THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE:
Tue. 5/1 Auburn at UAB (Young Memorial Field/7 pm)
Wed. 5/2 UAB at Samford (Joe Lee Griffin Field/6 pm)
Fri. 5/4 Louisville at UAB (Young Memorial Field/7 pm)
Sat. 5/5 Louisville at UAB (Young Memorial Field/2 pm)
Sun. 5/6 Louisville at UAB (Young Memorial Field/1 pm)
ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters this week's action with a 22-23 overall record, 5-16 in Conference USA play. The Blazers dropped their only non-conference tilt last week by falling 15-3 to Auburn on the road and then were swept at Tulane over the weekend (11-6, 5-4 and 4-3 in 10 innings).
GLAD APRIL IS OVER: For the Blazers, the month of April has proved to be the cruelest one as UAB finished with a 6-12 record during the 30-day cycle. The Blazers played 13 of 18 games on the road that month including a four-game swing away from home to end April. UAB plays six of its final 10 regular season games at home beginning tonight against Auburn.
TOMMOROW'S MAKEUP: The Blazers will play Samford in a 6 p.m. makeup contest tomorrow at Joe Lee Griffin Field on the Bulldog campus. The game was originally scheduled Apr. 4, but was postponed due to inclement weather.
UAB VERSUS AUBURN: The two teams will meet for the 46th time on the diamond tonight and the second time this season as Auburn captured a 15-3 decision at Plainsman Park last Wednesday. The Blazers trail in the series with Auburn 36-9 and the Tigers are 13-7 in Birmingham, including an 11-7 record at Young Memorial Field. The last UAB home win against Auburn come on Feb. 23, 1994 in a 9-3 decision.
RECENT MILESTONES: UAB played its 1,200 game as an intercollegiate program Apr. 22 in the final game of the Memphis series. UAB has accumulated 649-554-1 record in this its 23rd season of baseball. Also, UAB coach Larry Giangrosso coached his 100th career game for the Blazers on Apr. 21.
THE TULANE SERIES: UAB got swept for the fourth time in a C-USA series last weekend when they dropped three games to No.9 Tulane in New Orleans. The Blazers lost 11-6, 5-4 and 4-3. In all three games, the Blazers lost in the Green Wave's final at bat. On Friday, Tulane took advantage of four of the Blazers' season-high six errors in a seven-run, eighth inning with Jake Gautreau capping the scoring with a three-run homer to upend the Blazers in the opener. Gautreau blasted a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday to lift the Wave and Matt Groff ended the series with a RBI single in the bottom of the 10th in Sunday's finale.
ONE-RUN LOSSES IN CONFERENCE PLAY: UAB has been snakebit in league encounters having gone 2-7 in one-run C-USA games. The Blazers have lost seven straight games against conference foes in tilts determined by one run, including four in extra innings.
GREAT PITCHING IN LEAGUE PLAY: The trio of Joe Yarbrough, Andre Parks and Ross Dobbins have provided great starting pitching for the Blazers over the last two weekends. The three have combined for a 2-1 record with a 2.62 earned run average and have allowed a total of 33 hits, 14 runs (13 earned), 25 walks and 30 strikeouts over 44.2 innings between them. Parks was named the C-USA Pitcher of the Week on Apr. 23 for his seven innings of shutout work against Memphis in a 2-0 victory.
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 their 15-3 loss at Auburn last 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 SEC: The loss to Auburn also 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 AUBURN: The Blazers are expected to throw junior lefthander Rob Caputo (2-4, 6.69 ERA) against the Tigers.
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 50-55 (.476) 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 five 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, dropped an 11th inning decision in the series finale against Cincinnati 9-8 when Craig Tewes delivered a single into left for the game winner and Matt Groff did in UAB with a single to right in the finale at Tulane Sunday in the 10th.
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 five 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.
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.
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. 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 (.320), and also leads the team with a .407 on-base percentage...he is the only Blazers to have started every game this season (45) and is first on the team in hits (49) ...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.
ISBELL'S HITTING STREAK BROKEN: Senior Brandon Isbell had his season-best tying hitting streak of 10 games snapped Sunday at Tulane. Isbell, who leads the club with a .322 average, went 16-for-41 (.390) during that stretch.
BLAZERS IN SINGLE SEASON TOP 10: Here are a list of Blazers who have reached the UAB's single season Top 10 charts this season:
Stolen Bases: Tied 9th - Mitch Jones (17)
Sacrifices: Tied 5th - Keith Barnes (11)
Pitching Apps.: Tied 8th - Blake Allen (27)
Relief Apps: Tied 6th - Blake Allen (27)
Shutouts: Tied 8th - Andre Parks (1)
ON DECK: The Blazers take to the road to play Samford tomorrow at 6 pm, before returning to conference play for a three-game set against Louisville at Young Memorial Field. Saturday will be Senior Day with the 2001 class honored prior to the game.