June 2, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The UAB baseball team saw its postseason run come to an end Saturday with an 8-1 loss to Mississippi State in an elimination game at the NCAA Tallahassee Regional at Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium.
A tight game into the middle innings, Mississippi State scored all eight of its runs from the fifth through the seventh frames and really opened things up with a five-run sixth.
The Blazers (32-30) were eliminated from their second-ever NCAA tournament appearance and first since 1991. The team's 32 victories this season are the most for the program since 1996.
Mississippi State (40-23) advanced to play on Sunday and will meet the loser of Saturday evening's game in Tallahassee between Florida State and Samford.
"I would like to say that I do not want the two losses at the end of the year...one to the No. 3 national seed by one run on their home field and one to the SEC Tournament Champion who just got done winning five games in Birmingham to win that title...obviously two of the elite programs in the country (be the focus)," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "I don't want those two losses to be the focal point or take away from an incredible accomplishment by this group of young men to win the Conference USA Championship - the first in the history of the program.
"It's not like we have a history and tradition like Florida State and Mississippi State have. It has to start somewhere and I'm always going to remember this season."
UAB starter Ryan Nance got off to a fast start on the mound Saturday, breezing through the first four and two-thirds innings and facing just one over the minimum before running into trouble with a pair of two-out walks in the fifth. Mississippi State nine-hole hitter Sam Frost followed with a double off the wall in right center field -- just the Bulldogs' second hit of the game -- to score both runners.
The Frost double snapped a streak of 11 straight shutout innings for Nance (4-4) dating back to his start in last week's Conference USA tournament championship game. The senior closer-turned-starter threw a career-high 99 pitches and struck out a career-best seven batters. He issued four walks -- one intentional -- with all of them coming in Mississippi State's two-run fifth.
UAB got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth when pinch hitter Tyler Mims drove in Keith DePew with a ground ball. But despite having runners at second and third with no outs in the inning, the Blazers managed to get just the one run across as Mississippi State reliever Caleb Reed came on to limit the damage.
Mississippi State then opened the game up with five runs in the sixth against UAB reliever Chase Mallard. The Bulldogs sent 11 batters to the plate, collected four hits and had the benefit of a pair of UAB errors and walks. Wes Rea doubled home a pair of runs in the inning, while Mitch Slauter sacrificed one home with one of three bunts in the frame, and Trey Porter drove one in with a single. Another run scored on an error as the Bulldogs opened up a 7-1 lead.
"You come to a regional on the big stage and you really want to play well," Shoop said. "I thought we did one game, and did not play well today - to take nothing away from Mississippi State, who is obviously a fine team and played very well. The wheels kind of fell off in the sixth for us, and I would tell you - and I'd have trouble convincing you - but I'd tell you that we are normally a pretty good short game team."
MSU then tacked on another run in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly from Frost, who drove in a game-high three runs on the day.
The Bulldogs used three pitchers with starter Kendall Graveman throwing just the first three and two-thirds innings without allowing a run. Ross Mitchell (3-0) earned the win in relief, tossing one inning and allowing the only UAB run. Reed then came on to throw the final four and two-thirds of shutout baseball and was credited with the save.
UAB had a chance to do some damage in the fourth inning when a walk and a hit batter put a pair of runners on with one out, but Mitchell came out of the Mississippi State bullpen to get a ground-ball double play to get out of the inning with the game still scoreless.
The Blazers then put the leadoff runner on in fifth, sixth and seventh innings but scored only the one run in the fifth. They stranded a base runner in every inning but the eighth.
DePew had a pair of hits for UAB in his final collegiate game, while Porter and Matthew Britton led Mississippi State with two hits each.