April 29, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB baseball team needed a strong pitching performance from its Sunday starter Michael Busby, and the senior delivered, firing the first complete game shutout for the Blazers since 2004 in a 1-0 victory against Houston on Sunday afternoon.
The win for UAB (26-20, 7-8 C-USA) against Houston (14-26-1, 3-11-1 C-USA) was the third in as many days and marked the first three-game C-USA sweep since 2007 against Marshall.
Busby (3-3) was spectacular on the mound for UAB posting the first complete game shutout since March 7, 2004 when Jeff Brown blanked Toledo.
After UH had scored 20 runs over the first two games of the series, the Vicksburg, Miss., product held the Cougar lineup scoreless, scattering five singles in nine innings of work. Busby walked only one and fanned five, while retiring the first nine batters of the game and sending down 13 of the first 14 he faced.
The right-hander received help from his defense, as the Blazers recorded 16 ground outs and six fly outs to blank the Cougars. It marked the third shutout of the season for the UAB pitching staff, all of which have been 1-0 affairs. The other scoreless outings by Blazer pitchers came against Ball State (2/25/12) in 11 innings and vs. Alabama (3/17/12) in 12 innings.
“There were a lot of freebies in the other two games,” head coach Brian Shoop said. “Michael went out and didn’t walk a batter until there were two outs in the ninth. We didn’t make an error and the defense made some great plays behind him, which makes it hard for (Houston) to score. If you put together a no walk, no error game you are going to win 99 percent of the time, no matter what you do on offense.”
UAB put its first real threat together in the fourth, when Jordan Lewis (3-6) walked three consecutive batters with two outs. The southpaw was able to escape the bases loaded jam with a ground out to keep the game scoreless.
The lone run in the contest came in the bottom of the fifth. Tanner Bryant started the frame with a double to left-center, only the second hit since Ivan De Jesus led off the game with a single and was the only other hit the Blazer offense would muster up on the day. Bryant cruised into second easily, but no one was covering the second base bag, allowing the Newnan, Ga., product to scamper over to third and slide in safely.
“That was heck of an instinctual play by Tanner Bryant,” Shoop said. “Not many guys are going to continue on that throw. I thought it was an incredible base running play after the double. They threw behind him and he just kept running.”
That aggressive base running paid huge dividends as the next batter, Jacob German, hit a slow chopper to third. Bryant was moving on contact and scored as UH had no play at the plate, but retired German at first to account for the only run of the afternoon.
Lewis went seven innings, allowed just two hits, one run (unearned) with five walks and five strikeouts in the loss.
UH made things interesting in the top half of the ninth. After retiring the first two batters, pinch hitter Casey Grayson drew a walk, the only free pass allowed by Busby on the day. Zack Gibson followed with an infield single to put the tying run in scoring position. It was just the fifth base runner to reach past first all day against the righty.
Cory Kay followed in the Cougar order and connected for what appeared to be game tying hit to left, but defensive replacement Coy Arrowood spun around in the outfield to make a great catch and clinch the sweep for the Blazers.
“When (Houston) put two runners on with two outs, it was live or die on that last batter and I was thankful we got him out,” Busby said. “(Cory Kay) put a pretty good swing on it, but they had blooped a couple hits against me so it was a time a ball that was hit well be caught,” Busby said with a grin.
The next game for the Blazers is on Friday, May 4 on the road against the Memphis Tigers.