Feb. 21, 2012
MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- Senior Michael Busby launched a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning and Ryan Nance shut the door in the ninth with the tying run 90-feet away as UAB squeaked past Alabama State 3-2 at the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex on Tuesday.
The Blazers will play their home opener this Friday against Ball State. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT at Young Memorial Field.
"I would say we escaped more than we wonthe game, but we won," head coach Brian Shoop said. "It's a big change after seeing 90 (miles per hour) all weekend and then seeing 78 (mph). You think it's easy to make that adjustment, but sometimes it is not. We really struggled, but give (Anthony Ricciardi) credit, he threw strikes and multiple pitches for strikes."
UAB (2-2) used a trio of pitchers to hold the Hornets' offense to two runs (one earned) on just three hits to extend Blazers win streak over ASU to 14 straight games.
Tanner Bryant (1-0) earned his first win in Green and Gold, tossing the first 5.0 innings. The junior allowed one earned run on three hits.
The Blazer bullpen was lights out in favor of Bryant, thanks to the right arms of Chase Mallard and Ryan Nance. Mallard pitched the sixth, seventh and eight frames and recorded four strikeouts in front of Nance, who struck out the side in the ninth, with neither allowing a base hit.
In fact, the Hornets did not register a hit over the last 4.2 innings.
ASU (0-4) notched the first run of the ball game in the bottom of the fifth when Emmanuel Marrero executed a suicide squeeze off Bryant to take the 1-0 lead.
The Blazers answered right back, thanks to the Hornets defense. ASU starter Anthony Ricciardi (0-1) had been in cruise control, retiring 12 of the previous 13 batters before Tyler Mims reached base on an error. The next batter, Busby, would make the home squad pay for the mistake.
The Vicksburg, Miss., native connected for his first career homer as a Blazer, a two-run shot over the left-field wall, to take a 2-1 lead with two down in the sixth.
UAB added an insurance run, which proved to be another costly run allowed by the ASU defense, in the seventh. Keith DePew walked to start the inning and eventually scored as the Hornets committed consecutive errors in the infield.
Despite making four errors and only having three hits, ASU made things interesting in the ninth. Mallard walked the leadoff batter and was lifted in favor of Nance. After the next batter walked, the duo on the base paths executed a double steal following a strikeout by Nance.
While advancing on the steal, an errant throw by the Blazers' catcher allowed lead runner Richard Amion to race home. The error also moved pinch runner Ryan Epperson from first to third base with just one out in the inning.
With the tying run just 90-feet away, Nance geared up and tallied back-to-back strikeouts to earn the save and preserve the one-run victory.
"When we had a tough situation in the ninth, Ryan (Nance) pitched out of it and we escaped," Shoop said. "Last year at this time we were 1-3, this year we are 2-2 going into the home opener."
The Blazers offense was kept in check for most of afternoon. Besides Busby's homer, Jeff Schalk was the only other player to record a hit, as he finished 2-for-4.
ASU's Ricciardi was the tough-luck loser, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing three runs (none earned) on three hits with a game-high seven strikeouts.