It seems like every weekend UAB (12-21, 4-8) is having to face the new best team in the conference, and it’s no different this weekend as the Blazers will host the team with the best record in Conference USA in Southern Miss (26-8, 11-1) at Young Memorial Field Friday through Sunday.
The Golden Eagles are at the top of the standings with Florida Atlantic and Rice – two teams that UAB has already had to face this season. The difference in this series is that the Blazers will get to play Southern Miss at home, while they had to go on the road to face Rice and FAU.
Southern Miss is coming off an impressive midweek win over Ole Miss, and they’ve already taken down Michigan State, Auburn and Alabama this season. They’re currently on a 4-game winning streak, and they’ve won 10 of their past 12 games.
They rank first in the conference with a team batting average of .322, while scoring 7.7 runs per game. The offense is led by Tim Lynch who is hitting .394 with 6 home runs and 40 RBIs. Dylan Burdeaux is hitting .340 with 34 runs scored, 7 home runs and 31 RBIs, while Taylor Braley is hitting .323 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs.
The UAB pitching staff, which ranks third in Conference USA with a 3.56 ERA, will have a difficult time slowing down the conference’s most powerful offense. Ryan Ruggles, who moved back to Saturday against Rice last weekend, is coming off back-to-back great outings. His ERA now sits at 2.31 in 46.2 innings with a record of 4-2.
Tanner Graham has struggled a little bit lately and his ERA has gone up to 4.98 in 43.1 innings. Adam Lamar has gotten the start the past two Sunday’s as he leads the team with an ERA of 1.63 in 38.2 innings.
Kyle Davis is becoming a reliable arm out of the bullpen as he’s yet to give up an earned run over 9 innings. Dylan Munger (2.49), Garrett Whitlock (2.89) and Thomas Lowery (3.72) remain the most reliable relievers out of the bullpen for coach Shoop.
Some of the young Blazers have really started to swing the bat well lately, but as a team they still rank last in the conference with a batting average of .225. Brewer Hicklen has really started to heat up and now leads the team with a .302 average and 25 runs scored. Carter Pharis has been hot as well and has boosted his average to .264, and he continues to lead the team in RBIs with 23.
Griffin Gum has struggled a bit lately, but his still hitting a solid .286, while fellow senior Esteban Tresgallo is batting .231 with 3 home runs.
The Golden Eagles’ pitching staff ranks fifth in the conference with an ERA of 4.17. Cord Cockrell is one of the best pitchers in the conference with a perfect 6-0 record to go along with a 2.77 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 48.2 innings pitched.
Nick Johnson has become the team’s number two starter with an ERA of 3.21 in 33.2 innings with 30 strikeouts. Kirk McCarty will most likely start game three with an ERA of 4.10 in 41.2 innings with 45 strikeouts.
The key to winning this series will be how much the UAB pitching staff can slow down the Southern Miss offense. The Blazers don’t have the firepower to get into a slugfest with them, but if they can limit the damage I think UAB can at least come out of this weekend with one win, and with a little luck they can win the series.
Come out and support the Blazers as they take on one of the best teams in the country this weekend at Young Memorial Field.
Weekend Schedule: UAB (12-21, 4-8) vs. Rice (26-8, 11-1)
Friday – 6:30 p.m. CT – Young Memorial Field
Probable Starters: Cord Cockrell (6-0, 2.77 ERA, 30 Ks) vs. Tanner Graham (1-4, 4.98 ERA, 20 Ks)
Saturday – 2 p.m. CT – Young Memorial Field
Probable Starters: Nick Johnson (2-0, 3.21 ERA, 30 Ks) vs. Ryan Ruggles (4-2, 2.31 ERA, 26 Ks)
Sunday – 1 p.m. CT – Young Memorial Field
Probable Starters: Kirk McCarty (2-0, 4.10 ERA, 45 Ks) vs. Adam Lamar (3-2, 1.63 ERA, 17 Ks)