May 27, 2012
PEARL, Miss. ---- A native of nearby Vicksburg, UAB right-hander Michael Busby felt right at home taking the field on Sunday afternoon at Trustmark Park as he thwarted a would-be Memphis rally and 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to help lead the seventh-seeded Blazers to a 5-0 win over the Tigers in the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship title game.
Coming on in relief of starter Ryan Nance in the bottom of the seventh, Busby had a daunting task ahead of him as the Tigers had the bases loaded with only one out. UAB led 3-0 and the go-ahead run stepped to the plate twice in an attempt to break the game open. Busby, however, had other ideas as he posted back-to-back strikeouts to keep the shutout intact and gave up just one hit and a walk while posting a pair of strikeouts the rest of the way to pick up the save.
With the win, UAB becomes the lowest seed to win the C-USA Championship while improving to 32-28 on the year and earning the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. The Blazers will learn their postseason destination and possible opponents on Monday when the NCAA Selection Committee announces the field of 64 at 11 a.m. (CDT) on ESPNU. Memphis, meanwhile, concludes the 2012 season with a record of 31-28.
Busby, who earned the win in a starting role during Thursday's 15-1 win over nationally-ranked UCF, was named the C-USA Championship MVP. For the week, he allowed just one run on eight hits and four walks while posting 10 strikeouts to go along one victory and one save.
Busby was joined on the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team by fellow Blazers Nance (P), Keith DePew (INF), John Frost (INF), Chase Mallard (P) and Jeff Schalk (OF). Rounding out the all-tourney squad were Memphis' Keaton Aldridge (C), Eli Hynes (DH) and Dan Langfield (P), Southern Miss' Ashley Graeter (INF) and Michael Sterling (OF), East Carolina's Corey Thompson (INF) and Houston's Landon Appling (OF).
After six shutout innings, centerfielder Ryan Ussery broke the deadlock when he scored from third on a failed pickoff attempt and Schalk hammered a two-run homer off the right field foul pole to stake the Blazers to a 3-0 lead. Memphis looked to answer in the home half of the frame as first baseman T.J. Rich drew a one-out walk, centerfielder Ford Wilson reached via catcher's interference and Aldridge hit an infield single to short to load the bases.
From there, Busby came on and fell behind in the count to Memphis' shortstop Ethan Gross 2-0 and 3-1. Busby rebounded to get Gross to strike out swinging and closed out the inning by getting a called third strike to third baseman Jacob Wilson.
In the eighth, Ussery tacked on an insurance run when he reached on a fielder's choice, moved to second on a two-out single to left off the bat of back-up catcher Jacob German and scored on RBI-single up the middle by DePew. Schalk followed with an RBI-double to left in the ensuing at-bat to account for the final score.
Schalk was one of three UAB players to post two hits on the day, joining Ussery and shortstop Tanner Bryant. Nance (4-3) earned the win after scattering five hits and three walks to go with six strikeouts in 6.1 shutout innings.
Memphis stranded nine runners on base against the Blazers, including five in scoring position, and the Tigers left the bases loaded in both the third and seventh innings. Chase Joiner, who hung zeros over the first six innings, was saddled with the hard-luck loss after giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five in a 6.1-inning start. Moll allowed a pair of runs on a hit and two walks over the next inning and a third, and Van Eaton went the final 1.1 frames. Hynes had two of the Tigers' six hits.