April 1, 2011
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- UAB starting pitcher Dillon Napoleon went the distance Friday night and came within one out of a shutout in the Blazer baseball team's series-opening, 4-1 victory over East Carolina at Young Memorial Field.
Napoleon scattered four hits and struck out five batters, needing just 92 pitches to earn his fourth win of the year in by far the Blazers' quickest game of the season at one hour and 42 minutes.
The UAB right-hander out-dueled East Carolina starter Seth Maness, the NCAA's active leader in career wins, who also tossed a complete game but suffered just the fourth loss of his four-year career against a Conference USA opponent.
"Maness has been good for a long time and I thought he was good tonight, but Dillon was even better," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "I said last week that his performance against Marshall was one of the more special ones I've seen, and I think he topped that tonight."
UAB (15-10, 3-1 C-USA) and East Carolina (19-6, 2-2 C-USA) will continue their three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
Napoleon pitched the first 4.2 innings Friday without giving up a hit and allowed only one base runner during that stretch. He later worked around a leadoff double in the sixth in the only real jam he faced until the final inning.
The lone run Napoleon allowed was unearned and came in the ninth. Jack Reinheimer's sacrifice fly for East Carolina plated John Wooten, who had opened the frame by reaching on an error, to put the Pirates on the board.
That was the only miscue by the UAB infield on 14 ground ball chances, and it was just the Blazers' second error in their past six games.
"We made some good plays defensively," Shoop said. "Dillon is going to get a lot of ground balls, so if you defend well on the infield you're going to be in the game. We were able to scratch enough runs across to win."
Offensively, UAB put the leadoff runner on base four times and scored all four of its runs in three of those innings.
Ryan Nance doubled to lead off the second and later scored on a ground ball from Keith DePew. Patrick Palmeiro walked to open the fourth, moved all the way to third on a failed pickoff attempt and then came home on a groundout from John Frost.
Michael Busby drew another leadoff walk in the seventh and eventually scored on a Nick Crawford single, and Crawford later scored on a Jamal Austin base hit as the Blazers tacked on some insurance runs to help them snap a 10-game losing streak to ECU.
Austin and East Carolina's Chris Gokis each went 2-for-4 at the plate to lead all players. The Pirates' four hits against Napoleon matched their lowest total of the season.
Napoleon has now worked at least eight innings in each of his past three starts. After allowing two runs in the first frame of his last outing at Marshall, he tossed 15 consecutive scoreless innings before East Carolina scored late in Friday's game.
The complete game was the first by a UAB pitcher since Kyle Roberson in a 3-1 loss at Tulane on May 10, 2009. Napoleon threatened for the first complete game shutout by a Blazer pitcher since Jeff Brown in 2004.