Final Stats (PDF) – Game 1 | Game 2
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The UAB baseball team had a lively day with the bats as it split its C-USA opening games with Western Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. The Blazers dropped the first game 9-6 before rebounding with an 8-4 victory in game two. UAB stands at 12-7 in 2017 while WKU’s record is at 7-13.
The Blazers totaled 20 hits on the day with multiple hits coming from the likes of Brewer Hicklen and Carter Pharis. Hicklen finished the day 4-for-8 with five runs, two solo home runs, three RBI, one double, one triple, two walks and two stolen bases while Pharis was 5-for-8 and added five RBI, one steal and one walk.
“It was a good offensive day,” said UAB head coach Brian Shoop. “Nine times out of 10, if we score six runs and then eight runs, that’s a sweep for us. That’s the first team that’s hit Garrett Whitlock so tip your caps to them and a good job by Western. This league is very competitive, specifically on the weekends.”
Game One – WKU 9, UAB 6
The Blazers led early in the game at multiple points, scoring one run in the first inning and then adding their second run in the top of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead at the time.
WKU retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth frame with two runs on three hits. The Hilltoppers followed that with a pair of back-to-back solo home runs from Hunter Wood and Thomas Peter to extend their lead to 5-2.
The Blazers immediately responded by knotting the game up at five with a three-run top of the sixth. Riley McCown grounded out in a bases loaded opportunity but it was enough score the first run. Two batters later, Pharis plated Tyler Tolbert and Antonio Ralat with an RBI single to left field.
The tie was short-lived as a big bottom of the seventh by WKU gave them back the lead for good. They produced four runs on six hits to take a 9-5 lead.
Hicklen’s second home run, following a bomb in the first inning to left center field, was deep down the left field line that stayed just fair for his third homer of the year. That would be all the scoring for the Blazers in the final two frames as they fell 9-6.
Whitlock started and earned his first loss of the season. The sophomore pitched 6.1 innings conceding 11 hits, eight runs, seven of which were earned, walked one, and struckout three.
Kevin Elder earned the victory for Western Kentucky after relieving Ryan Thurston. Thurston was credit five runs allowed but only two earned. Elder threw 1.2 shutout innings while allowing just one hits and one walk.
Game Two – UAB 8, WKU 4
UAB jumped right on the board for the second straight game with a run in the first inning after a Hicklen triple to center field and Pharis RBI gave UAB the early 1-0 advantage.
The Hilltoppers pounced immediately as well with a pair of runs in the bottom of the opening inning. Doubles on two straight at-bats by Peter and Greyson Ivey scored two runs and gave WKU an early 2-1 lead.
The Blazers would explode for five runs across the third and fourth innings. Colton Schultz and Tolbert had a double and single, respectively, with Schultz scoring on a double by Hicklen. Tolbet was brought home by a single off the bat of Pharis and Hicklen scored when designated hitter Brett Blackwood provided a sacrifice fly to right field. Schultz then scored McCown and Pierce Ressmeyer with a two-out, two RBI single in the fourth. UAB led 5-2 at this point.
WKU chipped away with a run in the bottoms of the fourth and sixth innings but two insurance runs from UAB in the ninth on only one hit. Schultz and Hicklen each walked early in the frame and then a double steal put both runners in scoring position. Pharis’ sac fly scored Schultz, Hicklen stole third on the next batter, and then Blake Johnson drove in Hicklen in a pinch-hitting appearance to push ahead 8-4.
Ryan Ruggles earned the start and the win for UAB after throwing five-plus innings to improve his mark to 2-2. His final line was five hits, four runs, no walks, and a career-high seven strikeouts.
Carson Jones came on in relief and was lights out over four innings. Jones allowed three baserunners over four innings and no runs. The junior notched his second save of the year and added two strikeouts to his line.
“We want to get Carson a lead and feel, he is human too and is not going to be perfect, but we feel good if we can get the ball in his hands with a lead,” said Shoop. “I was happy we tacked on those last two in the top of the ninth but Carson was able to finish the job for us today.”
Schultz had his first multi-hit game of his young career. The freshman went 2-for-3 with two runs, two RBI, one walk and a stolen base.
The Blazers will look to take their fourth weekend series of the year and their C-USA opening series on Sunday when the two teams take the field at 1 p.m. Thomas Lowery will be on the bump for the Blazers in his third consecutive Sunday start.
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