The UAB Blazers (8-12, 2-1) starter Conference USA play at home against a very good La Tech team (10-6, 1-2), but were able to come away with a pair of wins and just barely missed out on a sweep.
On Friday night the Blazers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead by scoring 6 runs in the first and another in the second. That would be all they would need as Ryan Ruggles and Adam Lamar combined to pitch a 3-hit shutout.
Ruggles picked up his second win of the season by going 6.2 innings, while giving up just 2 hits and 3 walks with 3 strikeouts. Lamar went the rest of the way allowing just 1 hit over the final 2.1 frames.
Carter Pharis was the star on offense driving in 4 runs on 2 hits. Griffin Gum, Esteban Tresgallo and Brewer Hicklen picked up the other 3 hits for the Blazers in this one. UAB benefited from five La Tech errors on Friday night.
The Blazers jumped out to another 7-0 lead on Saturday scoring one in the first, three in the second and three in the third. It looked like they were going to cruise to another easy win, but the Bulldogs struck back with 6 runs in the sixth inning, and then two more in the seventh to take an 8-7 lead.
However, with two outs in the eighth Adam Smith reached on walk and Hicklen followed him up with the same. Evan Peterson then tied the game with an RBI single, and then Tresgallo gave UAB the lead with a 2-RBI triple!
Garrett Whitlock closed the door in the ninth giving the Blazers a 10-8 win and a series clinching victory.
Tanner Graham started the game and was cruising until that sixth inning. Whitlock got the win after pitching 2.1 innings and only giving up a hit and a walk.
Peterson had quite the day at the plate going 3-5 with 2 runs and 4 RBIs. Gum had a 2-hit day and drove in a run, while Hicklen was 1-3 with 2 walks, 3 runs and an RBI.
This was the biggest win of the year for UAB in my eyes as they held a big lead, blew it late, and then were able to regain their composure to come back for the win. It shows a lot of heart and resilience in this young team.
They showed a lot of that fight on Sunday, but the Bulldogs had a little more as they desperately needed to get out of Birmingham with a win.
UAB again scored in the first inning taking a 1-0 lead. La Tech answered with two in the third and one in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. The Blazers came right back with two in the bottom of the fourth and one in the fifth to regain the lead 4-3. However, the Bulldogs fought back with two in the eighth to get the 5-4 win.
The Blazers squandered a lot of great opportunities in this game leaving 15 runners on base. In the second inning they had the bases loaded with no outs and failed to score. Again in the third they had runners on second and third with nobody out and couldn’t get a run in. They out-hit La Tech eight to six on Sunday, but couldn’t get that big, timely hit.
Gum continued his big weekend going 3-5 at the plate, raising his season average to .324. Tregallo had a good weekend as well and was 2-4 on Sunday with a run and 2 RBIs. He’s now hitting .256 on the season. If those two seniors get it going on offense then I feel a lot better about the Blazers’ chances down the stretch.
Pharis extended his team-high RBI total to 16 with another one on Sunday, giving him a total of six over the weekend.
The Blazers raised their season batting average to .221, and are now scoring 4.3 runs per game after putting up 21 runs on La Tech over the weekend.
The pitching remains steady with a team ERA of 3.65, but the lack of strikeouts are a bit of a concern because it means we have to rely on our defense, which hasn’t been great to start the season. In fact, two costly errors on Sunday helped La Tech plate a couple of runs that would ultimately be the difference in the game.
Despite all that, this was a very positive weekend for the Blazers. Coming into the series on a 5-game losing streak, I was really hoping they would at least win one gmae, but they did even better by winning the series.
Other than Sunday, the team really seemed to be playing better baseball, and over the year they’ve proven that when they play good defense and take advantage of opportunities to score on offense this can be a really good team. I look for that play to continue as we go throughout conference play.