May 25, 2012
PEARL, Miss. ---- Chase Mallard pitched a career-high 6.2 innings in an emergency appearance out of the bullpen and the UAB offense kept the pressure on Tulane all afternoon as the Blazers earned a 6-3 victory on Friday at the Conference USA Championship presented by Trustmark at Trustmark Park.
UAB (31-27) improved to 2-0 in pool play, with a Saturday 3 p.m. CT contest vs. East Carolina slated to round out action in its respected pod. The Blazers will anxiously await the outcome of the Pirates and the UCF Knights that play later this afternoon.
If UCF were to win, UAB would receive the automatic bid to the league's championship game on Sunday, with Saturday's tilt against ECU being meaningless. A victory for the Pirates would keep ECU, UAB and Tulane (38-19) all in contention for title game against Memphis who has already punched its ticket out of the other pod.
Ben Bullard was the scheduled starter for the Blazers, but after a few warm up tosses on the mound, it was clear that the Decatur, Ala., native was unable to go. The Blazers called on fellow righty Chase Mallard to make the emergency start, which caused a 10-minute delay to the start of the game.
"We had to get Ben (Bullard) out in the second inning down at Rice and he missed last week," head coach Brian Shoop said. "But we got a clean medical and his pens were good leading up to today. We expected him to be good today, but the shoulder obviously tightened up on him again.
"We weren't anticipating using Chase Mallard, but that happens sometimes. We just said `next man up', and today that was Mallard and he was fantastic. He went in the 90's which is unusual for him because he's been a middle reliever."
Mallard (4-4) kept Tulane, the top hitting club in C-USA, off balance and in check all afternoon. The Cullman, Ala., native worked into the seventh, allowing only three runs (two earned) off five hits. Coupled with his career-high 6.2 innings pitched, were four strikeouts, which tied a personal best for the sophomore.
Tulane seemed to have something cooking in each of the first two innings against Mallard, but the Green Wave stranded two runners in each of the first two frames.
After being sent down in order in the first, the bottom of the UAB order pushed across a pair of runs in the second. Keith DePew continued to swing a blistering bat, roping a RBI single to plate Ryan Ussery from second. Later in the frame, the Blazers loaded the bases against Green Wave starter Andrew Reeves (2-2) with one out. Nine-hole hitter Chase Davis knocked a grounder deep in the shortstop hole that allowed Harry Clark to race home with the Blazers second run of the game on a fielder's choice.
Up 2-1 in the entering the last of the sixth, UAB put runners on, turned on the heat and took advantage of some Green Wave miscues. DePew started the frame with a walk followed by a Tanner Bryant single. After Davis moved both runners up on a sac bunt, Ivan De Jesus hit a line drive right at Tulane first baseman Sean Potkay. The corner infielder made a great snag, then tried to double up DePew at third, but an errant throw allowed an unearned run to score. The next batter, John Frost, laid down a two-out bunt that was thrown away, allowing the second unearned run of the frame to score, extending the lead 4-1
A half inning later, Tulane pushed two runs across as Mallard was lifted for reliever Dillon Napoleon. With two outs and the tying run on third, Napoleon fired a strikeout to keep the one-run lead intact.
Escaping the jam seemed to fuel the fire of the Blazers lineup, as they put the lead runner on again for the fourth time in their seventh at bat. With two outs, DePew hit a fly ball for what appeared to be the third out of the frame, but the Tulane right fielder dropped the ball opening the flood gates. UAB scored one run on the error and Bryant knocked in the Blazers sixth run with a RBI single to round out the scoring.
"These are college kids, they're not perfect, and mistakes are part of the game," Shoop said. "Usually mistakes are because there is some pressure put on. I thought our kids did a good job of putting pressure on Tulane today where there was an opportunity for that to happen."
Napoleon fired the final two innings, allowing only an eighth inning single to earn his second save of the season.
Bryant paced the Blazers' offense, posting a career-best three of the team's nine hits. He also knocked in a scored a run in the victory.