UAB (17-15) vs. Alabama (23-12) April 10-11, 2001
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: Tue. 4/10 UAB at Alabama (Sewell-Thomas Field/7pm) Wed. 4/11 Alabama at UAB (Young Memorial Field/7 pm/ Comast Sports Southeast) Fri. 4/13 UAB at Cincinnati (Johnny Bench Field/6 pm EDT) Sat. 4/14 UAB at Cincinnati (Johnny Bench Field/1 pm EDT) Sun. 4/15 UAB at Cincinnati (Johnny Bench Field/1 pm EDT)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters the Alabama series with a 17-15 overall record, 3-9 in Conference USA play. The Blazers lost three of four contests last week and had a game rained out. The Samford tilt, which was washed away Wednesday, will be scheduled at a later date this season.
BUSES, TRUCK STOPS AND FAST FOOD: The Blazers finish a five-game road swing at Alabama Tuesday, but still are in the midst of playing nine of 10 away from home. In the month of April, UAB is slated to play 13 of 18 games away from Young Memorial Field.
UAB VERSUS ALABAMA: UAB travels to Tuscaloosa Tuesday for the first of two games this week with the first game being the 36th meeting between the two schools. The Blazers trail in the series 24-11 and have been on the short end of the last four games between the two schools, including a 12-8 setback last season at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tuesday game is a scheduled makeup contest from a rainout on March 14 and will be played at 7 p.m. The Blazers return home to face the Tide on Wednesday with that tilt slated for 7 p.m. (the game will be televised via Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast).
LAST TIME OUT: The Blazers dropped their second extra-inning affair of the last three games in the same manner on Sunday. C-USA leader Houston, which swept the Blazers, notched a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the 11th to notch the victory. The Cougars also won the same way on Friday 1-0 as they squeezed in the game's only run on Friday in the 12th. UH also captured a 9-0 win Saturday.
NOTES FROM THE HOUSTON SERIES: The Blazers were held to just three runs in the three games against the Cougars, marking the fewest runs scored by a UAB team in a C-USA three-game series, spanning 47 league series...UAB got shutout for the first time in back-to-back games since May of 1990...the Blazers lost their third series of the season and have been swept twice 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.
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 45-47 (.489) 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.
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 tilt) were one-run losses for UAB.
MORE ON EXTRA INNINGS: Since that extra-inning contest against Southern Illinois, the Blazers have played two more contests that have taken extra frames -- both coming last weekend against Houston -- as UAB dropped a 1-0, 12-inning affair Friday to the Cougars and a 4-3 decision in 11 innings Sunday.
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 by throwing 1 2/3 innings against Jacksonville State (Mar. 27) in relief.
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.
OPENING UP AT HOME: The 2001 Blazers played 18 of their first 20 games in the friendly confines of Young Memorial Field.
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.
PITCHING ON DISPLAY: Of the 22 different statistical categories in Conference USA's league overall statistics, the Blazer pitching staff ranks in the top three in 15 on them. That includes being first in opposing batting average (.250), runners picked off (13), fewest hits allowed (266), fewest runs allowed (133), fewest earned runs (111), fewest doubles (45), fewest triples (3) and fewest home runs surrendered (8).
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 Illinois...in the four game series vs. EIU, he hit .600 (9-15) with five RBI (one double, one homer)...in 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 (27), and on top in doubles (8), while ranking first in hits (38) and home runs (3)...he has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.299)...he is also perfect in 281 chances at first base (271 putouts, 10 assists).
GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.336), and also leads the team with a .418 on-base percentage...he is one of two Blazers to have started every game this season (32) and is second on the team in RBI (21) and hits (36) ...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.
SCORING EARLY: UAB has outscored its opponents 27-4 this season in the opening frame. The Blazers are 9-3 when they plate a run in the first inning.
ON DECK: After this Alabama midweek series, the Blazers return to action when they travel to Ohio to play C-USA foe Cincinnati. The Blazers has won all five previous series with the Bearcats in C-USA play and hold an overall 32-13 advantage.