March 9, 2012
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- Dillon Napoleon pitched seven solid innings and Patrick Palmeiro knocked in three as the UAB baseball team captured its fifth victory in a row with a 9-3 win against Penn State at Young Memorial Field on Friday.
Both squads return to Young Memorial for the middle contest of a three-game series on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
UAB (11-3) has now won five in a row on two separate occasions in 2012, and earned wins in 10 of its last 11 ball games.
“We had our best practice of the year yesterday,” head coach Brian Shoop said. “It was very focused, there was a lot of high energy and the execution was outstanding. I was optimistic heading into today.”
Shoop sent ace Dillon Napoleon to the mound, his first start since a tough outing against Utah last Friday. The senior rebounded nicely, firing 7.0 innings and surrendering just one earned run on four hits. Napoleon walked only one batter and struck out a season-high six Nittany Lions.
“I was glad to be back on the mound. I wanted to get back into the zone and throw strikes and I had a lot of good plays made behind me today,” Napoleon said.
The Blazer offense continued to stay hot, as the UAB lineup has now scored seven or more runs and totaled nine-plus hits in each of the last four games after posting nine runs and 12 hits against the Penn State (2-10) staff.
Producing in the middle of the batting order for UAB was third baseman Palmeiro. The senior finished 3-for-4, which tied a career-high, along with a trio of RBI.
“I’ve been seeing the ball great recently and made some adjustments with my swing. As a team we have been squaring the ball up more and hitting better with runners in scoring position,” Palmeiro said.
Four other players added two hits to the box score in Tanner Bryant, Harry Clark, Ivan De Jesus and Keith DePew. Clark also knocked in a pair, while DePew and Ryan Prinzing each scored twice in the victory.
“We really squared up some balls today and we had (Jeff) Schalk and (Michael) Busby out, who are two guys we expect to be in the lineup,” Shoop said. “The one positive thing about having injuries is that a lot of guys get at bats and you build some depth.”
The score was even, 1-1, heading to the bottom of the fourth when the Blazers steam rolled, scoring four times on five hits. Palmeiro and De Jesus each singled sandwiched around a fly out by Ryan Ussery. The next three batters – Bryant, Clark and DePew – all knocked in a run and Coy Arrowood drove in the fourth run of the frame to give UAB a commanding 5-1 advantage.
After tacking on a run in the last of the fifth, PSU made it a ball game when it scored twice in the top half of the eighth, cutting the Blazer edge to just three at 6-3.
However, UAB flexed its offensive muscle again, crossing home three more times in the eighth and held on to preserve the 9-3 victory.
Cody Lewis (1-2) was saddled with the loss. He went the first 4.0 innings, giving up eight hits, all singles, five runs (all earned) with two walks and two strikeouts.
“We get back to work tomorrow,” Shoop said. “Penn State won 30-some games last year and it won’t be easy tomorrow. We have to come out and play well again.”