May 22, 2010
HOUSTON -- The UAB baseball team did all of its scoring via the home run Saturday as it closed out its season with an 8-5 victory over No. 21 Rice at Reckling Park.
First baseman Luke Stewart hit the first grand slam of his career to tie the UAB all-time home run record, and designated hitter John Frost's three-run blast in the eighth proved to be the difference. Outfielder Mikael Saway also added a solo shot for the Blazers.
UAB improved its record to 28-25 (11-13 C-USA), while Conference USA regular season champion Rice fell to 35-20 (17-7 C-USA). Despite the Blazers' win, East Carolina's victory over Houston earlier in the afternoon ended UAB's chance for one of the six spots in next week's conference tournament.
Stewart's record-tying home run came off Rice reliever Taylor Wall after UAB loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning, giving the Blazers their first lead at 4-1.
It was the 21st homer of the year for Stewart and the 49th of his UAB career as he matched Shayne Carnes (1995-98) for first place in school history. Stewart finishes his career with 51 total home runs, counting two he hit as a freshman at Georgia.
"What an amazing three weeks it has been for Luke," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "There's no question in my mind he deserves an opportunity at pro ball, and I sure hope he gets it. For him to tie that record in just three years at UAB is amazing, and he's been as good a hitter as anyone in our league over the past three weeks."
Stewart's long ball broke an early pitchers' duel between Rice's Boogie Anagnostou and UAB's Ryan Woolley.
Anagnostou held UAB scoreless through the opening five frames before the Blazers got to the Rice bullpen when he left with one out and one on in the sixth. An error and a walk then loaded the bases before Stewart's homer.
Woolley limited Rice to just one run through the opening five frames before being charged with three in the sixth as the Owls knotted the game at 4-4 on run-scoring hits from third baseman Anthony Rendon and center fielder Steven Sultzbaugh and a sac fly from left fielder Michael Fuda.
Saway made a diving catch on Fuda's dipping liner to limit further damage in the inning, and he then belted a solo homer as the teams traded runs in the seventh.
Frost's decisive homer came one inning later. After a one-out double from shortstop Jonathan Merritt and a walk by Stewart, Frost sent an Abe Gonzales pitch deep to the opposite field to put the Blazers on top 8-5.
UAB reliever Ben Bullard, who had entered with one out in the seventh, fired a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory. Bullard allowed just two hits over the final two and two-thirds to earn the win. Rice pitcher J.T. Chargois, who was charged with the first eighth-inning run, took the loss.
"I'm thankful to be able to finish with a win against a very good team," Shoop said. "Woolley was great today. Bullard was great. We asked our offense to find a way to get eight runs, and they did it."
Saway, Merritt and center fielder Jamal Austin finished with two hits each for UAB, while Rice designated hitter Jeremy Rathjen led all players with three hits. With his home run in the eighth, Frost ends the season on an 11-game hitting streak for UAB.