May 12, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- UAB senior shortstop Jonathan Merritt set one school record Wednesday night and inched closer to another in the Blazers' 9-7 win over Jacksonville State in midweek baseball action at Rudy Abbott Field.
Merritt now owns more at-bats than any player in UAB history with 831 after logging three official trips to the plate Wednesday. The Douglasville, Ga., product also scored twice in the game to climb into second place on the Blazers' all-time runs list with 188, one shy of the program record held by former Blazer Shayne Carnes (1995-98).
After hitting just one home run through the first 41 games this season, Merritt went deep for the fifth time in the past six games Wednesday to help UAB head coach Brian Shoop to his 799th career victory. The Blazers' skipper will go for win No. 800 in this weekend's final home series of the year against Tulane.
"Jon's been a very good player for us for four years, and he's coming up on an exciting milestone with the runs record," Shoop said. "That's a pretty significant record in the history of our program, and it will be a special accomplishment for a special young man."
The Blazers (25-22) built a big lead Wednesday and then withstood a four-run eighth inning from Jacksonville State (24-22) to secure a split of the four-game season series between the teams with the road team winning each game.
After pushing across four in the eighth, the Gamecocks still had the bases loaded. A sharp line drive off the bat of designated hitter Orrin McFadden looked like it might do more damage, but UAB center fielder Jamal Austin tracked it down to end the threat, and Blazer closer Nick Graffeo then sent Jacksonville State down in order in the ninth.
Graffeo picked up his seventh save of the year, while fellow reliever Trey Vice was credited with the win after throwing two and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief out of the bullpen. Vice allowed just one hit and struck out three in relief of starter Benji Waite, who surrendered two runs over the first three and one-third frames.
Offensively, UAB did all of its damage in two innings with six runs in the second frame and three in the fourth.
"Jacksonville State had two big innings last night, and we had two tonight," Shoop said. "The team with more big innings almost always wins, and that was the case this week."
Merritt's second three-run homer in two nights against Jacksonville State helped set the tone early. The blast capped the six-run second inning that also featured RBI singles from left fielder Bradley Hicks and second baseman Nick Crawford along with a sacrifice fly from Austin.
Jacksonville State found the scoreboard with two runs in the bottom of the second as left fielder Blake Seguin and shortstop Todd Cunningham tallied RBI, but UAB picked up three in the fourth. First baseman Luke Stewart drew a bases-loaded walk and designated hitter Digger Towe drove in two runs with a single to extend the UAB lead to 9-2.
Towe went 2-for-4 at the plate in his second start since returning from a seven-week absence due to injury. Hicks, Austin and third baseman Andrew Manning also had multiple hits in the game.
Jacksonville State center fielder Daniel Adamson and right fielder Kyle Bluestein each went 2-for-5 and scored two runs for the Gamecocks. JSU starter Kevin Elwell was tagged with the loss after surrendering the first seven UAB runs in three and one-third innings.
UAB returns to action Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT with the first game of its three-game Conference USA series against Tulane at Young Memorial Field in Birmingham.