it upon themselves to lead these guys in and help get us back to where we were last year.”

In the outfield “we’ve got great depth at each position,” Corbett said.

“One of our most talented areas on the field is our outfield,” he said.

The outfield will feature a wide variety of talent, starting with its freshman All-American, Michael Rockett starting at center-field. After coming off broken wrist surgery, Rockett had a tremendous year hitting .352 with 32 RBIs, earning him Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and second-team All SLC honors.

Junior transfer Greg Sillivent will takeover at left-field, with redshirt freshman Tim Plasincar and sophomore Eric Johnson backing him up.

The experience of senior Mitch Ponza and junior Phillip Allen will alternate starting at right-field.

The team opens up the season today in Houston against the No.1 ranked team in the nation, Rice; where Ruffin will take the mound.

“It’s exciting, not many people can say that they opened up their senior season against number one Rice,” Ruffin said. “But it’s just another game, it’s going to be baseball.”

UTSA will face a number of non-conference teams that will test their full potential. Teams such as Rice, Texas, Baylor and Houston.

“We feel like we have a team that can really compete for the Southland Conference title,” said Coach Corbett.

“I think overall the biggest thing is the confidence of what this team thinks they can accomplish. A lot of times that’s half the battle; the battle you have with yourself and how good you feel about the team,” he said.

Look for the team to make a big impact this season in the SLC as they try to follow up the great season they had in 06′. A display of new stars will arise, and old faces will continue to make their presence known throughout the conference going into this season. The team expects more than where they ended up last year and plan to hit new highs.

“We are going be good this year,” said Rockett. “No doubt about it we’re going have the potential to win the league.”

Related Stories

More from Paisano1

Editorial Board

At the University of Missouri, real change happened — but only when loss of university revenue was threatened. Missouri student…

More In Sports

Julia Maenius Staff Writer

The UTSA women’s golf team traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, to compete in the Conference USA (C-USA) Championship from March…