Blazers Take Series Opener From Eastern Illinois, 9-2

March 5, 2010

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Shay Crawford and Ben Bullard held Eastern Illinois to two hits Friday, and the UAB offense came alive in the late innings to break open a pitchers' duel as the Blazers ran away with a 9-2 victory at Young Memorial Field.

Six Blazers recorded two hits each in the opening game of this weekend's series to help UAB to its fifth straight win. The teams will meet again Saturday at 2 p.m. CT and Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.

Bullard, a freshman, earned his second win in as many relief appearances. The right-hander allowed just one unearned run on one hit over the final three and two-thirds innings Friday. He came on in relief of Crawford, who also allowed a single unearned run on one hit in five and one-third innings of work.

The Blazer pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts with Crawford recording six and Bullard tallying four.

"Shay pitched well, and Ben came in and gave us another great effort like he gave us a week ago," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "With the way those guys threw, we were able to get through this game using only two pitchers, and that sets us up well for the rest of the weekend."

Eastern Illinois (0-7) scored both of its runs in the top of the fifth inning. After a pair of walks put two runners on, the Panthers scored on a UAB error and an RBI single from shortstop Cam Strang to break a scoreless tie and grab a 2-0 lead.

The lead didn't last through the inning. UAB (5-2) plated four runs in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI triple from shortstop Jonathan Merritt, an RBI single from designated hitter John Frost and a two-run home run from first baseman Luke Stewart, his first of the season and the 29th of his UAB career.

Only one of those runs was charged to Eastern Illinois starter Josh Mueller, who limited the Blazers to five hits in five and one-third innings and pitched out of two early jams to keep UAB off the scoreboard.

After Mueller departed, the Blazers managed eight runs on 10 hits over the final two and two-thirds innings. Six of those runs were charged to reliever Mike Martin, who took the loss for Eastern Illinois.

After UAB's four-run sixth inning, the Blazers put four more on the board in the seventh on an RBI double from left fielder Mikael Saway, an RBI single from Keith DePew and a two-run homer from catcher Digger Towe.

"We struggled against Mueller, but the one thing we were able to do was run his pitch count up and force him out of the game," Shoop said. "We finally got some things going against their bullpen and scored some runs."

Towe, Saway, Merritt and Frost joined center fielder Jamal Austin and third baseman Andrew Manning as the six Blazers with two hits in the game as UAB reached a season-high hit total for the second straight game with 15.

UAB tacked on one final run in the eighth inning on an RBI single from Austin for the final seven-run margin.