March 7, 2014
Box Score (PDF)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The UAB baseball team opened up Conference USA action with a 4-3 setback to Middle Tennessee on Friday night at Regions Field. Middle Tennessee plated two runs in the final inning to take the first contest in the three-game series.
“A normal Friday night game,” head coach Brian Shoop said. “Runs are at a premium. A pitcher’s duel, each teams had a couple of chances. The kids made a good run at it in the ninth. We came up a little short tonight.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Chase Mallard was stellar on the mound in his fourth start of the year. Mallard scattered four hits, struck out eight, and walked two in a career-high eighth innings on the mound. The Cullman, Ala. native allowed two earned runs, his first in 26.0 innings.
In the top of the ninth inning, Middle Tennessee pushed ahead with two runs. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Cory Eller came in in relief of Mallard and gave up the two runs, giving him his second loss of 2014.
“The disappointing thing at Alabama State on Wednesday we had no walks, no errors, and one hit batsmen,” added Shoop. “It was the only freebie we gave up all game. In the ninth inning, we gave up a walk, balk, and two wild pitches. When you make mistakes in a key moment in a close game, that is what it comes down to. It was the difference.”
For the fifth straight game, UAB (11-3, 0-1) was the first to put runs on the scoreboard. With men on second and third base in the bottom of the second inning, redshirt freshman infielder Matthew Furuto hit a ground ball to the second baseman. Furuto was out on the play, but scored redshirt sophomore outfielder Griffin Gum to give UAB a 1-0 advantage.
In the top of the third inning, Middle Tennessee (5-7, 1-0) responded with a run of its own. Middle Tennessee junior infielder Austin Bryant smacked a triple to left center, then scored after a Blue Raider grounded out to Furuto. It marked Mallard’s first run allowed in 26.0 innings pitched.
Middle Tennessee would score another run in the fourth. MT redshirt sophomore outfielder Trevor Haggard hit a sacrifice fly to right field to plate junior outfielder Jared Allen, giving the visitors a 2-1 lead.
UAB would tie it up in the fifth inning. Redshirt junior catcher Tyler Mims reached on a single through the ride side of the infield, then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore infielder Adam Smith. Junior outfielder Chase Davis moved Mims over with a ground out to second. Senior outfielder Ivan De Jesus then hit an RBI single up the middle, scoring the Hoover, Ala. native.
After MT pulled ahead in the ninth inning, UAB gave the Blue Raiders all it had in its final at bats. Redshirt junior infielder Matt Morse walked and sophomore infielder Evan Peterson was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Sophomore catcher Mitch Williams grounded into a double play, but advanced Morse to third. Redshirt junior first baseman Sam Kelley hit a pinch-hit RBI single into center field to score Morse and cut the MT lead to 4-3.
On the next play, Davis would ground into a fielder’s choice and pinch runner Tyler Hamby was out on the play to end the threat and seal the game for the visiting Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee senior left-handed pitcher Zac Curtis went 7.2 innings and matched a career-high with 10 strikeouts on the night. Classmate Cody Tollison earned the win and MT closer Paul Mittura recorded his fourth save of the year.
UAB and Middle Tennessee resume their three-game set on Saturday afternoon at Regions Field. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m.
Notes: The UAB baseball team lost its conference opener for the third consecutive season … Senior right-handed pitcher Chase Mallard went 26.0 innings without surrendering a run … Mallard struck out eighth batters on Friday night and has now struck out 37 on the year, while only walking five … Redshirt junior first baseman Sam Kelley recorded his third career RBI against Middle Tennessee.
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