April 10, 2011
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HOUSTON -- The UAB baseball team overcame a six-run deficit to take a one-run lead in the top of the eighth inning Sunday only to give it back in the bottom of the eighth as Houston escaped with an 8-7 win in the final game of this weekend's series at Cougar Field.
M.P. Cokinos doubled twice in the game for Houston, but it was his well-executed suicide squeeze bunt in the eighth that scored the game-winner for the Cougars.
Houston's Jordan Mannisto then retired UAB (18-13, 6-3 C-USA) in order in the ninth in his second inning of relief to pick up the win as the Cougars (17-17, 4-2 C-USA) salvaged one game of the three-game series.
Despite Sunday's loss, UAB has won two out of three games in all three of its Conference USA series so far. The Blazers remain tied atop the league standings through three weeks of league play. UAB, Rice and Southern Miss have identical 6-3 conference marks, while Houston owns the same winning percentage at 4-2.
UAB trailed 6-0 through five innings Sunday, going without a hit to that point against Houston starter Mo Wiley, before mounting a charge with seven runs over the next three frames. Ryan Ussery's leadoff triple jump-started a two-run sixth inning, and John Frost's solo homer keyed another two-run inning in the seventh that forced Wiley from the game.
Still in the seventh, the Blazers went on to load the bases with no outs but were only able to push one more run across on a Nick Crawford sac fly as Cougar reliever Dakota Dill picked up a couple strikeouts to work out of the jam and keep Houston on top 6-4.
UAB completed the comeback one inning later. A Patrick Palmeiro RBI double brought the Blazers within one run, and then UAB used a squeeze play of its own to tie the game when Harry Clark laid down a bases-loaded bunt to score Palmeiro. Ryan Ussery's RBI groundout two batters later gave UAB the lead at 7-6.
"The guys hung in there and battled back, and I'm proud of them for that," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "I felt like we were still in the game down 6-0 and thought we might make a push. We needed to get some more runs there in the seventh when we had the chance."
The Blazers' lead didn't hold up long. UAB closer Ryan Nance hit Houston's Landon Appling, the fifth hit batter of the day by UAB pitchers, with one out in the bottom of the eighth to put the tying run on. Jake Runte followed with a single, and Appling came all the way around to score on an outfield error. Runte wound up at third base on the play and then scored on the bunt from Cokinos.
Cokinos and Cannon each drove in two runs for Houston. Cannon and Codey Morehouse each homered for the Cougars as they built their early six-run lead.
Houston scored five of those runs against UAB starting pitcher Michael Busby, who gave way to reliever Blake Huddleston in the third inning. Huddleston worked 4.1 innings out of the bullpen and surrendered just one run to keep the Blazers in the game. Nance was charged with the loss for UAB. The final run that scored against Nance was the only unearned run UAB allowed all weekend.
"We only gave up one free base in our win last night, and today we gave up double-digits with walks, hit batters and errors," Shoop said. "That's the difference in the game. A hit batter led to the tying run and an error led to the winning run."
Crawford led UAB offensively with two RBI in the game, while Frost scored two runs. Eight different Blazers accounted for the team's eight hits.