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Herd splits two vs. UAB

Mar. 31, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Things started well for Marshall's baseball team on Saturday afternoon as the Thundering Herd earned a 3-1 win over UAB in a Conference USA doubleheader at Appalachian Power Park, but the Blazers took the nightcap and the series with a 12-4 victory in game two.

Marshall (11-15, 1-2 C-USA) got a gritty performance on the mound by Aaron Blair in the opener. Blair didn't have his best stuff, but he battled through control issues and got some great defensive help behind him to be in line for the win. He left after six innings having allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out four. However, a first-inning run was the only dent UAB was able to put in the scoreboard.

"He gives you a chance to win a game," Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. "The biggest problem with Aaron in his last couple of starts has been the amount of time he's been sitting. You know, he had 11 days. It's hard for any starting pitcher to get any rhythm when they've had 11 days off. Now, he's on a routine to pitch every Saturday."

Sergio Leon's diving catch in behind shortstop saved a run in the top of the fifth and kept the Herd on top 2-1 when UAB appeared to be mounting a threat.

Leon added a backhanded stop off a short-hop before throwing to first to gun down John Frost to end the seventh.

Marshall set the final margin in the eighth inning when Gray Stafford led off with a double and scored on pinch-hitter Alfredo Brito's RBI single.

It was more than enough for Herd reliever Ryan Hopkins, who did not allow a baserunner in three frames to earn the save.

After getting a solid start to the day, things turned south quickly for the Herd in the second game.

Marshall got on the board early as Isaac Ballou doubled and later scored on an RBI groundout by Alfredo Brito, but the Blazers (12-15, 2-4 C-USA) answered with a five-run second inning against Herd starter Michael Taylor.

Much of the problem for the Herd came down to allowing free passes to baserunners -- whether it be walks, hit batsmen or errors.

In all, Marshall walked six batters, plunked three more and had three errors in the second game that contributed to the defeat.

"It's the same way every time we've lost this year -- it's freebies," Waggoner said. "Start with that. 12 or 13 freebies again and you look at our box scores, that's big innings...that's freebies we have to eliminate. Until we do that, you can't beat anybody."

The Herd got back within two runs twice -- the final time in the fifth inning after Ballou doubled and scored on Andrew Dundon's single to make it 6-4.

That's when the game changed.

Marshall had a chance to knot the game in the sixth. The Herd had runners on second and third with one out, but Leon struck out. After Ballou was plunked to load the bases, Dundon looked at strike three to end the threat.

UAB added a single run in the seventh before plating three in the top of the eighth to seize control.

Marshall's final comeback attempt was snubbed out when the Herd loaded the bases with one out and the top of the order up in the bottom half of the inning. However, UAB's Tanner Bryant leaped in the air to snag a line drive from Ballou before flipping to Wes Kent for a double play.

Ballou finished the day with three doubles while Chase Vogelbach was 3-for-4 in the second game. Dundon was also 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the loss.

Marshall returns to action on Tuesday with a trip to Morgantown to take on West Virginia at 6 p.m. The Herd defeated the Mountaineers 8-0 in the first meeting between the schools this season.

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