We knew going into the season that there were going to be a lot of struggles for this young UAB baseball team, which only returned three starters from their lineup a year ago, and lost all three starting pitchers.
It didn’t take long to see signs of those struggles as they dropped game one against Arkansas State 14-5. The Blazers started three freshman in the lineup (one being a redshirt freshman), and had a true freshman on the mound.
Despite the final score, the Blazers had several chances to get back in this ball game but missed out on a lot of opportunities. Three times they loaded the bases, and from that they only got two runs, and twice they grounded into a double-play.
The freshman starters in game one combined to go 2-for-11, possibly showing some signs of nervousness, which is understandable. But there were also a lot of mental mistakes in this game, which aren’t common from a Coach Shoop team. There were especially a couple of base-running mistakes that cost the Blazers a runs that would have got them back in the game.
Freshman starting pitcher Tanner Graham had a rough first start to his college career giving up 7 runs (6 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks. He really didn’t pitch as bad as that line suggests, but Arkansas State came up with a 2-run home run and a devastating 3-run homer with two outs that really hurt. You could tell there was signs of jitters as he struggled with control at times, but you could also see the potential in this young arm, and why Coash Shoop would give him the honor of starting game one.
Despite being down 7-1 after three and a half innings, the Blazers fought back and made it a 3-run game heading into the seventh when the Red Wolves broke it open with a 4-run inning.
The Blazers looked much better in the second game of the series, which ended up being game one of a double-header on Saturday. A couple of veterans in the pitching staff, Ryan Ruggles and Thomas Lowery, combined to throw a 3-hits shutout. Ruggles lasted 6 innings, giving up just 1 hit and 2 walks with 6 strikeouts. Lowery allowed just 2 hits and struck out four over 3 innings.
Shaking off the jitters of his first college game, freshman Carter Pharis broke out in game two hitting his first collegiate home run and finishing with 2 hits and 2 RBIs. Senior Griffin Gum had a nice day at the plate as well picking up 2 hits and 2 RBIs.
The Blazers continued to show their greenness in the third game as they out-hit the Red Wolves 12-4, but were unable to capitalize on those opportunities and somehow ended up losing 5-2 after giving up 3 runs in the top of the ninth.
Adam Lamar started the game for UAB and gave up 2 earned runs in 2.2 innings. Then transfer Austin Thomas came in and pitched 6 innings of relief and only gave up 1 hit, but he may have ran out of gas in the ninth as he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) in the inning.
Gum’s great day at the plate continued as he picked up three more hits in the second game of the double-header and drove in a run. Riley McCown, Brewer Hicklen, Adam Smith and Evan Peterson all had two hits in the game, but a lack of timely hitting kept the Blazers from running away with this one.
Despite outhitting the Red Wolves 29-17 over the weekend, they dropped the series two games to one. It’s still a promising sign that this young Blazers lineup is getting on base, and if they continue to do so the runs will come.
Other than a couple of crooked number innings in game one, the Blazers pitching staff was actually very solid. It would have been great to see this young team come out strong with a series win to open the season, but them losing this series doesn’t come as a shock considering a lot of them were playing their first collegiate game, and many of them were playing their first game for UAB.
Even though they dropped the series, there were a lot of positives over the weekend. This team will continue to grow each and every weekend and hopefully by the time conference play comes around they’ll be ready to compete for a championship.