THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: Tue. 3/27 UAB vs. Jacksonville State (Young Memorial Field/7 pm) Fri. 3/30 UAB vs. Charlotte (Yooung Memorial Field/7pm) Sat. 3/31 UAB vs. Charlotte (Young Memorial Field/2 pm) Sun. 4/1 UAB vs. Charlotte (Young Memorial Field/1 pm)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters the week at 14-10 overall, 2-4 in Conference USA play...the Blazers lost all four of their games last week, dropping a mid-week tilt at Middle Tennessee (3-0) and getting swept at South Florida in a three-game league series (8-4, 7-1, 5-1)...UAB begins a four-game homestand Tuesday when they take on Jacksonville State.
LOOKING TO STOP THE STREAK: The Blazers are looking to snap their season-high loss streak of four games after dropping all of its outings last week...this is UAB's longest losing streak since they lost four in a row last season (4/18-22).
UAB VERSUS THE GAMECOCKS: The Blazers and Jacksonville State meet for the 20th time in its respective baseball histories tonight. The series dates back to the Blazers' inaugural season of 1979 when UAB dropped a 13-2 decision in Jacksonville (3/6). The series did not resume until the 1987 campaign. The two schools have played at least one time in each of the previous 10 seasons. UAB won the only meeting between the two in 2000 by taking a 20-9 decision at Young Memorial Field.
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 18 of their first 20 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field. Last week, though, UAB embarked on its first major road swing, when the team played 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 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 42-42 (.500) 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.
UAB'S STARTING PITCHER: The Blazers are expected to throw junior righthander Scott Gibson tonight against the Gamecocks. Gibson has compiled a 1-2 record this season in five appearances (four starts) with a 4.01 earned run average. His outing last week of 7.2 innings against Middle Tennessee was the longest stint by a UAB pitcher this season.
A HITTING STREAK TO NOTE: Brandon Holmes has the current longest hitting streak for the Blazers at three games...Mark Garner and Cory Acklus are next at two-game streaks...the longest of the season was 10 games by Christian Reimers...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 last week when they met Middle 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). 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: The March 16 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 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 (21), and tied for the top in doubles (6), while ranking second in hits (27) and has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.287)...he is also perfect in 210 chances at first base (201 putouts, 9 assists).
GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.36), and also leads the team with a .487 on-base percentage...he is one of three Blazers to have started every game this season (24) and is second on the team with 16 RBI and first in hits (28) ...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 5x30 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.
JONES MOVED FROM LEADOFF: Sophomore Mitch Jones hit in the first spot of the UAB batting order over the first 22 games this season, but was moved from that position in the final two games of the South Florida series...Jones hit ninth in Saturday's tilt and received the day off on Sunday...Christian Reimers and Eric Lyon hit in the leadoff spot in the order in place of Jones on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
MORE ON JONES: Jones (a Freshman All-America in 2000) currently is hitting .250 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI...Jones leads UAB in runs scored (18) and walks (16) and is tied for third on the team with 21 hits...he has a .376 on-base percentage...Jones also leads the team in stolen bases with 13 (13-of-14 through 24 games) and has been successful in his last nine attempts.
ON DECK: UAB completes its homestand this weekend when they welcome Charlotte for a three-game Conference USA series. The Blazers lead the series between the two schools 17-12 and won one of three games on the road against the 49ers last season.