April 28, 2012
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- In a game that lasted nearly four hours, the UAB baseball team battled back from an early six-run deficit to take the series opener with the Houston Cougars, 11-9, on Friday night at Young Memorial Field.
"I felt like our kids never stopped fighting tonight," head coach Brian Shoop said. "It's two teams that have struggled and have had a lot of things go against them. I actually feel bad for the Houston kids, because both teams fought, both teams made some big plays and both teams made some mistakes and you knew somebody was going to be hurting after the game."
UAB (24-20, 5-8 C-USA) and Houston (14-24, 3-9-1 C-USA) combined for 20 runs off 26 hits while also committing five errors and stranding 20 base runners in marathon of game that took officially three hours and forty seven minutes to complete. In fact, it was the longest game for the Blazers since March 27, 2011 when UAB won at Marshall, 2-1 in 14 innings.
The two teams will return to Young Memorial on Saturday, with first pitch at 2 p.m. CT.
"It was a long game and the first three innings seemed like they took forever," Ryan Ussery said. "(Houston) got a head early, but we kept fighting all the way back until the end. It was a great comeback win for us."
The game started off like a boxing match, as both teams came out swinging. Each side landed punches, as UAB and UH scored two runs apiece in the opening frame.
Blazer lefty Dylan Munger, who made his first career Conference USA start, struck out the side in the first, but UH was able to put up a two spot on the scoreboard. With two down, designated hitter Jonathan Davis (4-for-5, 4 RBI) roped a two-run double to account for the early runs.
The home team responded in its first go around through the lineup as UAB started of the game with three straight hits, capped by a RBI single from Jeff Schalk. Later in the inning, Ussery reached on a fielder's choice that brought in the second run in the last of the first.
After no runs were scored by either side in the second, one of just two innings that happened all night (the other being the fifth), the Cougars poured it on scoring twice in the third and four more times in the fourth. The big blow came on a two-run homer from Jacob Lueneburg that hit the top of the wall and caromed over the right-field fence.
UAB wouldn't quit, though, scoring single runs in the fourth and sixth off a RBI ground out from Tanner Bryant and sac fly from Ivan De Jesus, to get within four runs and have a puncher's chance.
In the seventh, Jacob German was called upon out of the Blazer bullpen with runners on the corners and no outs, and the junior answered.
"The game turned when we were down 8-4 and German inherited first and third with nobody out and got out of that tough situation, which gave us a chance. That was a big momentum swing," Shoop said.
German induced a pop up to left for the first out. The Cougars then attempted a safety squeeze, but German pounced on the bunt from Landon Appling and tossed a strike to catcher Harry Clark who blocked the plate for the second out, before getting a ground out to short to escape the UH threat.
The momentum shifted sides quickly as the scoring pendulum moved in the Blazers favor a half inning later. In the bottom of the seventh, UAB scored five times to take its first lead of the game, 9-8. UAB loaded the bases off three straight singles from John Frost, Schalk and Patrick Palmeiro, two of which were bunts against UH reliever Chase Wellbrock.
After a strikeout, Ussery laced a ball that bounded over the Cougars' third baseman Jake Runte's head to plate two runs to begin the merry-go-round for the Blazers on the base paths.
"I got a low inside fastball and I topped it and the ball found a hole, which we all did a good job of doing tonight. That whole inning was a big spark for us and we didn't stop attacking," Ussery said.
With two outs a UH infield error proved costly, allowing two more runs to cross and tie the game up, 8-8. A batter later, leadoff hitter Ryan Prinzing knocked a single in the six-hole to plate Clark and give UAB its first lead of the night.
Unfortunately, the lead was short lived for the Blazers as UH's Davis roped his fourth hit of the night, this a time a ringing RBI double into the right-center field gap to tie up the game, again.
The Cougars put reliever Ryan Nance (3-2) in a pickle, loading the bases with one out in the eighth with the score knotted at 9-all. The senior was able to gear up and strikeout pinch hitter Casey Grayson, before shortstop Bryant made a great play up the middle to retire the speedy Michael Pyeatt to keep the score even.
In the eighth, the Green and Gold took advantage of two errors to score two runs, which proved to be the difference in the game. With runners on first and second and two outs, Bryant hit a rain-making pop up in the infield, but the UH defense was unable to communicate and make the play allowing two runs to score against Mo Wiley (2-1), rounding out the 11-9 victory for the Blazers.
Nance pitched a scoreless top of the ninth and earned his third win of the season. The righty pitched the final two frames, allowing just one hit, while fanning four.
UAB put of 13 hits on the night marking the eighth time in league play the team reached double digits in that category. Leading a group of five multi-hit players was Ussery who went 2-for-4 with a triple, three runs scored and three RBI.
Prinzing, Schalk, Frost and Palmeiro all had two hits or more, as the top four players in the UAB lineup went 9-for-19 with six runs scored. Prinzing posted a career-best three singles in the win.
The pitching staff for UAB tied a season-high for strikeouts, fanning 15 UH batters in the win. Munger tallied six and Luna had five to go along with Nance's four punch outs.