UTRGV baseball tops UT Arlington in WAC tourney opener

Zach Tjelmeland pitched a career-high tying 6.0 scoreless innings to lead the UTRGV baseball team past the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 8-3, clinching a 2-1 series victory, on Sunday at UTRGV Baseball Stadium in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

Senior Zach Tjelmeland pitched a complete game to lead the No. 7 the UTRGV Vaqueros baseball team past the No. 6 UT Arlington Mavericks 8-5 in the opening round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday at Hohokam Stadium, the spring training home of the Oakland A’s in Mesa, Arizona.

UTRGV advances to the double-elimination portion of the tournament Wednesday at 2 p.m. against No. 3 Utah Valley. Fans can watch domestically on ESPN+ or internationally via WAC International.

In his second-career complete game, Tjelmeland (6-3) struck out four without a walk while allowing five runs on nine hits. He threw 68 of his 98 pitches (69.39%) for strikes.

“Well, (Tjelmeland) is a senior, so this is it for him. … He showed a lot of grit and fight and what a good game by him to fight through that whole game and save our bullpen for the rest of this thing,” UTRGV baseball head coach Derek Matlock said.

Offensively, the Vaqueros (28-24) hit three home runs, including blasts by junior Sharyland High alumnus Martin Vazquez, junior Edinburg Vela alumnus Isaac Lopez, and graduate student CJ Valdez. Vazquez and Lopez now each have 16 career home runs, tied for the 12th-highest career total in program history with Rafael Barbosa (1982-83). They’re each one away from entering the top 10 in program history.

Vazquez finished a career-high tying 3-for-5 with a career-high tying three runs scored. Lopez went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI. Valdez finished 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk and four RBI. Graduate student Adrian Torres went a career-high tying 4-for-5 with a double, a run scored, and a career-high three stolen bases. Junior Hank Warren and freshman Easton Moomau each finished 2-for-5 with a run scored.

The Vaqueros jumped on Caden Noah (3-4) right away, as with two outs in the first, Valdez hit a 2-run home run that soared out of the park at 110 miles per hour and traveled 397 feet to make the score 2-0.

With one out in the third, Warren singled and then Lopez followed with an RBI-double to make the score 3-0.

In the fifth, Vazquez launched his 16th home run of the season, a 405-foot solo shot that left at 108 miles per hour. Two outs later, graduate student Torres and Warren singled. During the next at-bat, Torres stole third and scored on a wild pick-off attempt to put the Vaqueros up 5-0.

Tjelmeland retired the first nine batters and 12 of the first 13. In the fifth, though, the Mavericks (22-34) opened the inning with 3-straight hits, capped by a Garrison Berkley 3-run home run, to make the score 5-3.

Then, with one on and two outs in the seventh, Parker Airhart hit an RBI-double to make the score 5-4.

The Vaqueros pushed back with three runs in the eighth, as Lopez led off with a 425-foot home run that left his bat at 103 miles per hour. Then, with two outs, Valdez hit a 2-run triple to make the score 8-4.

Ryan Black homered in the ninth to complete the scoring.