UAB (19-18) at Jacksonville State (11-25)
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE:
Tue. 4/17 UAB at Jacksonville St. (Rudy Abbott Field/6 pm/ Comcast/Charter SE)
Fri. 4/20 Memphis at UAB (Young Memorial Field/7 pm)
Sat. 4/21 Memphis at UAB (Young Memorial Field/3 pm)
Sun. 4/22 Memphis at UAB (Young Memorial Field/1 pm)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters tonight's Jacksonville State game with a 19-18 overall record, 3-12 in Conference USA play. The Blazers were swept at Cincinnati over the weekend, after beating Alabama twice during the middle of last week.
BUSES, TRUCK STOPS AND FAST FOOD: The Blazers finish a four-game road swing and a string of playing nine of 10 away from home tonight against Jacksonville State. In the month of April, UAB is slated to play 13 of 18 games away from Young Memorial Field.
UAB VERSUS JACKSONVILLE STATE: UAB and Jacksonville State meet for the 21st time tonight with each team taking 10 contests. The Blazers won the previous meeting this season between the two schools 5-1 in Birmingham. The series began dates back to the 1979 season with the Gamecocks taking a 13-2 decision in Jacksonville (3/6) but was not resumed until the 1987 campaign. Since 1991, the two teams have met at least once each year.
LAST TIME AGAINST THE GAMECOCKS: Mark Garner and Christian Reimers each drove home a pair of runs to lead UAB to a 5-1 win over Jacksonville State at Young Memorial Field on Mar. 27). Five UAB pitchers scattered 10 hits and fanned 10 Gamecock batters while starting pitcher Scott Gibson, who threw the first two innings, got the win.
OVER THE WEEKEND: The Blazers were swept on the road at Cincinnati, losing 11-5, 14-3 and 9-8 (in 11 innings). It was the second straight time the Blazers have been swept in a Conference USA series and third time this season. UAB has now lost eight straight C-USA games and all nine of its league games on the road during 2001.
LAST WEEK AGAINST ALABAMA: UAB swept its season series from the University of Alabama last week for the first time since the 1990 campaign - they won three games that year - with wins on consecutive days over the Crimson Tide. Behind Al Hecklinski's career-high six RBI which included a three-run home run last Tuesday, the Blazers upended the Tide 10-6 in Tuscaloosa. One night later, UAB scored four runs in the fifth inning to erase a 3-1 deficit to beat Bama 6-5 in Birmingham.
AGAINST THE SEC: With its two wins over Alabama, UAB has now won four straight games over Southeastern Conference opponents and are 4-1 against the SEC in 2001. The Blazers also defeated Miss. State on Apr. 3 (4-3) and Vanderbilt (6-1) on Mar. 6. UAB also lost to Vandy in Nashville 4-3 (Feb. 21).
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.
UAB STARTING PITCHING AGAINST JSU: The Blazers are expected to throw junior righthander Rob Caputo (1-3, 6.66 ERA) Tuesday.
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 47-50 (.485) 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: The Blazers have played four extra inning games in all this season and have lost each contest. Besides the SIU contest, UAB dropped a pair of extra-inning tilts at Houston, losing in the 12th and 11th innings on squeeze bunt plays and dropped its last affair on Sunday in the 11th when Craig Tewes delivered a single into right for the game winner to lift Cincinnati to a 9-8 decision.
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. Last weekend, Jolly also made a pair of defensive appearances for the Blazers at third base and got a hit and a walk in his two plate appearances.
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 319-187-1 (.630) at Young Memorial Field, and are 16-7 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.
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...George currently leads the team in RBI (28), and on top in doubles (8), while ranking second in hits (41)...he has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.287)...he is also perfect in 315 chances at first base (303 putouts, 12 assists).
GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.326), and also leads the team with a .426 on-base percentage...he is the only Blazers to have started every game this season (37) and is first on the team in hits (42) ...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 27-13 this season in the opening frame. The Blazers are 9-3 when they plate a run in the first inning.
HOLMES FINDS HOME IN LEADOFF SPOT: Senior Brandon Holmes has made himself at home in the leadoff spot. He has been in that position for the last six games and has hit safely in each of those games for a .346 batting clip (9x26). His first game during this stretch in the first spot of the order came against Houston in the series finale. He tallied three hits in that contest.
ON DECK: The Blazers return home to face the Memphis Tigers in a three-game C-USA series. UAB holds a 23-21 advantage in that series.