May 27, 2011
Tigers hurler Ryan Holland struck out a career-high 11 batters and right fielder Robby Graham broke a 4-4 deadlock with an RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth as fifth-seeded Memphis defeated No. 8 seed UAB, 5-4, to open day three of the 2011 Conference USA Baseball Championship sponsored by Trustmark Friday morning at Trustmark Park.
With the win, Memphis concludes the 2011 season at 30-27 which is the Tigers' best finish since making the NCAA Regionals in 2007. UAB, meanwhile finished 29-28 to finish with a winning record for third consecutive season. Holland's punchout total was the second highest in C-USA Championship history, two behind the mark established by Tulane's Jason Navarro in 1997.
The Tigers led 4-2 after five innings, but the Blazers cut the deficit in half with a run in the top of the sixth and tied things up two innings later. Memphis catcher Phillip Chapman got things going in the winning inning with a leadoff single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by UAB reliever Mark McKinley. From there, Graham fell behind in the count, 0-2, but ripped the third pitch he saw during the at-bat into right field to plate the winning run.
The Blazers put the tying run on base twice in the top of the ninth as centerfielder Coy Arrowood led off the frame with a single and first baseman John Frost sent a two-out single into center. Tigers' reliever Jonathan Van Eaton, however, erased Arrowood with a double-play ground ball and punched out designated hitter Andrew Manning to earn the victory out of the bullpen.
Both teams scored in the first inning as Arrowood singled and scored on a Frost RBI-base hit in the top of the frame before Tigers' centerfielder Drew Martinez singled to open the home half of the frame and came around to touch the pay station on a sacrifice fly off the bat of third baseman Jacob Wilson.
The Blazers' to a 2-1 advantage in the top of the fifth courtesy of an RBI-single by third baseman Patrick Palmeiro, but Memphis came right back in the bottom of the inning as a pair of UAB errors, a wild pitch by Trey Waltman and a run-scoring single by Martinez made it 4-2.
UAB cut the deficit in half in the sixth when catcher Jacob German drove in Manning with a single through the left side of the infield, and the Blazers tied the game in the eighth on an RBI-single up the middle by right fielder Ryan Prinzing to set up Graham's game-winning hit in the bottom of the inning.
McKinley was tagged with the loss after giving up one run on three hits in two and a third innings of relief. Arrowood, Frost, German and left fielder Ivan De Jesus each had a pair of hits to lead the Blazers' offensive efforts. Martinez, Chapman and designated hitter Eli Hynes, meanwhile, each had a pair of base hits to pace the Tigers.