Feb. 26, 2001
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE:
Tue. 2/27 UAB vs. SOUTH ALABAMA (Young Memorial Field/3:00 pm CST)
Wed. 2/28 UAB vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE (Young Memorial Field/3:00 pm CST)
Fri. 3/2 UAB vs. TENNESSEE TECH (Young Memorial Field/3:00 pm CST)
Sat. 3/3 UAB vs. TENNESSEE TECH (Young Memorial Field/2:00 pm CST)
Sun. 3/4 UAB vs. TENNESSEE TECH (Young Memorial Field/1:00 pm CST)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters the week at 5-4 overall, 0-0 in Conference USA play (the Blazers begin their league schedule vs. Saint Louis on Mar. 16)...UAB took two of three games from Lipscomb University over the weekend, losing 6-0 on Friday, winning 17-5 on Saturday and 4-3 on Sunday...the Blazers are in three games into a 12-game home stand that will continue through Mar. 11.
UAB vs. SOUTH ALABAMA: The Blazers and Jaguars go way back as opponents (to the 1979 season, UAB's first as an NCAA team)...the two teams have met 82 times over the years -- the most by UAB vs. any opponent in school history -- and South Alabama holds a 52-30 lead in the series...most of those meetings came when both schools were members of the Sun Belt Conference (UAB left the SBC following the 1991 season)...last season the teams split a pair of regular season games, with the Jags winning 5-4 in Mobile (2/20/00, part of South Alabama's Coca-Cola Classic tournament) and UAB winning 5-3 in Birmingham (5/9/00 at Young Memorial Field)...Tueday's game is the only scheduled meeting between the two in 2001.
UAB vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE: Considering the fact that UAB and MTSU have never been a member of the same conference, they certainly have played a lot of games against each other, the two have met 60 times dating back to the 1980 season (the most by UAB vs. any non-league opponent), with UAB holding a 34-26 edge...last season, the two split four regular season games, with UAB winning two games in Birmingham (5-3, 6-4 on 3/21-22/00 at Young Memorial Field) and the Blue Raiders winning twice in Murfreesboro (4-2, 6-2 on 3/28-29/00).
UAB vs. TENNESSEE TECH: UAB leads the all-time series with the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 17-5, dating back to the 1991 season...last season, the two split four regular season games, with UAB winning twice in Cookeville (10-3, 5-3 on 3/4-5/00) and Tennessee Tech winning twice in Birmingham (6-3, 7-3 on 4/18-19/00 at Young Memorial Field).
WE LIKE TENNESSEE: The Blazers are in the midst of an 11-game stretch in which 10 games will be played against teams from the state of Tennessee (Tennessee Tech-3, Lipscomb-3, Vanderbilt-2, Middle Tennessee, Belmont)...the only non-Tennessee team during that stretch? The South Alabama Jaguars.
STARTING PITCHERS: The projected starter for Tuesday's South Alabama game is right-hander Ross Dobbins (2-0, 0.75 ERA), the projected starter for Wednesday's game vs. Middle Tennessee is lefthander Adam Wood (0-0, 0.00 ERA), a true freshman who would be making his collegiate debut. Both players are newcomers to the UAB team in 2001.
UNFAMILIAR FACES: The 33-man 2001 UAB Baseball roster includes 20 newcomers (nine pitchers), six of whom were in the starting lineup on opening day (Feb. 13) vs. Alabama State...so for a while at least, you truly won't be able to tell the players without a scorecard.
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: The 2001 Blazers will play 19 of their first 22 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field. UAB doesn't embark on a major road swing until late March, when the team plays four straight games away from home.
DO WE SEE A PATTERN HERE?: Of the 33 players on the 2001 roster, 25 have junior college playing experience, and nine played at Central Alabama Community College, not coincidentally the former employer of UAB Head Coach Larry Giangrosso...many of those from CACC played at least one season for Giangrosso and virtually all were recruited during his tenure there.
COACH GINO: Larry Giangrosso, a 1975 graduate of UAB, is now in his second season as the Blazer skipper, and has a 33-36 (.478) mark. "Coach Gino" came to UAB from Central Alabama Community College (Alexander City, Ala.) where he posted a 320-183-1 (.636) mark in nine seasons (1990-99). CACC was the 1998 Alabama Junior & Community College Conference Division I champions. Prior to his time at CACC, he was the head coach at W.A. Berry High School in suburban Birmingham, where he was 254-115 (.688) in 11 seasons (1979-89). The Bucs took the 1981 AHSAA championship and were five-time regional champions.
THE STAFF: Giangrosso is assisted by Lee Hall (Auburn-Montgomery, 1990), who played for (Berry HS) and coached with (CACC) Giangrosso and Frank Walton (UAB, 1990), who played (1983-84) and coached previously (1992-99) at UAB. Tim Harradine, who served as a team manager during the 2000 season, is the volunteer assistant coach.
HITTING STREAKS: Catcher Al Hecklinski (4 games), outfielder Mitch Jones, first baseman Chris George, shortstop Mark Garner (2 games)...longest streak of 2001 to date (Garner, 6 games)...UAB record (season) 23 games (Doug Gann, 3/9-4/21/91).
