Baseball Notes For Southern Miss Series (5/10/01)

Fri. 5/11 UAB at Southern Mississippi (Pete Taylor Park/8 pm)
Sat. 5/12 UAB at Southern Mississippi (Pete Taylor Park/3 pm)
Sun. 5/13 UAB at Southern Mississippi (Pete Taylor Park/1 pm)

ABOUT THE BLAZERS: UAB enters its final weekend of the regular season with a 25-27 overall record, 6-18 in Conference USA play. The Blazers are still battling for one of two open spots in next week's C-USA Tournament with Saint Louis, Charlotte and this weekend's opponent Southern Miss.

STILL HAVE A CHANCE FOR POSTSEASON PLAY: Despite holding down last place in the C-USA standings, the Blazers still have a chance to make the league tournament next week (May 16-20) at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La. In order to make the eight-team field in the 10-member baseball conference, UAB must sweep Southern Miss and have Charlotte either get swept by Saint Louis or take at least two games from the Billikens in order for the Blazers to qualify.

AGAINST THE EAGLES: UAB trails in the series against USM 27-21 in a rivalry that dates back to the 1980 season. Since the inception of C-USA in 1996, UAB has won two of five series over the Eagles. The Blazers did drop last year's three-game set in Birmingham. After losing the first two games 12-1 and 3-0, UAB captured the finale 10-7.

EARLIER THIS SEASON AGAINST USM: The Blazers defeated USM 3-2 in a non-conference game earlier this season played at Young Memorial Field on Mar. 7. Chris George collected a two-run double in the eighth that proved to be the game winner for the Blazers. Clay Bush shutdown the Eagles inthree innings of relief work down the stretch to earn the win while Joe Yarbrough fanned the last batter of the contest to get the save.

LAST TIME OUT: Mississippi State hit three home runs including a two-run shot by Phillip Willingham in the sixth to lift the Bulldogs to a 6-5 win and spoiling the Blazers home finale Wednesday night. Keith Barnes led the Blazers by driving in two runs, while Brandon Holmes, Al Hecklinski and Mark Garner each contributed with a pair of hits.

PARKS NAMED C-USA CO-PITCHER OF THE WEEK: On the strength of a two-hitter last Friday against Louisville in a 7-0 victory, Andre Parks earned his second C-USA Pitcher of the Week honor Monday. Parks shared the honor with Tulane's Barth Melius. In his only outing last week, Parks retired the first 15 batters he faced before giving up an infield single to start the sixth. The Cardinals managed just two singles and a walk as he fanned five in the game. It was Parks second complete-game shutout of the season.

PARKS IN THE NATIONAL STATISTICS: is also listed in the latest NCAA national statistics (through May 6), ranked No. 32 in earned run average at 2.25.

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. Overall, UAB is 7-10 in one-run games.

UAB STARTING PITCHERS VERSUS SOUTHERN MISS: The Blazers are expected to throw junior lefthander Joe Yarbrough (4-4, 3.28 ERA) Friday, junior righthander Andre Parks (5-0, 2.25 ERA) Saturday and junior righthander Ross Dobbins (5-4, 4.64 ERA) Sunday against the Eagles.

AGAINST THE SEC: UAB finished 4-4 against the Southeastern Conference in 2001. Along with its two wins over Alabama, the Blazers also defeated Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. UAB has also lost to Vandy and the Bulldogs once, along with Auburn twice. The Blazers at one point had won four straight against the SEC this season.

THE ROSTER: The 32-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 32 players on the 2001 roster, 24 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 53-59 (.473) 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.

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 a 652-557-1 record in this its 23rd season of baseball. Also, UAB coach Larry Giangrosso coached his 100th career game for the Blazers on Apr. 21.

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 is 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 12 games, mostly at third base. Jolly had started five times at the hot corner over the eight games.

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.

GARNERing PRAISE: Mark Garner has the second highest batting average among the Blazers' every-day players (.326)...he is the only Blazers to have started every game this season (52) and is first on the team in hits (57) ...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.

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: 9th - Mitch Jones (18)
Sacrifices: Tied 4th - Keith Barnes (12)
Hit By Pitch: 7th - Mark Garner (13)
Pitching Apps.: Tied 3rd - Blake Allen (29)
Relief Apps: Tied 3rd - Blake Allen (29)
Shutouts: Tied 2nd - Andre Parks (2)
Assists: 7th - Mark Garner (174)

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 six extra-inning games in all this season and the Samford win Tuesday was their first in extra frames. 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 in the 10th.

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 323-192-1 (.630) at Young Memorial Field, and were 20-12 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.