May 24, 2012
The Blazer offense pounded out 17 hits - including three each by left fielder Ivan De Jesus, first baseman John Frost and second baseman Keith DePew - as seventh-seeded UAB rolled past No. 2 seed UCF 15-1 in a 10-run-rule shortened, seven-inning contest to open day two of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship on Thursday at Trustmark Park.
UAB held a 2-1 lead after four innings, but the Blazers blew the game open with 13 runs on the strength of seven hits, six walks, three wild pitches, two passed balls, a pair of errors and a hit batsman in the top of the fifth. That was more than enough support for right-hander Michael Busby, who held the high-power UCF attack to just three hits in an 8.0-inning start.
With the win, UAB improves to 30-27 on the year and will look to keep the momentum going on Friday when the Blazers square off against Tulane at 11 a.m. UCF, meanwhile, falls to 41-15 and will look to bounce back tomorrow when they Knights square off against East Carolina at 3 p.m.
UAB's 13 runs in the fifth were more than the Blazers' offensive total in any of their previous C-USA Championship contests, surpassing the former team high of 11 in a seven-run win over Tulane on May 17, 2000. Thursday's victory also marks the Blazers' fourth consecutive tournament appearance that they have defeated a higher-seeded team and three of them have been against nationally-ranked teams. In addition to Thursday's win over No. 16 UCF, UAB previously defeated regular-season champion Rice in 2008 and 2011 - when the Owls were ranked fifth and 15th nationally, respectively - and downed then third-seeded Houston to open the 2009 championship.
De Jesus got the Blazers' big inning going with leadoff walk and back-to-back hits by Frost and third baseman Patrick Palmeiro chased UCF starter Eric Skoglund from the game. Garrett Nuss walked the only two batters he faced and things began to spiral downward for the Knights from there as Frost scored on a passed ball and the trio of right fielder Ryan Ussery, designated hitter Jeff Schalk and DePew all scored on wild pitches by reliever Matt Collins. De Jesus padded the lead with an RBI-single through the left side of the infield, Frost followed with a two-run double to center and the Blazers added a bases-loaded walk by DePew, an RBI-single by catcher Jacob German and a two-run hit by shortstop Tanner Bryant capped the day's scoring.
From there, Busby was able to pitch his way around a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order before giving way to David Hayes, who gave up just a leadoff single in a scoreless seventh. Busby (5-4) earned the victory after giving up one run and a walk while striking out four.
After two scoreless innings, UAB drew first blood with a two-out rally in the top of the third as De Jesus doubled to left central and scored on at-bat later when Frost dribbled an RBI-single past the outstretched arm of UCF shortstop Darnell Sweeney. An inning later, the Blazers had runners on the corners and UAB head coach Brian Shoop signaled Bryant to drop down a squeeze bunt to try and score DePew from third.
DePew took off on the pitch, as did German from first, but German came up empty on the bunt attempt. Skoglund's toss to the plate, however, was in the dirt and Knights' backstop Ryan Breen was unable to glove the offering cleanly. With the runners already in motion, DePew was able to tag the dish and German reached second without a throw to stake UAB to a 2-0 lead.
UCF got a run back in the home half of the inning as Sweeney led off with a frame by stinging a double to the gap in left center, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a two-out single to left by right fielder Alex Friedrich to account for the Knights' lone tally of the contest.
Skogland (5-2) was saddled with the loss after giving up five runs on 10 hits and a walk while posting a strikeout in four-plus innings of work. Left fielder Nick Carrillo had two of UCF's four hits.