?ABOUT THE BLAZERS:?? UAB enters the weekend at 12-5 overall, 0-0 in Conference USA play...the Blazers begin their league schedule vs. Saint Louis on Friday (3/16)...the Blazers are coming off a four-game series with Eastern Illinois over the weekend (Mar. 9-11), in which they won three of four games...UAB has won three straight games and nine of its last 10, dating back to Feb. 24.
UAB vs. ALABAMA:? Wednesday's game at Alabama (Mar. 14) was postponed because of heavy rain and the threat of severe weather in the Tuscaloosa area, the game will be played Tuesday, Apr. 10 in Tuscaloosa at 7:00 pm CDT.
RAIN, RAIN: Tueday's rainout was the sixth of the 2001 season for UAB.
UAB vs. SAINT LOUIS: UAB leads the all-time series with the Billikens 36-9, dating back to the 1992 season (when both became members of the Great Midwest Conference)...last season the Blazers took two of three from the Billikens in St. Louis (May 12-14).??
STARTING? PITCHERS: The projected starter for Friday's Saint Louis game is right-hander Ross Dobbins (3-1, 4.50 ERA). ?Saturday's starter will be right-hander Joe McRae (0-0, 1.93 ERA).? Sunday's starter is TBA.
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.
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: The 2001 Blazers played 15 of their first 17 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field. UAB doesn't embark on a major road swing until next week when the team plays four straight games away from home (at Middle Tennessee, Mar. 20, at South Florida, Mar. 23-25).
DO WE SEE A PATTERN HERE?:? Of the 33 players on the 2001 roster, 25 have junior college playing experience, and ten played at Central Alabama Community College, not coincidentally the former employer of UAB Head Coach Larry Giangrosso and assistant coach Lee Hall...many of those from CACC played at least one season for Giangrosso and virtually all were recruited during his tenure there.? There was almost an 11th member of that group, sophomore outfielder Mitch Jones originally signed to played at CACC in the spring of 2000, but wound up at UAB when Coach Gino took the Blazer head coach position that summer.
COACH GINO: Larry Giangrosso, a 1975 graduate of UAB, is now in his second season as the Blazer skipper, and has a 40-37 (.519) 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 (AUM '90), who played for (Berry HS) and coached with (CACC) Giangrosso and Frank Walton (UAB '90), who played (1983-84) and coached previously (1992-99) at UAB.? Tim Harradine (UAB '01), who served as a team manager during the 2000 season, is the volunteer assistant coach.
CURRENT HITTING STREAKS: Outfielder Christian Reimers currently has an eight-game hitting streak...first baseman Chris George has a six-game hitting streak...shortstop Mark Garner started the 2001 season with a six-game hitting streak and currently has hit safely in two games...the UAB record (season) is 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.
WE LIKE TENNESSEE: The Blazers recently finished an eight-game stretch in which all? games were played against teams from the state of Tennessee (Tennessee Tech-2, Lipscomb-3, Vanderbilt-2, Belmont).
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 Giangrossos 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.? The 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 314-184-1 (.630) at Young Memorial Field, and are 11-4 in 2001.
NO. 500: Friday's game (Mar. 16) vs. Saint Louis will be the 500th played at Young Memorial Field (1984-? ).
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.
BIG FELLA:? At 6-4, 278 pounds, junior first baseman Chris George stands out pretty much anywhere he goes, the? transfer from Itwamba? (Miss.) CC has made a huge (pun intended) impact on the Blazers this season....last week he hit .522 (12-23, at least one hit in all six games) with two doubles, a home run and eight RBIs as UAB went 5-1...he was also perfect in the field at first base with 47 put-outs and three assists (no errors)...George had a game-winner with a 2-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning as UAB came back to defeat #20 Southern Miss 3-2 in a non-conference meeting (Mar. 7)...he also hit a three-RBI home run in the Mar. 9 game vs. Eastern Illinois...in the four game series vs. EIU, he hit .600 (9-15) with five RBIs (one double, one homer)...George currently leads the team in RBIs (19), hits (23) and doubles (6), and has the second highest batting average among the every-day players (.348)...he is also perfect in 139 chances at first base (134 putouts, 5 assists).
GARNERing PRAISE: Shortstop Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.358), and also leads the team with a .460 on-base percentage...he is one of four Blazers to have started every game this season (17) and is second on the team with 15 RBIs and tied for second in hits (19) ...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.
THE "DB"?: Senior utility infielder Keith Barnes got his first hit of the 2001 season in the fifth inning of game one of last Saturday's double-header vs. Eastern Illinois (3/10)...he made it a big one, pushing a bunt past the EIU pitcher to score Christian Reimers with the go-ahead run from third (UAB went on to win 3-1)....Barnes is now 1-10 with two RBIs on the season...his batting average is not really significant, because his primary role (besides late-inning defense) is as the team's "designated bunter", he has four sac bunts this season (one of which resulted in an RBI on a squeeze play) ...Barnes led UAB and C-USA with 15 sac bunts in 2000.
PARKS? MAKES HIS MARK: Junior right-hander Andre Parks had an outstanding outing in the second game of Saturday's double-header vs. Eastern Illinois (3/10), pitching a seven-inning complete-game shutout...Parks faced 25 batters, allowing two hits and no runs, with no walks and seven strikeouts...it was the first complete game and first shutout of his UAB career (2000-? ).
HUDSON HOT: Right-handed reliever Jeremy Hudson had saves vs. Vanderbilt (Mar. 6) and Eastern Illinois (Mar. 11) last week...in those two games, he allowed two hits, walked only one batter, and struck out five in seven innings of work.
MR. JONES:? Sophomore outfielder Mitch Jones (a Freshman All-America in 2000) has been the Blazers' leadoff hitter in all 17 games to date...he is currently hitting .292 with two doubles, one home run and sixr RBIs...Jones leads UAB in runs scored (16) and walks (12)? and is tied for second on the team with 19 hits...he has a .410 on-base percentage, and has reached base 12? of 30 times (.400) when leading off an inning this season...Jones also leads the team in stolen bases with 11 (11-12 through 17 games) and has been successful in his last seven (7) attempts.
ON DECK: Following the series with Saint Louis, the Blazers will make their first extended road swing of the 2001 season, playing at Middle Tennessee (Mar. 20) and at South Florida (Mar. 23-25). ??UAB's next home game is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 27 against cross-state rival Jacksonville State (7:00 pm CST).