May 17, 2012
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- Senior Michael Busby made his final home start at Young Memorial Field a memorable one, working eight-plus innings and allowing just one earned run as UAB defeated Southern Miss 2-1 on Thursday evening.
Busby (4-4) allowed just five hits, three to USM shortstop Ashley Graeter, to help UAB improve to 29-25 and 9-13 in league play. The loss dropped the Golden Eagles to 28-23 and 12-10 in C-USA action.
The two teams will meet again on Friday, with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will air locally on WJOX-AM 690 with David Crane on the call. UAB will send right-hander Chase Mallard to the mound, while Southern Miss will counter with southpaw Jake Drehoff.
The win marked the 13th one-run victory for the Blazers this season and snapped a four-game losing streak to USM.
In his 13th and final regular season start of his senior campaign, Busby was lights out, matching pitch for pitch with USM’s ace and reigning C-USA Pitcher of the Week Andrew Pierce. Busby struck out four and did not walk a batter, retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. He sent the side down in order four times and allowed only one runner to reach past second base.
“The big difference for me over the last two weeks was that I pounded the strike zone,” Busby said. “My main focus coming into today was to be up-tempo and be in the strike zone and try not to give up as many freebees as I have the past two weeks (starts at Memphis and Rice).”
Neither team could make a mark on the scoreboard as it was a classic pitchers’ duel. Through the first four-and-a-half innings, UAB stranded five base runners, three in scoring position.
“Either (Andrew) Pierce or (Matthew) Reckling is going to be (C-USA) Pitcher of the Year, so you knew that runs were going to be at premium,” UAB head coach Brian Shoop said.
UAB cashed in the first run of the game in the fifth when Ryan Prinzing (2-for-5) scored all the way from the first on a John Frost (2-for-4) double that was laced just inside the third base bag.
In the seventh, USM’s Blake Brown just missed a two-run homer, as he tripled off the wall in left center field, bringing home Graeter to tie the ball game. The run against Busby broke a streak of 15.2 scoreless innings at home for the Vicksburg, Miss., native. The righty had thrown a complete game shutout in his last start at Young Memorial Field vs. Houston on April 29.
The game remained in a deadlock until the eighth, when USM went to its bullpen. James McMahon (2-1) replaced Pierce, recorded an out but walked two guys and was lifted for fellow right-hander Chase Horn. Harry Clark walked to load the bases for the Blazers. After a strikeout, Keith DePew drew a walk, the fourth of the inning, allowing what proved to be the game winning run to score.
Pierce pitched the first seven frames, allowing one earned run off six hits with four strikeouts in the no decision.
In the top of the ninth, leadoff batter, Graeter, who was a pest all night, reached with a single, ending the day for Busby. The Blazers called on another senior, Dillon Napoleon, who made quick work of the USM lineup retiring all three batters he faced for his first career save.
“Busby was fantastic tonight and I thought his stuff was still good late in the game, that is why we sent him out in the ninth. He gave up a leadoff hit so we went to our big boy (Napoleon) and he was really good for us again,” Shoop said.
Napoleon has now earned a win and a save in his last two outings, just his second and third career appearances out of the bullpen.
“Dillon brings that fire and passion out of the bullpen and it being his last weekend here at home, I couldn’t be happier that he was the one that closed the door tonight,” Busby said.