A LONG ONE: The 8-7 loss to Southern Illinois in 15 innings (2/17/01) was the second-longest game in UAB baseball history, surpassed only by a 19-inning affair vs. South Alabama in Mobile (5/16/81). The game was the longest home game ever for UAB and the longest ever at Young Memorial Field (the previous mark for both was 14 innings, both against South Alabama, at Rickwood Field in 1981 and at Young Memorial Field in 1990). Ironically, all of those games (including this year's SIU marathon) were one-run losses for the Blazers.
INJURY REPORT: Three UAB players are currently unavailable because of injury. Left-handed pitcher Michael Stallings (7-9 in 2000, 5.84 ERA) will miss the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery (rotator cuff), as will infielder Matt Womble (a newcomer in 2001), who also had shoulder surgery. Fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Lee Jolly's (4-3, 4.48 ERA in 2000) status is uncertain for the 2001 season, he has an elbow injury in his pitching arm and a decision has not been made about when he might return to the lineup.
FATHER AND SON CONNECTION(s): Blazer head coach Larry Giangrosso and redshirt freshman catcher Pete Giangrosso are indeed father and son. The Giangrosso are not, however, the first father and son coach-player duo in UAB athletic history, the first was Gene and Murry Bartow. Murry, now the head men's basketball coach at UAB, played for his legendary dad on Blazer basketball teams from 1980-85 (he was also a member of the UAB Golf team). Murry Bartow graduated from Birmingham's W.A. Berry High School in 1980, and one of his coaches and teachers there was....Larry Giangrosso.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES: Young Memorial Field has been the primary home of Blazer Baseball since the 1984 season. Th stadium is named for the late Dr. Jerry D. Young (1931-83), who, as a Vice President at UAB in the late 1970s, was a major force in the establishment of an intercollegiate athletic program at UAB. In 17+-seasons, the Blazers are 308-182-1 (.627) at Young Memorial Field, and are 4-3 in 2001.
THE NEW WALL: One major cosmetic change has been made at UAB's Young Memorial Field for the 2001 season. A new wood outfield fence -- painted Blazer Green -- was completed just before the beginning of the season, replacing the chain-link fencing that had enclosed the field since 1984. The ballpark now has slightly larger dimensions, going 330 feet down the lines, 370 feet to the left center power alley, 400 feet to dead center field, and 360 feet to the right center power alley. In addition, the large "hitter's eye" in center field (also now green) has been fused with the fence (it was previously behind the outfield fence and a ball striking it was considered a home run) and is now in play.
GARNER PRODUCES: Shortstop Mark Garner has reached base 21 times in 35 plate appearances thus far in 2001, and leads UAB with a .600 on-base percentage (it's no surprise that he is tied for the team lead with nine runs scored in the first nine games)...Garner also has the best batting average of any of the every-day players (.500) and is tied for the team with nine RBIs...Garner hit .585 five games last week, three RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases...he was also perfect in the field in 19 chances (andwas part of two double plays)...Garner hit a dramatic two-out home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in the Feb. 17 game vs. Southern Illinois to tie the game at 7-7 and keep the Blazers alive.
DOBBINS DOMINANT: Righthander Ross Dobbins (2-0) was impressive once again in his start at Belmont (2/20)...he allowed no runs on three hits in seven complete innings, with one walk and three strikeouts as he collected his second win in as many starts...for the season, Dobbins has a 0.75 ERA with two walks and 12 strikeouts (for a nifty 1-6 ratio) in 12 innings of work.
MR. JONES: Sophomore outfielder Mitch Jones (a Freshman All-America in 2000) has been the Blazers' leadoff hitter in all nine games to date...he is currently batting .275 with one double, one home run and four RBI...Jones is tied for the team lead in runs scored with nine and walks with six, and is second on the team with 11 hits...he has a .370 on-base percentage (reaching 17 times in 46 plate appearances)... he has reached base six of 16 times when leading off an inning this season (.375) .. Jones also leads the team in stolen bases with seven (7-8 through nine games) ...he hit .467 in the Southern Illinois series (Feb. 16-18), but struggled a bit last week, hitting .190 in five games.
BIG FELLA: At 6-4 and close to 280 pounds, junior designated hitter/first baseman Chris George stands out just about anywhere, but especially on the baseball field...George is hitting .270 through nine games with four doubles (he is amazingly mobile) and is tied for the team lead with nine RBIs...his first home run as a Blazer came at a very opportune moment, the two-run shot in the fith inning vs. Lipscomb Sunday (2/25) gave UAB a 4-2 lead and proved to be the game-winner as the Blazers prevailed, 4-3...George is also a very solid defensive player, entering this week he was perfect in 59 chances as a first baseman, including several very nifty unassisted plays in the Lipscomb series.
AW HECK: Junior catcher Al Hecklinski has already made a mark in his first season as a Blazer, hitting .321 over nine games with two home runs and seven RBIs (second on the team)...the Birmingham native hit solo homers vs. Vanderbilt and Lipscomb and hit .385 (5-13, 2 RBIs) over five games last week.
ON DECK: Following the games vs. South Alabama (Feb. 27), Middle Tennesee (Feb. 28), and the weekend series with Tennessee Tech (Mar. 2-4), UAB will host Vanderbilt (Mar. 6) and will play a three-game weekend series with Eastern Illinois (Mar. 9-11).