Baseball Notes For Mississippi State, Samford Games (4/3/01)

Tue. 4/3 UAB at Mississippi State, 16-10 (Dudy Noble Field/6:30 pm)
Wed. 4/4 UAB at Samford, 8-20 (Joe Lee Griffin Field/6 pm)
Fri. 4/6 UAB at Houston, 16-17, 8-1 (Cougar Field/7pm)
Sat. 4/7 UAB at Houston (Cougar Field/2 pm)
Sun. 4/8 UAB at Houston (Cougar Field/1 pm)

ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters the week with a 16-12 overall record, 3-6 in Conference USA play. The Blazers won their first two games last week - a 5-1 win over Jacksonville State during midweek action and a 13-6 C-USA win over Charlotte Friday - before losing the final two contests 5-4 and 5-2 to the 49ers.

BUSES, TRUCK STOPS AND FAST FOOD: The Mississippi State tilt begins a stretch of 10 of the next 11 games on the road. In the month of April, UAB plays 13 of 18 games away from Young Memorial Field.

UAB VERSUS MISSISSIPPI STATE: UAB trails in the series with Mississippi State 16-8 and has dropped the last three contests to the Bulldogs. MSU captured all three meetings with the Blazers last season, winning 17-1 at the Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, 9-6 in Starkville and 18-7 in Birmingham. This will be the first of two games between the two schools in 2001 as MSU is slated to make a trip to the Magic City May 9 (6:30 pm) in the final home game of the campaign for the Blazers.

UAB VERSUS SAMFORD: The Blazers hold a commanding 43-9 advantage in the Samford series. UAB won the first eight games the schools competed against each other and have played every year since the two began the series during the 1983 campaign. The two teams split a pair of encounters last season with the Bulldogs taking a 9-8 decision on their campus, while the Blazers collected a 10-4 triumph at Young Memorial Field.

LAST TIME OUT: Pat Gambale shutout UAB for eight innings, retiring 11 in a row at one point, and fanned the first two in the ninth before the Blazers rallied for two runs -- both scoring on a Mark Garner single -- but it was not enough as Jacob Chaney came in to record the final out in a 5-2 Charlotte victory Sunday in Birmingham. After winning the opening game of that series 13-6, the Blazers had an eighth-inning rally Saturday fall short in a 5-4 defeat to the 49ers Saturday. UAB scored all four of its runs in that inning.

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.

OPENING UP AT HOME: The 2001 Blazers played 18 of their first 20 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field.

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 44-44 (.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 AGAINST MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Blazers are expected to throw junior righthander Andre Parks (1-0, 2.35 ERA) against Mississippi State. Parks, in his only start of the year against Eastern Illinois (Mar. 10), hurled a seven-inning, complete-game shutout in which he allowed two hits and fanned seven with no walks. He has the only complete game of the year for the Blazers. Tonight will be his fifth appearance of the season.

A HITTING STREAK TO NOTE: Chris George and Brandon Isbell each have the longest hitting streak on the club at four games...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. Reliever Kevin Brannon (a newcomer in 2001) has suffered some arm problems and could be lost for the year as well. Fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Lee Jolly (4-3, 4.48 ERA in 2000) has been bothered by an elbow injury in his pitching arm but he returned to action for the first time this season Tuesday by throwing 1 2/3 innings against Jacksonville State in relief.

ISBELL HAS GREAT WEEK: Senior Brandon Isbell had a solid week batting 7-for-13 (.583) with a pair of doubles, a home run and six RBI. His big game came Friday against Charlotte with a four-hit performance which included his first homer of the year -- a three-run shot --highlighting a seven-run third inning in a Blazer win. He has hit safely in his last four games, six of his last seven and 9 of the last 11.

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 318-187-1 (.629) at Young Memorial Field, and are 15-7 in 2001. 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 for 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 No. 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 the four game series vs. EIU, he hit .600 (9-15) with five RBI (one double, one homer) the Charlotte series he batted .500 (6-12) with five RBI and over the last four games is hitting .438 (7-16)...George currently leads the team in RBI (26), and on top in doubles (7), while ranking tied for first in hits (34)...he has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.309)...he is also perfect in 240 chances at first base (230 putouts, 10 assists).

GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.370), and also leads the team with a .453 on-base percentage...he is one of three Blazers to have started every game this season (28) and is second on the team with 21RBI and tied for first in hits (34) ...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.

STREAKS: The Blazers head to Starkville in search of snapping a few losing streaks. The first is to end a current two-game losing streak. UAB also is looking to snap a three-game overall losing streak to the Bulldogs and a four-game string of losses in Starkville, as well as looking to end a five-game road skein dating back to a 4-3 setback to Vanderbilt on Feb. 21.

ON DECK: Following Wednesday's non-conference tilt at Samford, the Blazers head to the Lone Star state to face Conference USA leader Houston. After taking two of three on the road at Cincinnati, the Cougars began the week with 16-17 overall mark and 8-1 in league play. The Blazers trail in the series with UH 9-3.