May 25, 2012
When UAB arrived at Trustmark Park on Friday to open day three of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship against Tulane, Chase Mallard's day began as most relief pitchers do - he got loose, found a seat in the dugout as first-pitch time approached and shouted in support of starter Ben Bullard as he began his warm-up tosses.
In the blink of an eye, however, Mallard was thrust into action as Bullard - who missed time recently with arm problems - re-aggravated the injury before throwing the official first pitch of the game. After quickly loosening up, Mallard came up big when his team needed him with 6.2 solid innings as the seventh-seeded Blazers defeated the third-seed seed Green Wave, 6-3.
With the win, UAB improved to 31-27 on the year and 2-0 in C-USA Championship pod play. Tulane, meanwhile, falls to 38-19 overall and 1-1 in pool action. The Blazers can clinch a spot in Sunday's title game with a win on Saturday against East Carolina, or if UCF defeats the Pirates later this afternoon. An ECU win today, keeps the Blazers, Green Wave and Pirates all alive in the title-game scenario.
UAB clung to a 2-1 lead after five and a half innings, but created a bit of breathing room in the sixth when a pair of Green Wave errors led to two unearned runs. Tulane made it a 4-3 affair in the top of the sixth courtesy of a run-scoring single by left fielder Brandon Boudreaux and a two-out, RBI-double by catcher Jeremy Schaffer. In the home half of the frame, another Green Wave defensive miscue led to two more unearned runs to account for the final score.
Mallard (4-4) earned the victory after giving up three runs (two unearned) on five hits and a walk while striking out four during his time on the hill. Dillon Napoleon earned his second save of the year after scattering a pair of hits and posting a pair of strikeouts over the final 2.1 frames.
UAB out-hit the Green Wave, 9-7, and each of the Blazers' top four hitters in the line-up had at least one safety. Shortstop Tanner Bryant led the way by going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
After a scoreless first, the Blazers got on the board in the second. Centerfielder Ryan Ussery got things going with a one-out walk and catcher Harry Clark followed with a single through the left side of the infield. From there, second baseman Keith DePew plated Ussery with an RBI-single to right for the first run of the ballgame. A walk by Bryant loaded the bases, Clark scored from third on an RBI fielders' choice groundout off the bat of nine-hole hitter Chase Davis.
Tulane cut the deficit in half in the top of the fourth as centerfielder Blake Crohan scored an unearned run on an RBI-groundout by second baseman Bowen Woodson. Crohan opened the inning by getting hit by a pitch and reached second on a would-be fielders' choice groundball to second. DePew's toss to Bryant, however, drew Bryant off the bag for an error. Boudreaux moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and Woodson's swinging bunt to third made it a 2-1 ballgame.
Two innings later, the Blazers got the run back plus some. DePew drew a leadoff walk, Bryant followed with a single and the UAB pair advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Davis. Tulane reliever Kyle McKenzie got designated hitter Ivan De Jesus to line-out to first and the Green Wave's Sean Potkay tried to double off DePew at third. His throw to the hot corner bounced in the dirt and got away from Garrett Cannizaro and the error allowed a run to score.
Things got worse for Tulane in the ensuing at-bat when first baseman John Frost dropped down a bunt which McKenzie fielded cleanly. The Green Wave hurler's throw to first pulled Potkay off the bag, and that allowed UAB to score their second unearned run of the inning.
The Green Wave's two-run top of the seventh made it a one-run ballgame and Tulane dodged a bullet early in the bottom of the stanza when right fielder Jeff Schalk - who opened the stanza with a double and moved to third on an Ussery sacrifice bunt - was gunned down at the plate on a fielders' choice groundout off the bat of catcher Harry Clark. Andrew Garner - who started the game for the Green Wave as the designated hitter and moved to the mound following Schalk's double earlier in the inning - got DePew to hit a high fly ball to right, but Tulane outfielder Nick Schneeberger could not glove the ball cleanly and that allowed pinch-runner Todd Wilkinson to score from second.
DePew moved to second on the play, and the error proved even more costly later in the inning as Bryant roped an RBI-single to left in the ensuing at-bat to account for the final score.
Tulane starter Andrew Reeves (2-2) was saddled with the loss after giving up two runs on three hits and a four walks while striking out a trio in 2.1 innings of work. Crohan led Tulane with a pair of hits in three at-bats.