THIS WEEKEND'S SCHEDULE: Fri. 3/23 UAB at South Florida (Red McEwen Field/7:00 pm EST) Sat. 3/24 UAB at South Florida (Red McEwen Field/7:00 pm EST) Sun. 3/25 UAB at South Florida (Red McEwen Field/1:00 pm EST/FSN Florida)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters the weekend at 14-7 overall, 2-1 in Conference USA play...the Blazers were shutout in their only midweek contest at Middle Tennessee Wednesday, losing 3-0 to the No. 22-ranked Blue Raiders...the game was a makeup contest from Tuesday evening's rainout in Murfreesboro.
RAIN, RAIN: Tuesday's rainout against Middle Tennessee was the seventh of the 2001 season for UAB...the UAB game slated with Alabama two weeks ago, called off because of the weather, will be made up Apr. 10 in Tuscaloosa at 7 p.m. CDT.
BLAZERS EARN RANKING:UAB is ranked No. 35 in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll presented by CollegeSportsNews.com. UAB is one of two Conference USA schools represented as Tulane holds down the No. 25 spot. The Rice Owls are currently atop the poll with a 21-5 record through Sunday's action.
UAB VERSUS THE BULLS: The Blazers renew their second longest rivalry in the UAB baseball annals when they meet South Florida this weekend. UAB and the Bulls have met 77 times with USF holding a 47-30 advantage. UAB will be trying to snap an 11-game current losing streak in Tampa. The last win for the Blazers at USF came on Mar. 25, 1990, when UAB collected a 5-4 triumph. Last season, the Bulls took two of three at Young Memorial Field in Birmingham - winning the series opener 4-2 and finale 10-6, while losing the middle contest 11-5.
UAB'S STARTING ROTATION: The projected rotation for the South Florida series includes Ross Dobbins (Jr., RHP, 3-1, 4.23 ERA) on Friday, Joe McRae (Sr., RHP, 1-0, 3.04 ERA) on Saturday and Rob Caputo (Jr., RHP, 1-1, 4.91 ERA) in the finale on Sunday.
WINNING STREAKS: The Blazers have won five of their last seven games and 11 of their last 14 contests.
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 played 18 of their first 20 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field. This week, though, UAB embarks on its initial major road swing, when the team plays four straight games away from home. The swing began with the Middle Tennessee contest, then finishes up with three games at South Florida.
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 42-39 (.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.
HITTING STREAKS COME TO AN END: Outfielder Christian Reimers saw the team's season-best hitting streak snapped Wednesday at 10 games...Reimers hit .363 (12x36) during that 10-game span...Al Hecklinski had a six-game string come to an end Wednesday as well...first baseman Chris George saw a seven-game skein snapped over the weekend against SLU...the UAB record (for a 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: UAB played its ninth game against a team from the state of Tennessee when they met the Blue Raiders Wednesday. 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). This season the Blazers have compiled a 6-3 record against teams from the Volunteer state.
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 316-185-1 (.630) at Young Memorial Field, and are 13-5 in 2001.
NO. 500: Last Friday's game versus Saint Louis marked the 500th played at Young Memorial Field since the field's opening during the 1984 season.
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 Itawamba (Miss.) CC has made a huge (pun intended) impact on the Blazers this season....George had a game-winner with a two-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-run homer in the Mar. 9 game vs. Eastern Illinois...in the four game series vs. EIU, he hit .600 (9-15) with five RBI (one double, one homer)...George currently leads the team in RBI (20), hits (24) and doubles (6), and has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.293)...he is also perfect in 182 chances at first base (176 putouts, 6 assists).
GARNERing PRAISE: Shortstop Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.354), and also leads the team with a .477 on-base percentage...he is one of four Blazers to have started every game this season (21) and is second on the team with 16 RBI and second in hits (23) ...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 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 4x22 with three RBI 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 five sacrifices this season (one of which resulted in an RBI on a squeeze play)...Barnes led UAB and C-USA with 15 sacrifices in 2000.
PARKS MAKES HIS MARK: Junior righthander 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 since joining the Blazers last season.
MR. JONES: Sophomore outfielder Mitch Jones (a Freshman All-America in 2000) has been the Blazers' leadoff hitter in all 21 games to date...he is currently hitting .269 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI...Jones leads UAB in runs scored (18) and walks (15) and is third on the team with 21 hits...he has a .407 on-base percentage, and has reached base 14 of 37 times (.378) when leading off an inning this season...Jones also leads the team in stolen bases with 13 (13-of-14 through 21 games) and has been successful in his last nine attempts.
ON DECK: UAB returns home Tuesday (Mar. 27) to begin a four-game homestand. The Blazers also take on Charlotte in C-USA play (Mar. 30-Apr. 1) at Young Memorial Field. The Blazers trail in the Jacksonville State series 10-9 and are 17-12 against Charlotte.