Baseball Notes For Tulane Series (4/26/01)

Fri. 4/27 UAB at Tulane (Turchin Stadium/6:30 pm)
Sat. 4/28 UAB at Tulane (Turchin Stadium/2 pm)
Sun. 4/29 UAB at Tulane (Turchin Stadium/1 pm)

ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters this weekend's action with a 22-20 overall record, 5-13 in Conference USA play. The Blazers dropped their only non-conference tilt this week by falling 15-3 to Auburn on the road.

AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: UAB, which plays 13 of 18 games on the road in April, finishes the month with a four-game road swing. During this month already, the Blazers have played nine of 10 on the road at one point. With 13 games left on the schedule, the Blazers play six at home and seven on the road over the final portion of the 2001 slate. One of those 13 games, is a makeup tilt from an Apr. 4 rainout at Samford. That game will be made up May 2 at 6 p.m. at Joe Lee Griffin Field on the Samford campus.

UAB VERSUS TULANE: Despite trailing in the Tulane series 14-2, UAB has a two-game winning streak over the Green Wave. The Blazers, after dropping 14-3 and 10-2 decisions to Tulane to open their series in Birmingham last season, captured the finale of that set 9-8 and then took a first-round victory over the Wave in the C-USA Tournament 11-4. UAB is looking for its first win in New Orleans, dropping the previous six games they have played there. UAB has never won a conference series against Tulane (0-5 in three-game sets) and have been swept four times.

PARKS NAMED C-USA PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Andre Parks (Luverne, Ala.) earned selection as Conference USA's baseball Pitcher of the Week Monday. Parks, who has accumulated a 4-0 record this season with a 2.50 earned run average, tossed seven shutout innings as three Blazer pitchers combined to blank Memphis 2-0 Saturday. The six-foot-three hurler was part of his second shutout of the campaign as he tallied a seven-inning, complete-game gem against Eastern Illinois in March. In that outing, Parks allowed a pair of hits and struckout seven. Against Memphis, Parks allowed five hits and five walks while fanning four. Parks stranded at least one runner in each inning and struckout the final batter of the frame three times to get out of trouble.

MILESTONES LAST WEEKEND: UAB played its 1,200 game as an intercollegiate program last Sunday in the final game of the Memphis series. UAB has accumulated 649-551-1 record in this its 23rd season of baseball. Also, UAB coach Larry Giangrosso coached his 100th career game for the Blazers that Saturday against the Tigers.

LAST TIME OUT: The Blazers gave up eight runs in the eighth inning to fall to Auburn 15-3 in seven innings at Plainsman Park Wednesday night. Five Tiger players had multiple hits as AU scored in each of the first three innings and six of the seven. The Blazers, which had not committed an error in the previous four games, got credited with four against the Tigers. Al Hecklinski led UAB with three hits.

NON-CONFERENCE WINS: The Blazers had won their last five non-conference games dating back to a 6-1 win over Jacksonville State (Mar. 27) prior to its Auburn loss Wednesday night. In addition, UAB had also won all five of its previous games against opponents from the state of Alabama in 2001 before its loss at Auburn.

AGAINST THE CRIMSON TIDE: UAB swept its season series from the University of Alabama 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, 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: The loss to Auburn snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blazers over SEC opponents. UAB is 4-2 against the SEC in 2001. Along with its two wins over Alabama, the Blazers also defeated Miss. State on Apr. 3 (4-3) and Vanderbilt (6-1) on Mar. 6. UAB dropped a contest to Vandy in Nashville as well, 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 TULANE: The Blazers are expected to throw junior lefthander Joe Yarbrough (4-3, 2.93 ERA) Friday, junior righthander Andre Parks (4-0, 2.50 ERA) Saturday and junior righthander Ross Dobbins (5-3, 4.41 ERA) 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 50-52 (.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 his only outing this season with 1 2/3 innings against Jacksonville State (Mar. 27) in relief. Instead of pitching, Jolly has played appeared in four games, mostly as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement at third base.

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 321-188-1 (.630) at Young Memorial Field, and are 18-8 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.

GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the second highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.319), and also leads the team with a .404 on-base percentage...he is the only Blazers to have started every game this season (42) and is first on the team in hits (46) ...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 27-18 this season in the opening frame. The Blazers are 9-3 when they plate a run in the first inning.

ISBELL SWING THE BAT: Senior Brandon Isbell continues to hit well for the Blazers. He currently sports an eight-game hitting streak and has the highest batting average among the Blazer regulars (.326). Over the eight-game streak, Isbell is hitting .406 (13x32).

ON DECK: The Blazers return to action next week as they play six of the next seven games at home beginning with Auburn Tuesday in a 7 p.m. tilt at Young Memorial Field.