Baseball Game Notes For Memphis Series (4/20/01)

Memphis (22-15, 8-7) at UAB (20-18, 3-12)
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 this weekend's Conference USA series against Memphis with a 20-18 overall record, 3-12 in Conference USA play. The Blazers captured their only midweek contest by defeating Jacksonville State 17-4 on the road. UAB swept its two game series with Gamecocks this season.

AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: The Blazers finished a four-game road swing and a string of playing nine of 10 away from home Tuesday at Jacksonville State. In the month of April, UAB is slated to play 13 of 18 games away from Young Memorial Field. With 16 games left on the schedule (not counting two games that are still trying to be made up from earlier season rainouts), the Blazers play nine at home and seven on the road over the final portion of the 2001 slate.

UAB VERSUS MEMPHIS: The Blazers hold a 23-21 advantage in their baseball series over the Memphis Tigers. Despite being swept in all three games last season in Memphis (10-7, 6-1, 9-6), UAB had won all four previous regular-season series against the Tigers since joining C-USA in 1996, including a sweep of UM in 1997.

SATURDAY'S GAME IS PUSHED BACK AN HOUR: The Saturday tilt between the Blazers and Tigers has been pushed back an hour and will be a part of Blazer Day on the UAB campus. The football team will hold a scrimmage at West Campus Field (adjacent to Young Memorial Field) at 2 p.m. The baseball game will begin at 3 p.m.

MILESTONES THIS WEEKEND: UAB will play its 1,200 game as an intercollegiate program Sunday in the final game of the Memphis series. UAB has accumulated 647-549-1 record in this its 23rd season of baseball. Also, UAB coach Larry Giangrosso will coach his 100th career game for the Blazers Saturday against the Tigers.

LAST TIME OUT: UAB scored a season-high 10 runs in the ninth inning and Rob Caputo tallied a career-best 13 strikeouts to lead UAB in a 17-4 road victory over Jacksonville State Tuesday. Christian Reimers drove in four runs for the Blazers, while Cory Acklus tallied four hits in the win.

NON-CONFERENCE WINS: The Blazers have won their last five non-conference games dating back to a 6-1 win over Jacksonville State (Mar. 27). In addition, UAB has won all five of its games against opponents from the state of Alabama in 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 (Apr. 10-11) 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 MEMPHIS: The Blazers are expected to throw junior lefthander Joe Yarbrough (4-2, 3.08 ERA) Friday, while junior righthander Andre Parks (3-0, 3.10 ERA) is expected to throw Saturday and junior righthander Ross Dobbins (4-3, 4.63 ERA) slated to take the mound Sunday.

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 48-50 (.490) 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 free baseball 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 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...George currently leads the team in RBI (30), and on top in doubles (9), while ranking first in hits (44)...he has the third highest batting average among the every-day players (.297)...he is also perfect in 322 chances at first base (310 putouts, 12 assists).

GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.321), and also leads the team with a .408 on-base percentage...he is the only Blazers to have started every game this season (38) and is second 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 27-16 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 seven games and has hit safely in six of the seven games. 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 to the road for the first of four games on the road when they take on Auburn in a 6 p.m. game Tuesday at Plainsman Park.