April 3, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The UAB pitching staff entered Sunday's series finale having allowed just one home run through 26 games, but East Carolina's Zach Wright hit two opposite field shots, including the go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth, as the Pirates escaped Young Memorial Field with an 8-5 win.
The Blazers (16-11, 4-2 C-USA) were three outs away from a series sweep of East Carolina (20-7, 3-3 C-USA) before the Pirates did what no other team has done this season -- score a run against UAB closer Ryan Nance.
A perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt by Nick Crawford in the top of the eighth scored Coy Arrowood to give the Blazers a 5-4 lead, and then UAB handed the ball to Nance in the ninth as he looked for his eighth save of the year.
The Blazer closer had not allowed a single run in 14.2 innings when he took the mound, but a leadoff double by Ben Fultz gave East Carolina life. A groundout and a walk later, Wright came to the plate with two runners on and lifted an 0-1 pitch high in the air, riding the wind all the way over the right field fence to give ECU a 7-5 lead.
The Pirates tacked on an insurance run later in the inning on an RBI single from Chris Gosik before reliever Seth Simmons, who entered the game in the eighth, sent UAB down in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game and earn the win.
"We had a great opportunity to win this game," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "You're going to lose games that you just lose, but when you have a chance to win, you have to win as many of those as you can. But credit East Carolina for getting it done. In a year where nobody is hitting home runs, Zach Wright now has nine."
Wright finished 3-for-4 on the day with four RBI, while John Wooten added two hits for the Pirates. Keith DePew collected a pair of hits and drove in two runs for UAB, and Jamal Austin also had two hits.
In a back-and-forth game, DePew's two-RBI single in the fourth put the Blazers on top 4-3 and helped to force East Carolina starter Brad Mincey from the game. The Pirates knotted the score at 4-4 in the top of the sixth on an RBI groundout by Corey Thompson, and then the game became a battle of the bullpens.
UAB's Blake Huddleston tossed three innings and was not charged with a run in relief of starter Michael Busby, who allowed four runs (two earned) in five-plus frames. Jake Harris worked four innings out of the ECU bullpen and only allowed UAB's eighth-inning run. Nance took the loss for UAB after suffering his first blown save of the season.
On the offensive side of things, UAB stranded a total of 13 base runners and left the bases loaded twice as it lost for just the second time in 15 home games this spring.
"We had a lot of chances, but we made a lot of mistakes," Shoop said. "Still, we were in a position to win with our guy on the mound. He can't do it every time, but he's been great in that role this year."
Despite Sunday's loss, UAB still tallied its first series victory over East Carolina since 2007 and won its second straight series to start conference play. The Blazers came up just short of their first three-game sweep in league action since 2007.
After two weeks of league play, UAB is tied with Rice for third place in the C-USA standings, just behind 3-0 Houston and 5-1 Southern Miss.
UAB returns to action on Tuesday with a midweek road trip to Jacksonville State for a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch. The Blazers then travel to Houston next weekend to resume conference play with a three-game series.