BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - UAB scored four runs on seven hits and three Blazer pitchers made it stand up by combining on a one-hit shutout of the visiting Rice Owls in the opening game of the Conference USA weekend series Friday night in Birmingham, Ala.
UAB pitchers James Naile, Thomas Lowery and Adam Lau held Rice to just one hit, the Owls' lowest total since finishing with one hit at national power Cal State Fullerton in 2007. Rice had baserunners with three walks and one batter who was hit by a pitch, but the squad was kept off the scoreboard for the first time since February of last season.
Even without a hit Rice had a solid chance to get on the board and take the lead in the top of the fourth. The Owls loaded the bases on walks with none away, but UAB worked out of the jam with strikeouts.
Avoiding the near-certain scoring chance turned into an emotional lift for UAB in the bottom of the inning. Griffin Gum hustled for a one-out double and went to third on a ground-out to the right side. Jeff Schalk followed with a RBI single to left-center for the 1-0 Blazer lead.
UAB added another in the bottom of the fifth. Adam Lau led off with a single up the middle and moved to scoring position on a one out sacrifice. He scored on Nathan Vincent's two-out single to right that doubled the margin to 2-0.
The Owls did not collect their first hit of the game until the eighth. Junior catcher Hunter Kopycinski's two-out single in the top of the eighth was the lone base-knock and there were no Blazer errors.
Rice starter Kevin McCanna was also off to a good start and kept the Blue & Gray within reach most of the contest. The right-hander retired the first ten batters of the game and allowed just two runs heading into the eighth. He was charged with two more runs as the Blazers added two insurance in the bottom of that inning. McCanna struck out six and walked just one in 7.0 frames.
The Owls are now 22-14 overall and 11-5 in C-USA action. UAB is 20-12 on the year and 7-6 in conference.
The series continues through Sunday. Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 2 pm at Young Memorial in Birmingham, Ala.