Another season of UAB baseball is quickly coming to a close as the Blazers (19-29, 10-14) will play their final three games at home this weekend as they take on Florida International (22-27, 9-15).
With just two weeks left in the regular season, UAB is tied for seventh with Western Kentucky in the overall Conference USA standings, just one game ahead of FIU and Charlotte. That means if UAB were to sweep FIU at home this weekend they could clinch a spot in the conference tournament.
The Blazers could technically finish as high as fifth place in the standings, but realistically they could finish sixth if they win their last two series.
Charlotte takes on UTSA this weekend, while WKU will play Marshall. Old Dominion, another team UAB is chasing in the standings, will host MTSU. Those are some of the other matchups you’ll need to keep an eye on this weekend.
Now, as for the UAB versus FIU matchup, the Panthers have completely underperformed by looking at their numbers. They rank second in the conference offensively with a .293 average, while putting up 5 runs per game. Their pitching ranks a solid sixth in the conference with a 4.57 ERA.
What really hurts FIU is their defense where they rank next to last with a .964 fielding percentage as they lead the conference with 70 errors. They’ve given up 52 unearned runs this season. UAB hasn’t been much better giving up 48 unearned runs and committing 60 errors, but most of those came at the beginning of the season. UAB has been much better on defense as of late.
Offensively for FIU, Zack Soria bolsters the lineup with a .320 batting average, 24 runs scored, 3 home runs and 21 RBIs. Jack Schaaf leads the team with 31 runs scored, while Nick Day is tops in home runs with eight. Their lineup is very solid all around as everyone in their starting lineup is hitting between .263 and .320.
Cody Crouse is the team’s ace with a 4.07 ERA in 55.1 innings and 37 strikeouts. He pitched a complete game last weekend against Rice, giving up just 2 earned runs in the loss. Chris Mourelle has the most starts on the team with 12 to go along with a 5.35 ERA in 79 innings and 47 strikeouts.
The Panthers have some good arms coming out of the bullpen, which is led by Dominic LoBrutto with a 1.20 ERA in 30 innings with 38 strikeouts. Williams Durruthy has a 3.00 ERA and 8 saves in his 24 innings with 26 strikeouts. Nate Pearson has been good as well with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings and 28 strikeouts.
Suffice to say, the Blazers need to jump on their starters early and get a big lead before they bring in their great arms from the bullpen.
But getting runs in general has been a major problem for the Blazers lately. During their current 5-game losing streak they’ve average just 2.6 runs per game. However, all of those games were on the road and UAB has been much better at home this season, so hopefully the bats get going again this weekend.
Brewer Hicklen leads the team with a .299 average and 35 runs scored. Carter Pharis has jumped up to second in batting average at .289, and he leads the team with 31 RBIs. Those two freshman will be staples in this lineup for years to come.
Senior Griffin Gum continues his solid campaign hitting .284 with 27 runs, 2 home runs and 28 RBIs. His senior partner Esteban Tresgallo remains out of the lineup with an injury, and it’s still unclear as to when he’ll be back.
Kyle Davis struggled early against Marshall last Friday, but then settled down and kept his team in the game by allowing just 3 runs over 4 innings. His season ERA remains solid at 1.82 in 24.2 innings. Tanner Graham also gave up 3 runs against Marshall, but in 5 innings pitched putting his season ERA at 4.41 in 65.1 innings. Ryan Ruggles also gave up 3 runs to Marshall, but did so in just 2.1 innings as his ERA jumped to 3.61.
The pitching staff did a good job of limiting a very good Marshall offense last weekend, the UAB offense just didn’t do its job. That can’t be the case this weekend. If our pitching holds FIU to 5 runs or less, then our offense has to be able to win those games for us.
These are very winnable games for UAB, especially being at home where the Blazers are 16-11 on the season. Winning two games and the series would be nice, but it still will make things interesting on the road the final weekend. I’d really like to see the Blazers come away with a sweep this weekend to punch their ticket to the tournament; however, with FIU coming off a sweep against Rice they’ll be desperate to pick up a win this weekend.
Still, the Blazers need to take advantage at home so they don’t have as much pressure on them next weekend at Charlotte.
This is it for UAB baseball at home this season, SO GET OUT TO YOUNG MEMORIAL FIELD AND SUPPORT THE BLAZERS this weekend as they try and sweep FIU.